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IPG burns bright

IPG Photonics CEO Valentin Gapontsev.

Essdras M. Suarez/Globe Staff

IPG Photonics CEO Valentin Gapontsev.

IPG Photonics Corp., The Oxford-based maker of optical fiber lasers, is shining brighter than ever, thanks to a big increase in demand from car companies and other heavy manufacturers.

IPG makes lasers that generate their intense light through optical fibers, instead of using crystals or gases. Fiber lasers can be more precisely controlled than other types, while still delivering enough power to weld car bodies or slice through steel plates.

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IPG’s revenue rose 59 percent to $474.5 million in 2011, while net income of $117.8 million was up 118 percent from the year before. And IPG’s return on average equity improved from 18.8 percent in 2010 to 31 percent last year.

Tom Hausken, director of photonics market research at Strategies Unlimited, an industry research firm in Mountain View, Calif., said that IPG holds 70 percent of the global fiber laser market. “From nowhere, it’s become a ($475 million) company, which is amazing,” he said.

Hausken said that the rebound in US manufacturing is helping IPG. Many companies which use laser-equipped machines to cut or weld metal are replacing older machines with new gear that uses IPG lasers. ”Fiber lasers did less bad in the downturn,” said Hausken, “and they’re doing better than the others in the recovery.”

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In a conference call on May 1, IPG chief executive Valentin Gapontsev said the fiber laser market will only get hotter in the months ahead. “We believe we are still in the early stages of the transition to fiber lasers for industrial applications,” he said.

And though rival companies are moving into the market, Gapontsev was confident that IPG will continue to dominate. “Our customers continue to recognize the superior technology and quality of IPG products,” he said.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at bray@globe.com.
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