Growth of the Fiber Laser
Laser technology has been growing by leaps and bounds in recent years, but the industry received a particularly exciting surge recently with new innovations in fiber laser technology. This is an industrial laser solution for manufacturers that is pushing the growth of solid-state laser cutting machines over the less-efficient CO2 lasers. In the last two years, production of these machines rose 300%.
The fiber laser itself is an optical fiber sheathed in a variety of rare-earth elements. It has become a significant element in cutting, welding, and folding metals. They pack a high output power and high optical quality in a compact beam.
Since 2009, the fiber lasers have been sold to six principle industries, including electrical, food equipment, and office furniture. Combined, these six sectors generated $486 million in sales in 2011, a nearly 50% spike from the previous year. Another 8% in growth is expected for 2012.
And just as awareness of the efficiency of lasers has grown, so too has the underlying technology. The lasers are stronger, more powerful, and more energy efficient than ever. A 3-kW fiber laser can now slice through 0.787 inches of steel. Just as important as the strength is the versatility and agility of the laser. Because the diodes interact with ytterbium-coated glass fiber, the laser can switch back and forth between different levels of thickness.
This is a major innovation for the manufacturing industry and already many builders are abandoning older units and adopting solid-state machines, which produce far less CO2 emissions and dramatically improve cutting abilities. The efficiency of the fiber laser is expected to benefit businesses in a wide variety of sectors, including material processing, telecommunications, and shipping logistics. Investment juggernauts like Walter Wisniewski Paragon Capital are already signalling fiber laser applications as a major growth market of the next decade.
The newest fiber laser technology will be showcased at EuroBLECH 2012L International Sheet Metal Working Technology Exhibition in Hannover, Germany, October 23-27. Here industry insiders can expect to glimpse the new 4-m by 2-m cutting surface, which will be on the market later this year, as well as the B3 KineEtic press brake that uses smart motors and hydraulic technology to improve upon fabricators.
The sky is the limit with new technology. Innovations in science and manufacturing are changing the way we perceive the limits of our applications. Manufacturers everywhere are taking note of the promise of the fiber laser, both as a powerful industrial tool and an eco-friendly commercial innovation.