Thursday, October 22, 2009

Growth in laser sales over 40 years

Wondering what the laser business looks like over the last 40 years? If past issues of Laser Focus World are any indication, the industry gets a downturn about every 8 to 10 years. That's what I found looking through 40 years of issues.

See for yourself. The figure shows the estimates for the laser market dating to 1969, using data from the annual market articles. It's charted on a log scale to show the growth rate. I had to make some adjustments to the original data, to account for revisions, changes in categories, and stuff like that. Also, in the early years, there was a large contract R&D business that isn't included in this chart.

The downturns are marked by arrows. If you consider that downturns tend to spread over a few years, from the first signs of slowing to the return of the past peak, then the downturns have been a regular part of the industry over 40 years. Thankfully, the upward climb has made the impact fairly modest, compared to other industries.

I don't believe that markets are deterministic. That is, past performance is not an indicator of future behavior. But the pattern of downturns does suggest that there is an underlying cyclic nature to the laser industry, and it will become more important as the upward growth rate slows.
Oh, and don't forget to get your latest laser market information from us and at the upcoming Laser Focus World Marketplace Seminar.