Anyone following the laser space realizes that the laser world is changing quickly. Laser prices are dropping, especially for fiber and diode lasers, fiber lasers are replacing other types of lasers, as are diode lasers, and Chinese lasers are slowly entering the market. If that wasn’t enough, also consider that additive manufacturing is starting to get traction in some areas, and in these areas, this can really be a game-changer. This year almost 10% of lasers sold for additive manufacturing applications were 1KW or higher power, so the numbers are not only increasing the laser powers are as well.
All these changes create many new opportunities in the laser space, and stakeholders in laser companies that aren’t performing up to their expectations see this as a perfect time to make changes. Both Newport and Rofin have had flattish revenues for the past few years, and the leadership in both companies thought that now was time for some change. In the background was IPG Photonics which has had no trouble achieving strong growth. For companies like Rofin and Newport, nothing can spur change faster than when the other guy (IPG) is making much more money than you in the same industry as yours. In my opinion, I don’t feel that Newport or Rofin were fundamentally broken, but rather their flat revenue was the result of many factors that were largely outside of their control. Still, stakeholders easily get restless and want a return on their investments, and if they don’t get them, they will move on.
Outside of industrial lasers, there were lots of other interesting tidbits to report on that occurred in 2016. For example, laser cinema projection has really taken-off and is on the way to going mainstream. Around 50 of the 150 largest IMAX theaters now use lasers as their light source, and many others are going laser as well.