Electronics Production | August 29, 2006
Linear Motors – Components or Systems
Within industrial automation there is a distinct trend towards companies purchasing complete systems rather than purchasing components assembled in-house and one factor contributing to the acceleration of this trend has been cut backs in engineering over recent years. This has had a direct impact on the direct drives market.
In fact, in a recent IMS Research study investigating the worldwide direct drives market, it was noted that the global market for linear motor (LM) systems, which was forecast to be $354.1 million in 2005, was almost double that of the LM components market. Growth rates also indicated that there will be a continued shift to pre-assembled systems with linear motor systems growing at a CAGR of 11.0% compared with 8.5% for linear motor components. However, these results also presented a stark contrast between the different regions. The most notable disparity is between EMEA and Asia Pacific regions, the largest two markets for linear motors. Whilst EMEA is the dominant region for LM components, with $104.3 million in revenues and accounting for half of all global sales, the EMEA makes up less than a fifth of the total systems market. The largest region by far for this market was Asia Pacific, with sales of $192.8 million in 2005. Systems were also forecast to experience the highest growth in this region. One answer to the differences in market structures can be found in the prevalent industry sectors within each region. The EMEA is the largest market for machine tools, whilst the flat panel display and semiconductor machinery markets dominate the linear motor market in the Asia Pacific. These industries differ tremendously in regard to their preferred architecture for linear motors. In the machine tool sector, for example, engineers prefer to develop their own systems, and therefore purchase components. The benefit to customers purchasing the components rather than pre-assembled systems is cheaper prices as well as flexibility in designing the products into their machines. However, the flip side to this is seen within markets such as flat panel display or semiconductor machinery where the linear motion component is only an ancillary product. In these applications customers typically prefer pre-assembled systems rather than assigning expensive in-house engineering in assembly of sub-systems for a machine.