I've been looking at the quarterly reports, and transcripts of telephone analyst interviews, of several industrial laser industry leaders, and I have also been keeping an unofficial tab on Google postings, and it is clear to me that laser marking is experiencing a strong year akin to pre-recession double digit growth levels.
Laser marking systems are the closest thing the industrial laser industry has to a consumer product. I liken it to a laser printer in the office products business, or a pick-and-place robot in the manufacturing sector. The term "ubiquitous" is apt because there are at least 155 companies in the Industrial Laser Solutions database of global laser marking system suppliers, with more showing up each week.
For those of you who haven't been paying attention to this application, let me explain why it has arrived at its current stature. Simply put, it's because of industry standards and government regulations for product marking and identification for traceability and security purposes.
Years ago, pioneers in the laser industry used to bemoan the fact that the laser was not like a razor, where the aftersales market for the consumable razor blades was where the profits were made. Lo and behold, the consumables issue worked in reverse for the laser companies. Users' issues with consumables when using ink-jet labeling created an interest in the non-consumable laser marking technology. This, along with other technical advantages -- legibility, permeability, readability, and process flexibility -- built the market for laser marking systems. So when corporations, trade associations, and governments looked for a marking technology with these attributes, they settled on the laser. This created a market built on regulations, which carried the industry through the recession in better shape than other laser technologies. This is all neatly spelled out in the now available Industrial Laser Solutions Laser Marking Digest.
By the end of this year, more than 36,000 laser marking/engraving systems worth between three-quarter and one billion dollars will have been installed globally. This will be at least a 10% growth over a good 2011 sales year. And the next time you see one of those 2D bar codes on a package, consider that precise laser marking allows the users to pack more marketing data in this identifier than other processes, assuring continuing growth in this industrial laser sector.