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IQE

9 April 2019

Laser diode and direct-diode laser market to grow to $13.985bn by 2029

The market for laser diodes and direct-diode lasers will grow to $13.985bn by 2029, comprising $11.952bn for laser diodes and $2.033bn for direct-diode lasers, according to the report ‘Laser Diodes & Direct Diode Lasers 2019-2029’ by market research and technology consulting firm IDTechEx of Cambridge, UK.

Emerging semiconductor laser technologies are revolutionizing the industrial material processing and optical sensing markets, while the automotive and electronics industries are benefiting greatly from advances in laser manufacturing, 3D sensing and imaging, LiDAR, and industrial machine vision. Notably, the optical sensing market segment should grow by an order of magnitude during 2019-2029.

Picture: Laser diodes and direct-diode lasers market forecast by IDTechEx.

Unlike light-emitting diodes (LEDs), laser diodes produce a coherent beam of monochromatic (single-wavelength) light, which remains collimated at long distance (as observed with common laser pointers). Laser diodes also have a higher radiance (brighter) and are more energy efficient compared with LEDs.

The power output of a single laser diode can range from milliwatt to multi-watt levels. Individual emitters can be used alone or combined to form more complicated lasers with different properties and applications. Multiple laser diodes can form a laser diode bar for the optical pumping (energy input) of solid-state lasers. Laser diodes integrated into modules with beam-shaping optics and control electronics are useful for many applications.

Direct-diode lasers for industrial materials processing

During the past three decades, the average power of laser diodes has increased exponentially, while their average price has decreased exponentially. These advances in semiconductor laser technology have enabled the development of direct-diode lasers (DDLs), including high-power direct-diode lasers (HPDDLs) that produce multi-kilowatt output power. Dramatic improvements in laser beam quality now enable users to focus the light to a small point, and this has revealed DDLs to be rapidly evolving tools for metal, plastic and composite processing. Consequently, DDLs and HPDDLs are emerging as major global trends in industrial manufacturing, with Japan’s Panasonic acquiring US-based HPDDL maker TeraDiode to enhance their position in the laser material processing market.

Picture: Addressable market for laser diodes. Laser diodes are integrated into direct-diode lasers for material processing applications, and used in academia for science research. Source: IDTechEx.

A particularly important trend is the development of blue diode lasers for applications like welding and 3D printing copper, with key player Laserline in Germany launching a 1kW product in 2019. Blue laser light is faster and more efficient at processing metals like copper that are poor absorbers of conventional infrared radiation. Key DDL players are now demonstrating novel applications of diode lasers that were dismissed as impossible by critics a decade ago, while partnering with automotive manufacturers like Germany’s Volkswagen to optimize laser processing parameters.

Laser diodes for optical sensing markets

The widespread adoption of laser diodes in optical sensing markets is also transforming the automotive and electronics industries. Semiconductor lasers for sensing are manufactured by multi-national giants like Japan’s Sony, key laser industry players like II-VI Inc in the USA, and smaller companies like China’s CNI (who have expertise in machine vision).

Picture: Examples of industries that benefit from laser diode technologies for 3D sensing and imaging. Source: II-VI Inc.

A key trend in 2019 is the rise of vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) technology for applications like facial recognition in smartphones. Compared with products like Fabry-Perot laser diodes, VCSELs offer superior beam properties, thermal stability and device scalability. Companies like II-VI are investing in rapidly growing their VCSEL production capacity and enhancing their position in the VCSEL market. In November, II-VI announced plans to acquire US-based VCSEL manufacturing firm Finisar.

Another rapidly evolving laser technology is light detection & ranging (LiDAR). In 2018, BMW venture capital fund BMW i Ventures invested in the US-based LiDAR start-up Blackmore. Blackmore’s innovative LiDAR sensors for self-driving cars use a frequency-modulated continuous wave (FMCW) light source and scan laser beams using solid-state methods. This is different to traditional LiDAR systems that use pulsed light and mechanical scanning. FMCW LiDAR combines optical communication hardware and radar signal processing methods to deliver accurate information on both object distance and velocity. The adoption of automotive LiDAR and in-cabin monitoring technologies by the autonomous vehicle (AV) industry are important trends that support growth in the laser diodes market.

Dr Nilushi Wijeyasinghe is discussing some of these topics at a Trends in Photonics technology masterclass on 12 April, hosted at IDTechEx Show! Europe in the Estrel Convention Center, Berlin, Germany.

Tags: Laser diodes

Visit:  www.IDTechEx.com/laserdiode

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