Thursday, June 14, 2012

Lasys 2012: Confidence in Europe, questions about China

A heavy attendance on Wednesday (2500+) had show organizers confident that they can achieve their projected show total of 4500. More importantly, the savvy visitors are here to see the laser and system exhibitors of which there were about half the total. LASYS does not show sheet-metal cutters for political reasons; a competing show here gets them later in the year.

Fiber lasers, diodes, ultrafast-pulse, and disc lasers have been featured at this year's LASYS -- but the industry leader IPG Photonics choose not to show, a surprise to all. TRUMPF and Rofin have major exhibits, and Trumpf has been busy every day. Products attracting interest have been micromachining, marking, drilling, and surfacing; most of these are smallish systems suitable for the size of this show.

LASYS remains very much a German show, with the rare US, Italian, and French systems being displayed. Most of the attendees are from Germany, although the show management did not have demographics available as this is being written. I spoke with a few visitors from Central and Eastern Europe who were job-shop owners shopping for micromachining systems.

Arnold Mayer, a market analyst with Optech Consulting, pegs the total 2012 industrial laser systems market at $10 billion, with projected growth flat ± 5%. This includes excimers used in photolithography, which ILS does not include in our market analyses.

The underlying concern about the European economy surfaces whenever the industrial laser market is discussed. However, the exhibitors here at LASYS seem reconciled to this sorting itself out, and that the situation will change for the better next year. Trumpf, the 800-pound gorilla, claims it will show an increase for the year, but company managers could not be pinned down to a number.

In fact, I have heard more concern about China than about Europe. Mayer pegs China at $1B last year, but he too is concerned that things have slowed for lasers there, at least for the last quarter.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Live from LASYS 2012: Savvy crowds return

The second day of LASYS dawned gray, gloomy, and wet, but the anticipated crowds showed up once again, certifying that, in Germany at least, day two is the most heavily attended. The show's six aisles were full early, and through mid-day most exhibitors were busy meeting prospects. Add to this the extra attendance offered by large numbers of attendees at the Stuttgart Laser Technology Congress being held concurrently, and Wednesday should be a good day for exhibitors. Assuming that the attendance holds up, LASYS may make its target numbers by the end of Thursday.

Several new-to-LASYS exhibitors showing ultrafast pulse and/or fiber lasers or disc lasers drew the attention of show goers. Attendees conditioned to these lasers and the applications they process were drawn to the offerings of new suppliers. Counter to shows in the US where these products would be received as novel, potential users in Germany understand the processing advantages of these lasers as a given. This more knowledgeable customer base makes it easier for vendors to present the merits of a given laser system, rather than explain the processing advantages of a technology.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Live from LASYS 2012: An encouraging start despite EU sogginess

LASYS 2012, happening this week (June 12-14) in Stuttgart, Germany, opened with a spurt of attendees -- which was unusual for a German trade show, where attendee numbers typically increase on the second day. 179 exhibitors breathed a sigh of relief, as concern for the economy here in Europe is on everyone's mind.

However, mid-day traffic dropped to a more normal level. I'm not sure if it was an early afternoon rainstorm that cut the crowds down, but there were a lot of exhibitor-to-exhibitor conversations as the attendance fell off after 3PM. Nevertheless, several exhibitors we spoke with said that the lower volume inquiries were of high quality, and that was a blessing.

Two adjacent shows on auto technology drew crowds, but these were confined to their respective halls on the first day, and any fallout from these wasn't expected until Thursday of this week. Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the big day at LASYS 2012 -- and we, along with all the other exhibitors, are hoping that the show projections for total attendance (4500) can be achieved and even surpassed.