Reality in ac drive markets

San Juan Capistrano, Calif. - A February 2002 market research and technology forecast report, "AC Drives Outlook for North America 2002-2006," from Drives Research Corp. (DRC) puts some much needed realism into market growth figures. In contrast to other recent studies, DRC sees just the start of modest growth for ac drives in 2002, following "a double-digit decline in 2001."

By Control Engineering Staff April 24, 2002

San Juan Capistrano, Calif. – A February 2002 market research and technology forecast report, “AC Drives Outlook for North America 2002-2006,” from Drives Research Corp. (DRC) puts some much needed realism into market growth figures. In contrast to other recent studies, DRC sees just the start of modest growth for ac drives in 2002, following “a double-digit decline in 2001.”

In 2001, some of the largest ac drive suppliers in North America absorbed major sales decreases. At the same time, a number of second-tier suppliers “managed to increase sales revenues through focused application-specific product and marketing solutions,” according to DRC’s report.

For 2002 nearly 3% growth is forecast for North American ac drives, with end-user/equipment markets predicted to gain 2.2%. Prospects for the next two years are brighter, indicating growth in the 4-7% percent range. The longer-term outlook looks even more promising. “We expect the billion-dollar-plus North American ac drives market to post nearly 6% CAGR [compound annual growth rate] through 2006, compared to 8% achieved from 1995 to 2000,” says Tom Kaporch, president of Drives Research and principal author of the report. “Similarly, we see ac drive end-markets growing at a CAGR close to 4% from 2002 through 2006, almost the same as the 4.1% posted for 1995 to 2000,” he says.

Growth factors, key trends

Propelling the growth are such demands as energy conservation, higher productivity, upgrading of neglected infrastructures, plus emerging applications. Mr. Kaporch includes marine propulsion, traction drives (other than automotive), and commercial/household appliances and products in the last category. Process industries and utilities are the market segments to lead the growth, while the manufacturing sector will lag slightly, though offset by the above emerging applications.

Given the large number of ac drive suppliers serving the North American market, they will need to find ways to differentiate their ac drive offerings. “The effort to deliver value differentiation by price, application-specific solutions, system integration, and distribution channel is expected to intensify,” explains Mr. Kaporch.

DRC’s report identifies several key trends that will impact the future of ac drive design–among them, increased intelligence, sensorless control, multilevel converter topologies, active front-ends, and new advanced control methods. “In the longer run,” he notes, “high-temperature silicon-carbide power semiconductors, bidirectional current capability, matrix converter topologies, and neural/fuzzy logic-based control schemes promise to revolutionize the industry propelling it into a new level of explosive growth.”

Drives Research Corp., a market research and management consultant firm, specializes in electronic motor drives, controls, and electric motors. For more information visit www.drivesresearch.com .

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Frank J. Bartos, executive editor
fbartos@cahners.com