22 Jul 2024


Chinese automation giant pushes into Europe

Setting its sights on Europe: Inovance’s headquarters in China

The Chinese automation and drives manufacturer Inovance is making a big push into the European market, spearheaded by its first public outing at the recent SPS show in Germany. Although its name may not be well-known outside China, the company already claims to be the world’s fifth-largest servodrive manufacturer and its eighth-largest LV AC drives supplier.

Inovance, founded in 2003, achieved revenues worth $2.8bn in 2021 when it employed almost 17,000 people – 21% (3,560) of them being r&d engineers, including a team based in Germany working on real-time machine control software. In 2021, Inovance shipped three million servodrives and motors and 100,000 electric vehicle drivetrains. By the end of 2021, it had shipped 10,000 industrial robots and 10,000 medium-voltage drives.

Around 30% of Inovance’s revenues now come from AC drives, 25% from servomotion, PLCs, HMIs and robot sensors, and 26% from elevator products. It claims to have more than three million elevator drives installed worldwide, many of them hidden behind the names of well-known lift-makers.

C K Fong, a former vice-president of Control Techniques who is working with Inovance in Europe, admits that when the company started up, it was making me-too products but, he adds, it now spends 11% of its revenues on r&d and is designing products for the global market. For example, at SPS the company launched a new PLC designed with the European market in mind. The Easy series PLC, which handles up to 32 EtherCat axes, offers PLCopen-compliant axis control and can support up to 16 of Inovance’s new GL20 I/O modules which are a third of the size of the previous generation and offer minimum cycle times of 125µs.

Other products launched at SPS included:
• the AC703 IPC motion controller which offers a Codesys IEC 61131-3 programming environment, control of up to 32 axes, and safe shutdowns without needing an UPS;
• the SV670 high-performance single-axis pulse servodrive; and
• the MD800 AC multidrive which was meant to make its debut at the cancelled 2021 SPS show. It supports up to eight drives using single- and dual-drive modules rated at up to 7.5kW. The MD800 has been designed to meet European OEM demands for low installation costs and compact dimensions.

Inovance was also previewing a high-performance single-axis servodrive (SV680) which spans ratings from 0.1–7.5kW and offers advanced safety functions, including FSoE (Functional Safety over EtherCat).

Inovance’s European headquarters are in Germany, and it has set up offices in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Turkey. In the UK, it is represented by Coventry-based CAPSS.

The company claims it is relatively unaffected by current component shortages. “Unlike many drives and automation companies at the moment, we are able to supply product immediately and with very short lead times,” says David Bedford Guaus, strategic marketing manager for AC drives and servos.

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