In response to the development of international industry demand, the laser industry and technology have begun to develop towards 5G semiconductors and smart vehicle process requirements. Taiwan’s laser industry has developed for many years and has a solid foundation, but to continue to keep up with the international pace, the need for independent laser technology step up.
The revenue growth of the laser industry has been getting higher and higher in recent years. As the manufacturing industry is becoming smarter and more systematic, the laser process has gradually become an indispensable part of the manufacturing industry. The laser source is the most important key module in laser processing equipment, not only accounting for about one-third of the cost but also an important factor in the success or failure of processing. The development of laser sources in the world is changing with each passing day, and there are various problems with the needs of the industry.
With the emergence of laser sources, the promotion of the Laser Optics Valley project in Taiwan has led to the emergence of laser source startups, and the upstream end of the laser industry's ecological chain has also begun to take shape.
Laser applications create a generation of light manufacturing
The production of a laser is to excite the medium in the resonant cavity to generate photons through external energy, and then the number of photons is amplified and output by the structure of the resonant cavity. The output laser beam can be controlled to produce lasers with different durations of action. The beam is used for processing, inspection, detection, image processing, etc. In the past few decades, the most important applications of lasers are optical communication and optical storage, such as CD/DVD drive reading heads. In recent years, due to the rapid advancement of laser source technology, laser processing applications have surpassed optical communication and optical storage. Optical storage has become the largest application field of lasers in the world. Coupled with the controllability of laser sources, lasers can be easily connected to automation modules or equipment, and become one of the sharp tools for material processing through system integration.
According to the statistics of the Industrial Technology Research Institute, the global machine tool market in 2019 was US$83.1 billion. In the same period, the global laser processing system revenue was approximately US$17.9 billion, accounting for approximately 21.5% of the machine tool market. However, laser processing systems are in the field of material processing. Plays an important role. According to the data of European Optech Consulting, the compound annual growth rate of the machine tool industry in the past 20 years (1998~2018) is 4.4%, and the compound annual growth rate of the laser processing system is 9.4%, which is 2 times stable growing up.
According to statistics from the global laser industry indicator magazines Laser Focus World and Industrial Laser Solution, the global laser source revenue in 2019 was US$15.13 billion, a slight increase of approximately 1.7% over the previous year (2018). Compared with the 2017~2018 global manufacturing boom growth, in 2019, there will be a slight decrease in processing applications. The industry forecasts and observations in the year before Laser Focus World and Industrial Laser Solution believe that the trade war has had a significant impact on the global manufacturing industry, but for major laser source and equipment manufacturers, it has developed into a manufacturing site Dispersed multinational companies, decentralized production has become the corresponding strategy of major companies, but when 2019 is facing the impact of trade wars and tariffs, some laser applications are in a significant decline, causing laser processing The overall performance of the application field has declined. Especially for high-power laser sources, with the tightening of the market in 2019 and the saturation of the Chinese market, the unit price of high-power laser sources is declining, coupled with the weakening of the machine tool market, close to high-power laser sources above 6kW Support the market. When the global epidemic is hit in 2020, the supply of laser equipment that uses China’s low unit price related parts and modules (such as laser sources and optical components below 50W) for a long time will be affected, and Taiwan’s main The majority of domestic laser equipment is precision laser processing equipment, and most of them use precision module parts in Europe, America, and Japan. Therefore, it is estimated that the laser precision and micro-processing market for optoelectronic semiconductor applications will not be greatly affected.
The world's largest application market for laser sources "material processing"
From the data of the laser source application market, material processing (accounting for 33%) is already the world's largest application market for laser sources. In the future, as the demand for manufacturing continues to increase, the laser source market for material processing will continue to grow space.
According to Laser Focus World, the current laser sources used in material processing are mainly optical fiber laser sources, followed by Direct Diode Laser (Direct Diode Laser) in response to high power (>1kW) processing market share. It grows year by year. In terms of the high-power processing market, the market size in 2019 is approximately US$2.97 billion, making it the world’s largest laser source application market. The international market predicts that it will continue to lead the growth in the future. Among them, metal cutting is the most important application field for high-power processing. There are about US$2.09 billion in the year, an increase of 1% compared to 2018. The main reason is that the current high-power laser source is constantly improving due to competition. The common 1-2kW power has been 3 ~4kW laser source replaced, and more laser cutting machines equipped with 4~6kW and above are constantly appearing in the market. Such growth and progress will drive changes in the metal processing industry’s process, and the benefit is to the application side in other words, the production of products is faster, the quality is better, and the cost may be reduced. The disadvantage is that for the processing plant, it will cause the cost of bargaining competition and equipment competition to increase the cost. Therefore, the laser power will increase in the next few years. It will be the focus of the development of metal cutting applications. The next application in the field of high-power processing is metal welding. Because the global metal welding market demand has increased sharply in 2019, from 13% in 2018 to 18%, the reason is that high-power metal welding will be used in future new energy vehicles. The industry will have a lot of application opportunities, especially for processing applications such as the processing of battery components and systems and the welding of high-rigidity car bodies. It is estimated that there will be a lot of growth opportunities. This phenomenon can be seen from the 2019 Munich Laser Show. Many manufacturers exhibited blue laser sources for laser welding. Nunuru and Laser line also exhibited kilowatt-level blue laser sources to observe the growth of laser welding applications.
