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China’s Laser Industry Thrives Amidst Challenges: Resilient Growth and Innovation Steer Economic Transformation

In the midst of the "2023 Laser Advanced Manufacturing Summit Forum," an event of paramount importance in the industry, Zhang Qingmao, esteemed Director of the Laser Processing Committee of the Optical Society of China, took center stage to shed light on the remarkable resilience exhibited by the laser sector. In a world still grappling with the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the laser industry has managed to maintain an impressive growth rate of 6%, a notable achievement that surpasses previous years and places it well ahead of growth rates in other sectors.


Zhang underscored the pivotal role lasers play as universal processing tools. The extensive range of applications, combined with China's substantial economic influence, has positioned the nation at the forefront of laser innovation across diverse domains.


The laser, often referred to as one of the four transformative innovations of the modern era, has solidified its significance alongside atomic energy, semiconductors, and computers. Its integration into the manufacturing sector brings forth numerous advantages such as user-friendly operation, non-contact capabilities, efficiency, flexibility, and energy conservation. These attributes have rendered lasers indispensable in tasks ranging from intricate component production to precision manufacturing, welding, surface treatment, and cutting. Their role in industrial intelligence has spurred global competition for pioneering advancements in this foundational technology.


China's strategic initiatives align closely with the development of laser manufacturing, in line with objectives outlined in key plans like "Outline of the National Medium- and Long-Term Scientific and Technological Development Plan (2006-2020)" and "Made in China 2025." By prioritizing laser technology, China advances its journey towards new industrialization, bolstering its status as a powerhouse in manufacturing, aerospace, transportation, and digital domains.


China's laser industry ecosystem is comprehensive and well-developed. The upstream segment encompasses vital components such as light source materials and optical components, crucial for the assembly of lasers. In the midstream, various types of lasers, mechanical systems, and CNC systems are created, including power supplies, heat sinks, sensors, and analyzers. The downstream sector produces complete laser processing equipment, ranging from laser cutting and welding machines to laser marking systems.


Applications of laser technology span across a multitude of sectors in the national economy, including transportation, medical care, batteries, home appliances, and commercial domains. High-end manufacturing fields such as photovoltaic wafer fabrication, lithium battery welding, and advanced medical procedures aptly showcase the versatility of lasers.


The global recognition garnered by Chinese laser equipment is evident in export values surpassing import values in recent years. Markets in Europe and the United States have embraced large-scale cutting, engraving, and precision marking equipment. The Fiber Laser domain, in particular, features domestic enterprises at the forefront, has achieved remarkable integration, successfully exporting its products to global markets, including Europe.


Wang Zhaohua, a distinguished researcher at the Institute of Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, emphasizes the laser industry's burgeoning potential. In 2020, the global photonics market reached a staggering $300 billion, with China contributing $45.5 billion, securing a prominent third place worldwide. While Japan and the United States lead the field, Wang envisions substantial growth prospects for China, especially when combined with advanced equipment and intelligent manufacturing strategies.


The consensus among industry experts highlights the broader applications of laser technology in manufacturing intelligence. Its potential extends to robotics, micro-nano manufacturing, biomedical instruments, and even innovative laser-based cleaning processes. The versatility of lasers is evident in composite remanufacturing technology, where they collaborate with various disciplines such as wind, light, battery, and chemical technologies. This approach enables the utilization of cost-effective materials for equipment, effectively replacing rare and valuable resources. The transformative power of lasers shines through in their ability to replace traditional high-pollution cleaning methods, proving invaluable in decontaminating radioactive materials and restoring precious artifacts.


The unwavering growth of the laser industry, even in the face of Covid-19's challenges, underscores its pivotal role as a driver of innovation and economic progress. China's leadership in laser technology positions it to shape industries, economies, and global advancement for years to come.