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Integrated motor-drives could overtake standalone systems
Published:  20 April, 2012

The European market for integrated motors and drives (IMDs) will expand at a CAGR of 12.1% over the seven-year period from 2010, when it was worth $285m, to 2017, when it will reach $633m, according to a new forecast from the market analyst, Frost & Sullivan.

The study − which covers integrated AC, DC, servo and stepper motors and drives predicts that, in the long term, IMDs could overtake standalone motors and drives, provided that expected technological advances are achieved and that the technology is available at an affordable cost.

“The demand for high efficiencies, along with the need to reduce energy consumption, is set to attract investments in IMD solutions,” predicts Frost & Sullivan research analyst, Ramasubramanian Natarajan. “Heightened knowledge about their potential benefits will extend the implementation of IMDs across an extensive range of industrial applications.

"The optimal compatibility of the variable frequency drive (VFD) with the motor in an IMD ensures efficient performance, with efficiency levels exceeding 90%,” he adds. “This also makes IMDs easier to deploy than procuring motors and drives as two separate components and then combining them to achieve desired performance. It also reduces lag time and increases productivity."

According to F&S, the challenge facing IMD manufacturers is to scale down high initial costs and to spell out IMDs` benefits more clearly for end-users. Another limitation has been the inability, so far, to develop IMDs for higher power ratings.

"Due to technological limitations, above a certain point, the physical size of the product makes the integration of motor and drives lose its meaning," explains Ramasubramanian. "While VFD solutions are in position to meet customer demands for higher power rating applications, IMD solutions are not perceived as being cost-effective at high power levels, thus limiting the overall growth potential of the market.”

Technological advances and the availability of IMDs across a wider range of power ratings will help them to penetrate a broader range of applications. This, in turn, will boost customer acceptance of the technology, says F&S. Competitive price levels will also contribute to encouraging demand for integrated motors and drives across key end-user industry segments.

“To compete effectively against low-cost imports, European IMD manufacturers can outsource the production of non-critical components to regions which offer low-cost labour and raw materials,” Ramasubramanian suggests. “The final component can then be inspected and assembled by more skilled labour.”

The IMD market has been recording consistently high growth rates recently, except for 2009 when it was hit by the economic recession. During that year, the European IMD market suffered a 14% decline in demand, while the global IMD market dropped by about 13%.

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