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North American drives sales slump by more than 10%

01 March, 2002

The North American AC drives market fell by more than 10% last year with Rockwell Automation suffering a 25% decline, according to a new market survey. But the report*, by Drives Research (DR), predicts a 3% growth this year, followed by a 4-7% expansion over the next two years.

"We expect the billion-dollar-plus North American AC drives market to post nearly a 6% compound annual growth rate for the next five years, compared to the 8% achieved from 1995 to 2000," says Tom Kaporch, DR`s president and the report`s main author.

The new growth will be led by the process industries and the utilities, according to Kaporch. "Industrial manufacturing growth will lag slightly," he predicts, "but this will be offset by emerging applications such as marine propulsion, non-automotive traction, and commercial and household appliances".

Although America`s large drives suppliers lost sales last year, some smaller suppliers, including Lenze/AC Tech and Vacon, managed to boost their sales, DR reports. With more than 32 AC drives suppliers fighting over the North American market, DR expects them to intensify their efforts to differentiate their products on the basis of price, applications, integration and distribution.

The report identifies technology trends that are changing the design of VSDs, including the growing use of sensorless controls, multilevel converter topologies, and active front-ends. It adds that new high-voltage power semiconductors will cut the cost of medium voltage AC drives, expanding their use.

"In the longer run," Kaporch predicts, "high-temperature silicon carbide power semiconductors, bi-directional current capabilities, matrix converter technologies and neural/fuzzy-logic-based control schemes promise to revolutionise the industry, propelling it into a new level of explosive growth."

• The number of robots sold in North America fell last year by 30% to 8,964, while sales plunged 35% to $680m. But the Robotic Industries Association reports a 20% jump in new orders during last quarter of 2001, and says this is "a positive sign"

* AC Drives Outlook for North America 2002-2006.

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