Automotive industry prompts welding rethink

Paul Boughton

Reliance on the demand from the automotive industry is compelling a strategic rethink among manufacturers in the European laser welding equipment market.

To sustain growth, they are realising the need to develop new end-user sectors, innovative products and novel application areas even while increasing the penetration of existing technologies among current end users.

Frost & Sullivan finds that new opportunities for market growth are constantly emerging, pushing revenues in the European Laser Welding Equipment Market from $542.8 million in 2004 to an estimated $802.2 million in 2011.

At present, the automotive sector contributes to over half of the total demand for laser welding equipment in Europe. In an industry requiring an extensive amount of metal joining for the average unit of output, laser welding offers ease of automation, high welding speeds and better quality of welds - all of which help in reducing the average cost of production.

Not surprisingly, automotive manufacturers - particularly the German, French and Italian ones - are increasingly embracing this technology. Moreover, with laser welding gradually replacing traditional forms of welding across many applications in automotive production, this industry is set to remain the single, largest demand generating end-user sector for laser welding equipment over the long term.

Although the range of applications for laser welding equipment in the production process is already very diversethere are many more industries that have the potential to benefit considerably from adopting the technology says Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Titus Hocevar. Identifying new applications that will adopt laser welding equipment as a standard solution can help reduce reliance on a single sector for demand."

New laser sources will expand the range of applications and sustain market expansion. Several industriessuch as automotive and shipbuildingare closely evaluating the advantages of this technology. At the same timeas existing users widen their deployment of laser welding equipment and their benefits become more evidentthe market will see a positive ripple effect on adoption levels.

Apart from the automotive industryheavy and light industrial manufacturing industries also currently generate sizeable demand andin combinationaccount for just under one-third of the total demand. Even as the share of heavy and light industrial manufacturing is likely to increasethe electronics and medical end-user sector will be the fastest growing demand generator over the long term.

Remote welding -a new concept - promises to further increase laser welding productivity and support additional savings in production. The benefit of this technology will extend beyond the automotive end-user sector to other industries as well.

Germany currently accounts for more than half of the total European laser welding equipment market. Howeveras the necessary expertise spreads across borders as well as industriesgrowth in countries such as ItalySpain and France is expected to pick up to compensate for the relatively low adoption of the laser welding technology by their industrial base.

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