In terms of the micro-processing market, the global laser micro-processing market in 2019 was approximately US$1.34 billion, a slight decrease of 8.8%. At present, the largest application market for laser micromachining is still in the optoelectronic semiconductor/PCB/display industries, especially the emerging 5G communications and self-driving car industry needs. The market’s expectation for 5G high-speed communication lies in the high-speed, real-time data exchange required by the Industry 4.0 smart manufacturing industry with high-frequency and compact electronic components. Emerging technologies require high-efficiency and high-yield processing of power semiconductors such as high-frequency substrates and composite substrates Besides, the demand for high-speed precision metal processing has also increased with the needs of the above-mentioned application processes, especially the high-speed precision cutting and welding of metal molds. Another eye-catching product in the field of laser micromachining applications is the display industry’s eye-catching products Mini-LED/Micro-LED, coupled with the needs of OLED displays, laser sources used in related process technologies are also developing rapidly. Because of this, picosecond and femtosecond pulsed ultrafast laser sources have become the main laser sources for this industrial application. The addition of sensors and precise beam control modules with ultrafast laser sources is now providing a photoelectric display industry. High-speed development solutions.
Laser towards high-value integration and intelligent development
From the perspective of the laser industry and laser exhibition trends, the main laser technology in the next few years will play an important role with the development of 5G communications, high-brightness solid-state displays, self-driving cars, new energy vehicles, and other industries. Therefore, whether it is a high-power laser or an ultra-fast laser, its cutting and welding technologies will become an indispensable part of the technology and will also assist in the growth of these industries. For example, laser ultra-precision micromachining of SiC or GaN high-hardness substrates used in 5G/6G, car electronics, etc.; fine laser welding of new-type battery electrodes or thin shells for new energy vehicles; even high-power Laser cutting/welding can shorten the processing time of sheet metal parts.
Judging from the current major international processing applications, laser technology is not only one of the core technologies in the industrial manufacturing field, but it is also undergoing rapid development, gradually replacing some traditional processing technology and becoming the object of manufacturing. In response to today’s major industrial countries’ active efforts to promote smart manufacturing industry policies, laser sources are highly controllable. Regardless of whether it is a continuous output CW laser or a pulse output Pulse laser, it can accurately output the laser through a control method. Because of this characteristic, the laser beam can be easily integrated with the control module of the equipment system. In addition to the high-precision processing characteristics of lasers, laser processing has a wide range of applications. For example, engraving, cutting, welding, surface treatment in industrial manufacturing, etc., are all promoted and upgraded due to the introduction of laser processes. Obvious processing advantages in personnel costs, output, and output value have also made relevant industry's demand for laser equipment more sophisticated and diverse. Another direction of laser application is smart manufacturing. Combining sensing and simulation prediction, it can be combined in series with other traditional processing equipment or modules. Through high-speed Internet of Things connection, data and image data can be collected and transmitted to form a large-scale Smart manufacturing production line network. Although the laser source itself has a small market size, it is the core force driving the development of the next generation of manufacturing, which can change the manufacturing pattern of the overall manufacturing industry and drive the industry into a new generation of high-tech.
In terms of process application, the laser is not only the laser processing process but in response to technological development and industrial demand, it has been developing towards integration. With Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing, smart demonstration factories with laser processing have emerged in the world. At present, major international manufacturers have invested in the development of intelligent laser equipment. For example, Japan’s MAZAK equipment has intelligent preparation functions, monitoring functions, and cutting functions. Through the intelligent process, it provides full intelligence from preparation to processing to real-time monitoring to improve processing quality. Also, DMG MORI provides a full-featured solution from planning to production and maintenance. Others, such as Mitsubishi Electric's laser equipment, import AI auxiliary functions to optimize processing parameters to improve product quality. Germany TRUMPF created a smart demonstration factory in Chicago, USA, which connects traditional machine tools, laser multilayer manufacturing equipment, and laser processing equipment in series using the Internet of Things, and introduces monitoring and sensing modules to optimize process parameters and shorten the process from customer specifications to products The time produced demonstrates the intelligent collaboration of humans, machines, automation devices, and software.
Optical manufacturing is an important tool for fine micromachining
In the future, laser process technology will play an important role in the manufacturing industry, and laser can spread to innovative and competitive production processes such as semiconductors, automotive electronics, automotive batteries, aerospace, and medical materials through high integration. The market has an urgent need for high-end new product manufacturing processes and corresponding equipment.
Although the laser industry is also affected by the epidemic, major international laser manufacturers are also developing new process technologies to meet the future needs of the global manufacturing industry. When the industry recovers after the epidemic, it will drive the global laser industry to recover steadily. Therefore, most experts are still optimistic about the future development of the laser industry, and they also believe that the laser industry will develop towards a highly integrated and intelligent development.
Facing the development of the international industry, in the future, Taiwan's equipment manufacturers can use laser high-value application integration technology to improve the processing speed and quality of the processing industry to meet the needs of the domestic industry. The corresponding promotion methods include:
Build up the independent capability of my country's optical manufacturing technology: Deeply cultivate innovative laser source and key component technologies, and assist domestic potential manufacturers to develop high-end laser sources and laser key components.
Drive the investment in the machine tool and equipment industry and the application-side industry layout to introduce laser technology: Intelligently integrate laser sources and laser processing systems to replace foreign high-unit-price high-energy lasers, and promote existing laser upstream, midstream, and downstream multiples growing up.
Constructing the ecological chain of the optical manufacturing industry: With the assistance of the intelligent expert system, the ability to integrate laser intelligence is enhanced, and the cooperation between industry, university, and research are linked, providing industry technology development, and assisting manufacturers to use laser technology to develop innovative products.