June 28, 2022 

Where is the Laser Marking Machine Market Headed?

Engineer representing the future of the laser marking machine market.

In recent years, laser marking systems have steadily risen in both popularity and accessibility. Although today’s most popular laser marking technologies, such as fiber laser and CO2 laser, were first developed in the early 1960s, it took decades of technology advancements for these systems to become available for wide commercial use. 

For example, the first recorded instance of commercial use of a laser system took place in 1967, when Peter Houldcroft of TWI (The Welding Institute) used a CO2 laser to cut a piece of metal. While this is a milestone in the history of laser technology, at the time, no laser system offered product marking as an application. It took another 20 years of technology advancements until laser systems became a commercially viable marking option in the 1990s. 

Fast forward to today, and laser marking has become one of the most popular industrial coding options on the market. Offering fast marking speeds, high accuracy, and consistently excellent results, laser marking systems are commonly found in a range of packaging and manufacturing fields, including:

  • Chemical production.
  • Food and beverage packaging.
  • Pharmaceutical and medical equipment manufacturing.
  • Aerospace/automotive part development.

Due to laser’s popularity in these industries and others, today’s global laser marking machine market is worth around $2.5 billion. Moreover, experts expect this growth to continue into the foreseeable future as laser marking systems become increasingly accessible to new users.

So, where is the future of the laser marking industry headed? Here are the biggest trends we see in play today.

Laser Marking Machines Will Continue to Replace Continuous Inkjet and Thermal Inkjet Systems at Significant Rates

According to most experts, the laser marking machine market will continue to grow as more companies choose laser systems over traditional coding technologies like continuous inkjet (CIJ) and thermal inkjet (TIJ) printers.

Consider Anheuser-Busch as an example. In the mid-1990s, Anheuser-Busch switched out its production line CIJ printers for Domino CO2 laser marking systems and never looked back. Not only were the laser systems faster than the older CIJ systems, but Anheuser-Busch also reported:

  • Fewer maintenance issues.
  • Lower operating costs.
  • Consistent code legibility.
  • Close to zero misprints.

Today, large-scale manufacturers and packaging operations report similar results when they switch to laser marking systems. So, why don't all companies switch to laser systems? Unfortunately, there is a lack of accessibility. 

Laser marking systems have historically carried significant barriers to entry, including:

  • Substantial investment costs: Laser marking systems have always had higher upfront prices than inkjet printers. For example, today’s top laser marking systems can cost well over $100,000 upfront, while the top CIJ printers cost around $20,000.
  • Facility accommodations: Laser marking systems emit potentially dangerous fumes and radiation during operation. To keep workers safe, users must outfit their lines with beam shields and fume extractors. However, these safeguards cost money and take up facility space, which can make companies hesitant to integrate lasers into their operations.
  • Material compatibility problems: Although CO2 and fiber lasers are compatible with a wide variety of materials, determining the right wavelength for a certain application can be difficult. For example, a certain wavelength may be perfect for the flat side of a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) water bottle, but unsuitable for the curved upper surface. Substrate complications have made many companies hesitant to expand into laser marking. 

Right now, coding and marking companies, such as Videojet and InkJet, Inc., are working to address all of these issues by producing lower-cost, more versatile marking systems. As these systems are released to the public, we anticipate more companies to switch from inkjet printing to laser marking, just like Anheuser-Busch did nearly 30 years ago.

Supply Chain Issues are Increasing the Availability of Laser Marking Machine Market Share

Like so many other fields, the laser marking machine market has been marred with major supply chain issues in recent years. From Foba to Novanta, established laser manufacturers across the world are reporting product shortages and excessive lead times for new machines. 

For example, Synrad’s most popular laser system, the v30, currently has a 23-week lead time. Furthermore, the company only averages a 50% yield rate on new systems; in other words, only 50% of their newly produced systems work as intended. Although other laser manufacturers may not have yield rates that low, reports show that similar problems are shared across the industry. 

What does this mean for the laser marking machine market at large? With established name-brand companies faltering, the market is opening up for newer names to drive business.

Want to learn more about the laser marking machine market? Stay connected to C&M Digest by subscribing to our newsletter. With information on hardware, formulas, and other important marking topics, our newsletter will keep you updated on the latest industry developments. To get in touch with us about possible collaborations or ideas for coverage, contact us today.

C&M Digest Team

The C&M Digest Team is composed of experts from across the coding and marking world. Comprised of ink developers, hardware veterans, and engineers, our News Team delivers informed coverage that is always free from brand bias.

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