• May 15, 2017

The Future of Lasers: What You Need to Know

The Future of Lasers: What You Need to Know

The world is currently powering along a steep incline in technological development. Our pace and upward trajectory are both so remarkable, their combined force has been dubbed the fourth industrial revolution. While many struggle to keep up with the rapid-fire advancements, the laser cutting industry is powering forward like a juggernaut, cutting a trail worth billions.

Last week, our lucky team (and tens of thousands of other visitors) were given the chance to meet the latest laser cutting technology in real life at the 2017 Austech Expo in Melbourne. Held at the Melbourne Convention Centre, the event featured presentations from industry experts and demonstrations of the most high tech laser cutting and 3D printing machines in the world. So our M4U reporters were able to get a real sense of where this exciting technology is heading.

The software and technology they’re continually building and improving on is now so advanced it is no longer confined to metalworking and manufacturing, but also finding its way into all sorts of industries from electronics to art and fashion. According to a new report by market intelligence agency, Grand View Research:

“The global laser cutting machines market is expected to reach USD$6.72 billion by 2024.”

Where the growth will be

Gas lasers are expected to have solid compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 9.4% over the coming decade. These machines are used in dye laser pumping, hologram making, laser printing and barcode reading.

Fusion cutting is projected to (potentially) surpass gas lasers with an estimated CAGR of 9.4% or more over the same period. The fusion cutting process is more suited to finer work and thinner materials as it produces an almost entirely oxide-free cutting edge.

Manufacturing still has the biggest stronghold over laser cutting and this is projected to continue over the coming years. Automation is rapidly taking over in manufacturing facilities around the world and the demand for laser cutting machines is increasing in tandem with this trend. The computer-driven laser machines cut parts and patterns with a speed and precision previously unheard of. And their results are not only fast and accurate, but consistent and reliable.

While manufacturing may be the dominant industry for laser cutting machines, there are some other key markets where lasers are rapidly gaining traction.

Laser cutting in architecture and design

Architects have been using laser cutters for both models and full-scale designs. And the results are phenomenal. Programming their CNC machines, they’re able to use the precisely channeled compressed gas and focused laser beams to melt away the negative space in their patterns, creating screens, fences, facades and all sorts of other features and structural components.

Laser cut archway in Sydney
Robotically made panels and laser cut mirrors. Image Credit: dezeen.com

Laser cutting in electronics

Within the manufacturing sector, consumer electronics is anticipated to have the fastest laser-cutting growth rate. Cutting, engraving and even welding are all within the capabilities of laser cutting machines. This sector of the market will be driving up demand for increased power-input and efficiency to meet consumer demands.

Laser cutting in art and fashion

Art reaches into every aspect of society, even manufacturing. Galleries around the world have been showcasing the incredible results of man and machine engaging in creative collaboration.

Laser cut wooden cube
Image Credit: cubebreaker.com

In the fashion world, designers are becoming increasingly interested in laser cutting techniques as it gives them a whole new dimension to work with, opening up endless possibilities for intricate patterning and use of negative space.

laser cut fabric
Image Credit: lasercutfabric.com

Laser cutting in real life

As with pretty much everything that exists, there are tutorials all over Youtube that’ll teach you how to build a laser cutter at home. They run on a spectrum from the reliable and well informed to the the ridiculous and potentially eyeball melting. Search at your own peril.

But at the top end of things, with high-tech robots and lasers now resting in hands controlled by creative human minds, our future is certainly going to be interesting.

The Future of Lasers: What You Need to Know
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The Future of Lasers: What You Need to Know
Some of the very people who fill the web with memes of laser-eyed space cats are behind the tech that's driving the multi-million dollar laser cutting boom.
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