AC and servo drives gain prominence over DC drives in the European material handling industry
The European material handling industry is demanding advanced alternating current (AC) drives with better product quality, ease of operation, enhanced efficiency, improved communication technology and process control.
Most direct current (DC) drive applications are being replaced by AC and servo drives which offer advantages such as better and easier motion control, higher energy efficiency and improved performance.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Strategic Analysis of the Electric Drives Market in the European Material Handling Industry, finds that the market earned revenues of €190.2 million in 2010 and estimates this to reach €283.5 million in 2017. The research covers AC, DC and servo drives.
With advancements in AC drives technology and its availability at lower cost for similar power rating applications, AC drives are gaining popularity and widely being accepted among end users.
“Increased awareness among end users and OEMs in the material handling industry about the energy saving potential of electric drives is improving their market penetration,” notes Frost & Sullivan Industry Analyst Sivakumar Narayanaswamy. “AC and servo drives are gaining popularity and replacing DC drives in most material handling applications.”
Awareness levels about the benefits of drives have been quite high among OEMs and end users in Western Europe. In contrast, end users in Eastern Europe are still not completely aware of drives and there is huge untapped potential in this region. However, efforts by manufacturers to emphasise the payback period and return on investment (ROI) while using drives is set to boost uptake levels.
A key challenge to market prospects is the high cost of initial investment; in some cases, the initial outlay needed to install a drive may exceed the cost of the motor. As a result, many small and medium sized companies in the material handling industry opt for inefficient and inexpensive alternatives, such as hydraulic equipment or gear boxes, which are almost ten times cheaper than drives.
“However, end users forget to take into consideration the ROI and payback period with drives, which is less than two years in most cases,” remarks Narayanaswamy. “In the last decade, drives prices have witnessed a significant fall, and the technology has been robust with continuous product innovations.”
Apart from loading, lifting and transport equipment (LLTE), automated handling equipment – especially automated guided vehicles and robotics – are expected to drive growth and sales in the overall market. This equipment enhances productivity, and can be easily integrated into factory or warehouse environment.