22 Jul 2024


Smart linear conveyor system sales will hit $1bn by 2026

Planar transport technologies such as Beckhoff’s XPlanar can move objects in multiple directions on floating tiles

The global market for “smart” production line conveyor systems – both linear and planar – is outpacing the general manufacturing and machinery market and will expand from $300m in 2021 to almost $1bn by 2026, according to new research by Interact Analysis. Sales grew by 27% in 2021 and are likely to expand by a further 36% this year, it reports. Over the period 2021-206, it expects the linear market to achieve a CAGR of 26.5%.

These relatively new systems use direct-drive technologies, with production line items carried on independently-controlled carriers, carts or tiles. The systems are also known as independent cart technologies, flexible transport systems or multi-carrier systems. They promise end-users fast transport speeds and enhanced production line flexibility.

The sector is currently dominated by four suppliers – Beckhoff (with its XTS system), Rockwell Automation (iTrak), B&R (Acopostrak and SuperTrak) and Siemens/Festo (MCS). Between them, they account for three-quarters of the market.

The relatively young market is benefitting from increasing adoption by new industries and applications as users gain an understanding of the benefits of these technologies, compared to traditional conveyor systems. The main interest so far has come from the food and beverage, medical device, pharmaceutical, semiconductor and electronics sectors. Interact expects them to dominate demand for linear SCT (smart conveyance technology) systems in the period to 2026.

However, demand for these technologies from the battery manufacturing sector is heating up and this sector is likely to generate the highest growth by the end of the forecast period, with a predicted CAGR of 51.7%.

Unlike the more established linear SCT systems, the newer planar systems – in which items are carried on levitating “tiles” that can move in multiple directions – is still tiny with most potential users currently only trialling the technology. Examples include Beckhoff’s XPlanar system and B&R’s Acopos 6D.

Despite its early stage of development, Interact expects the planar SCT market to ramp up rapidly to be worth more than $70m by 2026, delivering a CAGR of 41.2%.

One of the main benefits of the planar technology over linear SCT is its increased flexibility. Because the technology is still in an early phase, the market is fairly evenly split across a variety of sectors. By 2026, however, Interact predicts that battery manufacturing will represent the largest market for planar systems with a CAGR of 60.1%. The battery sector will be a key driver of growth for both the linear and planar technologies, Interact suggests.

Regionally, the fastest growth for SCT systems will be in Asia-Pacific which will overtake the Emea market by 2023. This is due mainly to the positive outlook for the battery manufacturing, electronics and semiconductor sectors in the Apac region. By 2026, the Apac market for linear SCT will be worth an estimated $450m compared to $350m in Emea, Interact predicts.

New contenders are being attracted to the SCT market. Last year, for example, Schneider Electric announced its Lexium MC12 multi-carrier system.

“It’s encouraging to see new suppliers are entering the market,” says Tim Dawson, senior research director at Interact Analysis. “Most new suppliers are in Europe, which is one factor that is projected to boost Emea’s market share. These new entrants are set to launch products that will compete with those of the top four vendors.”

Like other areas of technology, the SCT market has been affected by high component prices and delivery problems. “The supply chain crisis coupled with soaring raw material prices created the perfect storm for manufacturers in 2021 which had a knock-on effect on pricing,” Dawson reports. “Increased freight rates also forced SCT vendors to place delivery surcharges on their products because of component shortages.”

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