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Smart drives grab a bigger share of the motion market
Published:  01 July, 2003

Smart drives grab a bigger share of the motion market

"Intelligent" drives - those which incorporate motion controls - will account for an increasing proportion of the European motion control market, says a new study* from Frost & Sullivan. It predicts that sales will grow from $335m last year (representing around 118,000 units), to $552m (or more than 200,000 units) by 2009.

During 2002, Siemens accounted for almost a quarter of the intelligent drives market. Other suppliers with a strong presence in this market include Bosch Rexroth, Control Techniques, Baumüller and Lenze.

Frost & Sullivan attributes Siemens` dominance to several factors, including its promotion of the technology in the crucial German market, its leading position in the servo market, and its presence at both ends of the market. Frost & Sullivan research manager, Mik Sabiers, suggests that Siemens could grab an even larger slice of the market, following the recent launch of its Simotion family.

The use of intelligent drives is particularly widespread in the German market, with an estimated 42% of all European sales last year.

Applications such as packaging and printing are forecast to account for a growing proportion of the intelligent drives market, although another promising sector, handling, is likely to suffer because of growing price competition at the low end of the market, suggests F&S. There is strong growth potential in many other areas, it adds, providing that customers can be convinced of the benefits of the technology.

Although the market is still fairly young, competitive pressures are already strong. "Price competition is expected to intensify during the forecast period, and this may impact revenue growth rates, particularly in the low-end sector," says Sabiers. "However, more competitive price levels should enable OEMs and end-users to adopt intelligent drives in place of separate drive and controller units."

According to Frost & Sullivan`s definition of intelligent drives, they usually control a single axis, but have the potential to work as part of complex motion control systems combining several axes.

Persuading customers to invest in decentralised intelligence is one of the key challenges facing suppliers. The lack of end-user familiarity with intelligent drives is hindering growth, but economics could help to turn the tide. These drives can save money by eliminating the need for separate motion controllers or PLCs, and by reducing the number of connections and set-up times.

The increasing complexity of machinery, with growing numbers of axes, should further encourage interest and investment in the technology, says F&S. It adds that the manufacturers most likely to benefit will be the early developers and advocates of the intelligent drives.

* Intelligent drives markets in Europe (report B180). Price €5,500.

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