2020 2015 2010 2005 2000 1995 1990 1985
Normalized $/bright watt*
Optical storage Optical networks Laser as a tool
* Bright watt = Brilliance (W/cm2-sr)
5 LASER & PHOTONICS MARKETPLACE SEMINAR 2018 SUMMARY REPORT
Within the first three decades of development,
both brilliance and cost were at a level that per-mitted only niche applications. That changed in
the late 1990s and applications in the telecom-
munication industry created not only substantial progress, but also the tremendous hype and
subsequent destruction of stock value when the
telecom bubble burst. That shock led to a faster
adoption of laser diode technology for applica-
tions in other fields such as material processing
and medicine. And now we are at approximate-
ly $10 per bright watt (W/cm2-sr), a cost that will
further decline (see Fig. 2).
Pumping other laser systems turned out to be
a strong driver for technological and economic
progress. High-power fiber lasers for material processing especially benefitted from both the technical evolution of laser diodes and the telecom
crash. And consequently, they have seen a similar exponential growth in market share.
Which leads to an interesting situation that may
become critical for the whole laser business: The
market valuation of laser companies has seen a
dramatic increase within the last three years. In
fact, the stock rise has become as steep as during
the telecom bubble, with even higher valuations.
So, do we face another crash?
There are good arguments against that fear, ac-
cording to Keeney: First, the laser industry shows
an above-average return on investment. Second,
the adoption of fiber laser technology in mate-
rial processing is a healthy process where a new
technology makes its way from a tool of technol-
ogy pioneers to a standard solution on the shop
floor. This leads to organic growth. So, perhaps
the laser industry has simply been undervalued!
But what comes next, and how far can the tech-
nical and economic trends continue? Keeney ana-
lyzed both the technological and economic oppor-
tunities for such an extension of trends. On the
economic side, there are a range of factors driv-
ing further cost reduction. There will be sever-
al ways to cut costs, from optimized production
through enhanced automation, new packaging
techniques, and finally power and production
volume scaling. He estimated the total potential
of further cost reduction is approximately 50%.
Regarding brightness, Keeney suggested that
even a 5–20X increase should be possible through
advances in device physics (light generation), bet-
ter heat transfer, and optimized optical design/
packaging. The greatest potential may result from
advances at the semiconductor chip level.
“Semiconductor lasers will not only change the
way things are made, but will also change the
things that can be made,” Keeney said. He com-
pared the laser diode development timeline with
those of general-purpose disruptive technologies
FIGURE 2. High-power
brilliance fuels applications
(Normalized cost per bright
watt*) [*Bright Watt =
Brilliance (W/cm2 -sr)].