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IPG makes moves

By Tom Hausken
IPG seemed to make a vertical move into machine tools this week, with its announcement that it acquired Cosytronic . Well, it turns out that it’s not exactly a vertical move. In fact, it’s a pretty narrow acquisition, but an interesting one. Where does this put IPG on the longer term roadmap?

IPG has done well so far in kilowatt lasers, selling mainly to systems integrators for metal welding. But the huge majority of welders use good old-fashioned electrical welders, not laser welders.

IPG aims to change that. Cosytronic has 20-some years of experience in resistance welding, from the “Welding Valley” in Germany. It has a tool that can make seam welds with a laser head that swaps with the head of a resistance spot welder. The aim here isn’t to take on resistance spot welders. The aim is to increase the pie for laser welding. For IPG, it’s about the application, not making systems per se.

I should mention that IPG's main competitor, TRUMPF, aims to do the same thing, of course. But TRUMPF has a machine tool business and lots of internal expertise. IPG is working on that.

It’s a very different story in sheet metal cutting, by the way. That is the grand prize in materials processing. But, several big tool vendors make their own CO2 resonators for their tools, or have loyal relationships with independent suppliers of resonators, mainly Rofin and Fanuc. It’s hard for a new player to break in with a new type of laser. Nonetheless, IPG is making progress there too. IPG plans to continue to work with the systems integrators to gain share in that segment, rather that to make a vertical move.

This is IPG's 2nd acquisition in 2010, by the way. It acquired little-known Photonics Innovations, of Alabama, in January. That acquisition is also narrowly strategic, aiming at materials and the mid-IR range.

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