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Recovery gathers pace in motion controls

01 April, 2004

Two new analyses of the motion controls market suggest that a recovery has already started and will be maintained.

The first report, from the ARC Advisory Group, looks at the global market for general motion control (GMC) and reports that after shrinking significantly during 2001 and 2002, there was a "noteworthy increase in orders during 2003". It adds that the GMC market has now passed the $4bn mark and predicts that it will grow at a CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) of 6.3% over the coming five years.

The second study, focusing on the European market for motion controls, reports that sales plummeted by 7.4% during 2002. According to this analysis, by IMS Research, a moderate recovery began in latter part of 2003, with the market growing by an estimated 3.1%.

ARC expects the driving factors for capital investments to stay strong for the coming five years. "Mechatronic solutions with drives and motors will encourage machine builders to replace maintenance-ridden and inflexible mechanical linkages," suggests ARC senior analyst, Himanshu Shah. "As a result, an increasing number of machines will have more servo- or stepper-controlled motion axes."

Although "faster-cheaper-better" is the dominant trend in the GMC market, ARC says that the market is becoming more dynamic as suppliers take different paths to achieve these goals. As a result, battles are brewing on many fronts, including "open" standards, architectures and the platforms used. ARC expects the battle for a standard motion control network to become "feisty" as suppliers invest in competing technologies.

Many small suppliers have been able to carve out successful niches in the GMC market. Because GMC suppliers - including the automation giants - cannot address all motion control requirements, the market is highly fragmented with no supplier holding more than few percent of the total market.

To meet the increasing competition and to offer ease-of-use, motion suppliers will have to provide embedded software to meet a broader range of applications, ARC suggests. The suppliers will also have to give away software to win hardware sales, eating into the sales of unbundled software.

In its report on the European motion controls market, IMS says that the "prospects are positive" for 2004 as investment increases in capital goods such as machinery. It predicts that sales of servo systems will soar by 6.8% this year, with the greatest growth coming in Spain and Portugal. Stepper sales will also grow, but not as rapidly, especially in the semiconductor sector.

IMS expects the growth in the motion control market that started late last year to continue until 2006, at least. But it warns that export sales may be hit by currency fluctuations and the appreciation of the Euro.

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