Yan Dapeng, a leading expert in the development of fiber lasers, was visiting Wuhan in 2006 when he found out the fiber laser products he had helped create in the United States were sold to China at high, nonnegotiable prices, with poor after-sales service.
One year later, at the age of 51, Yan resigned from his U.S. job, came back to China and partnered with a domestic company to found Raycus, which has developed into a leading developer and manufacturer of high-powered fiber laser and core components in China, breaking the American monopoly in the sector.
In 2013, Raycus succeeded in developing China's first 10 kW fiber laser－making China the second country to master the technology in the world. Last year, a 20 kW fiber laser produced by Raycus was unveiled at the laser technology and industry development forum held in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei province. That product is expected to enter mass production by 2018, according to the company.
Fiber laser, which releases laser energy through a fiber as thin as a human hair, has been widely applied in aerospace, shipbuilding, airplane and auto manufacturing, as well as 3D printing. It is an indispensable component of precision machining.
Compared with carbon dioxide laser, fiber lasers feature three times faster emitting speed, 20 percent higher energy conversion efficiency, four times less power consumption, with no noise or pollution emitted.
Yan said fiber laser industry is of strategic significance and an important industry in military-civilian integration.
The United States still embargoes the export of high-power fiber lasers of more than 1,000 W to China. However, since Raycus has successfully produced fiber lasers with that much or more power, the embargo thus makes no sense, he said.
China's breakthrough in high-power fiber laser is also proving to be lucrative.
According to Yan, the successful development of the 10 kW fiber laser has lowered the price of imported fiber laser from five million yuan (0,000) to a little more than three million yuan. As the country realizes production of 20 kW fiber laser, the price of imported ones will decrease by 40 percent.
China has made great efforts to upgrade its manufacturing industry into a more intelligent one. In 2015, the country put forward the "Made in China 2025" initiative, which seeks to transform itself from a manufacturing giant into a global high-tech manufacturing power.
Under the initiative, the Chinese government allocated 5.2 billion yuan to promote 133 key projects including bullet trains, 3D printing, construction machinery and electric vehicles in 25 provinces and autonomous regions last year.
However, China still lags behind other countries in fiber laser technology, said Wang Pu, a professor at the Institute of Laser Engineering of Beijing University of Technology.