Robust future for low voltage ac and dc drives market

Paul Boughton

Despite the current economic downturn, the market for low voltage ac and dc motor drives remains robust. It is a similar story for the higher voltage market with 2009 already seeing a number of new product launches aimed at the process industries.

According to the latest statistics from IMS Research, the worldwide market for low voltage ac and dc motor drives experienced unprecedented revenue growth in 2007, increasing by 19.7 per cent over 2006 levels.

Data reported by leading drives suppliers indicate all regions and industry segments exhibited strong growth during the year.

The market is expected to continue performing well despite the global economic downturn, with positive growth forecast for both 2008 and this year, when annual revenue growth should bottom out at 3.7 per cent.

High energy prices

High energy prices and an increased focus on energy efficiency will maintain positive growth of market revenues, which are expected to increase by an average annual rate of 10.4 per cent throughout the forecast period to reach an estimated value of US$13.6 billion by 2012.

Lead by infrastructure expansion in China and India, the Asia Pacific motor drives market experienced the largest amount of growth in 2007, and was the second largest regional market after EMEA. Valued at nearly US$2.4 billion, the drives market in Asia Pacific is expected to continue growing at the fastest rate over the next five years. However, difficult economic conditions around the globe will slow growth across all regions, with most impact felt in the drives markets in the Americas and Japan.

Government stimulus packages

The success of recently introduced government stimulus packages will determine the severity of the market downturn. Even so, the company expects positive growth in the utilities, food and beverage, chemicals and petroleum, and renewable energy industries. This is expected to offset declines in the metal processing, mining, textiles and commercial HVAC industries.

According to IMS Research analyst Jenalea Howell, "Growth of critical industry sectors, government legislation and stimulus packages will provide abundant opportunities for the low voltage motor drives market to come through the recession with positive growth."

News from the OEMs

2009 is already a busy year for the higher voltage motor drive suppliers, with a number of new products hitting the market. For example, Rockwell Automation has launched the Allen-Bradley PowerFlex 755 AC drive to meet global user needs for versatile motor control, ease of integration and high performance to help increase overall productivity. Available in power ranges from 7.5-250 kW or 10-350 hp at 400/480V ac and 540/650V dc input, the PowerFlex 755 AC drive supports multiple languages, meets global standards and certifications, and is suited for many industries, including converting, automotive, machinery, food and beverage, material handling, metals, mining, and tyres and rubber (Fig.1).

"A variety of supporting options makes the PowerFlex 755 a highly functional and cost-effective drive for simple and demanding drive applications," said Anthony Newkirk, drives product manager with Rockwell Automation. "The application flexibility and simple integration make this drive ideal for OEMs and system integrators looking to reduce engineering costs, deliver machines to market faster, and meet end-user demand for higher performance and safer machines," he added.

According to the company, the new drive offers more versatility than any other drive in its class in terms of motor control and supporting control hardware options. Examples include:

- To adapt drive control to specific application requirements, engineers embedded Allen-Bradley DeviceLogix control in the drive. This can give users control flexibility to combine inputs and/or outputs and local logic functions to determine the drive's behaviour.

- To enable data-driven decisions, embedded Ethernet allows users to easily configure, control and collect drive data over EtherNet/IP networks.

- To minimise downtime, users can configure the drive to provide advanced notification of operating data on cooling fans, I/O relay cycles, motor run-time hours and potential fault warnings.

- Embedded safe torque-off and safe-speed monitoring safety options help customers reduce overall system costs while helping to protect personnel and equipment, and improve productivity.

In addition, engineers designed the PowerFlex 755 AC drive with a slot-based mechanical architecture that allows customers to tailor the drive with as few or as many options - I/O, feedback, safety, communications and auxiliary control power - as their application requires.

Digital dc drives

Meanwhile, Sprint Electric's latest contribution is a set of digital DC drives that function up to 1850A (800Kw/1080hp). The company says that the new PLX range is ideal for the control of dc motors used in heavy-industry applications such as metal processing, the pulp and paper industry, rubber and plastic processing, lifting equipment and food processing. The drives are available in two-quadrant and four-quadrant options. The high-voltage models are available for supplies up to 690VAC to enable control of dc motors up to 750VDC. Centre-winding macros, spindle orientation and a controllable field allow the user to control dc motors in heavy-industry applications.

The PLX is configurable by the user and comes equipped, as standard, with a comprehensive suite of application blocks. A configuration checker detects any conflicts in the configurations generated by the user. A four-button keypad and large alpha-numeric display make it easy to quickly navigate through a range of software functions.

The PLX has a number of fieldbus communications options, including Profibus, Devicenet, CC-Link, EtherNet/IP, Modbus and Canopen. It also includes PL Pilot, a windows-based configuration and monitoring software package.

All PLX models are compatible with Drive Web. The Drive Web distributed-control technology uses Ethernet and powerful graphical tools to provide robust, programmable peer control (PPC) for drives and systems. For typical motor-control systems, the Drive Web technology is infinitely scalable.

Recent Issues