Charles T. Troy
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- The worldwide market for short-wavelength laser diodes is headed for the billion-dollar-plus mark by the end of the decade, according to a report from market analysis firm Strategies Unlimited. Leading the charge is the demand for diode lasers with wavelengths of less than 1 µm. Spurred by the emergence of the digital video disk (DVD) market and high-speed CD-ROMs, sales of these lasers are predicted to increase from $486 million in 1995 to $1.238 billion in 2000.
The report targets laser diodes in 29 nontelecommunications applications including consumer, computer, business and industrial products ranging from audio CD players to CD-ROM drives, laser printers, rewritable optical storage drives, barcode scanners and new "computer-to-plate" digital printing presses.
The future holds real promise for blue-green (420- to 520-nm) devices, the report says, pointing out that companies such as Nichia Chemical, Toshiba and Cree Research have aggressive programs focused on these emerging technologies. The blue-green laser diode should appear in high-density optical storage applications by the end of the decade.
A few hold the lion's share
According to the report, there are about three dozen laser diode manufacturers worldwide, with only nine companies accounting for 97 percent of the 1995 revenue. The majority of low-power laser diodes (<10 mW) are supplied by Japanese companies such as Sony, Rohm, Sharp and Matsushita. North American companies, such as SDL and Opto Power, have taken a leading role in the high- power laser diode market (>100 mW).
European producers, such as Siemens and Philips, are gradually increasing their market share. In Asia, the Korean companies Samsung and LG Group have recently begun producing laser diodes, and several companies in Taiwan have announced their intention to begin manufacturing visible laser diodes in the near future as well.
The complete report, titled Laser Diode Market Review and Forecast -- 1996, is available for $3450 from Strategies Unlimited at (415) 941-3438.