Automotive sector is driving the laser cutting market
With cost coming down for lasers, there is a demand for these applications and more companies are getting into systems
laser cutting is a technology that uses lasers such as CO2, solid-state, and fibre to cut materials. Laser cutting machines are capable of cutting materials ranging from steel to plastic with absolute precision. It is an important manufacturing tool required by industries to manufacture components with complex geometry, such as machine tool industry, automotive industry, consumer electronics, and other manufacturing industries.
Over the past decades, the laser cutting industry has gone through different phases of improvements in quality and thickness of cutting material, power, and efficiency which bring today’s laser cutting machines with higher cutting speed and quality level, the ability to cut thin and thick metals, and the user’s need to process both steel and aluminum on the same equipment.
India has a 5% share of the more than $12 billion global laser market. With a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.6%, the global laser market is expected to cross $21 billion in the next five years and India will be main contributor to this growth. After 2012, the Indian laser cutting market grew tenfold, from 50 units per year to 500 units per year. Maulik Patel, executive director, SLTL Group, says, "As the world’s first manufacturer of fibre laser cutting system, SLTL Group provides laser systems to varied industries. Our laser cutting systems are powerful and accurate. These systems have found varied applications in the industry and it is hard to point out particular adopters in total. In today’s market, laser systems are used by industries like fabrication job shop, machine tools, railways, luxury, automobiles, aerospace, and many others. These systems are at par with other technologies with its efficient and maintenance free operation."
It is common for laser cutting machine makers to customise the end products for customers. "We identify the exact need of every client who walks through our doors. Each system is tailor-made for a particular client in keeping with the SLTL Group’s standard operations," says Patel.
With prices for fibre laser cutting machines decreasing rapidly, the market—which previously was focused on job shops—now includes companies making the products to have such machines in-house. The cost of the earlier machines was exorbitantly high and required trained manpower, so companies were outsourcing to job shops. However, with the drop in prices, these companies now have them in-house. This trend is growing, as the cost of machines is coming down-this is mainly responsible for the growth of the sheet metal cutting machine.
The market for lasers in India is driven by the automotive sector and, thus, job shops for sheet metal cutting. These are mainly located in automotive hubs such as Pune, Bangalore, Chennai, Manesar (near Delhi), and Ahmedabad, which together account for more than 80% of the job shop market for metal cutting lasers. While the machine tool industry is spread throughout India, it is more so in Punjab, Chandigar, Ludhina, and Coimbatore, while lasers for diamond processing are mainly focused in Surat, with more than 10,000 to 12,000 lasers used.
Patel says, "We have tried to achieve new benchmarks for the operation of these machines. At our company, we pay special attention to R&D of laser systems to make sure we always deliver the best. One of the key areas we have excelled in previous years is with Modular Product Architecture (MPA). We have launched Infinity F1 with MPA. This gives our laser system buyers freedom to expand/upgrade applications with less effort and resources. For example, Infinity F1 has eight different variants and a primary model can be upgraded into a highly advanced one. This machine once installed with 2-D laser cutting can be upgraded with tube cutting application."
Most companies offer training to machine operators to not only reduce the risks of damage but also increase the chances of productivity. The laser systems are made user-friendly and easy to understand. Though to make sure the systems runs on optimum level, companies focus on providing an intensive training program for clients at the time of purchase. During this programme, they are trained on several aspects of operating the machine, educating on functions of each component and basic DIY (Do it Yourself) methods.
Laser cutting machine makers are in an industry of manufacturing technically advanced products. Once these systems are out in the market, they have significant tasks to perform. In businesses these systems are at the centre of one's operations and so it becomes important to understand the know-how of the systems. Any unforced error could hold the risk of considerable damage.