Drives Push Industrial Networking Expansion

May 10, 2012
New Connected Nodes Are Growing Quickly for Servo and Inverter Drives, Pushing Strong Growth of Fieldbus- and Ethernet-Based Industrial Networking

With an estimated 31 million new fieldbus and Ethernet nodes installed last year, the global market for industrial networking remains strong, according to IMS Research, which predicts an average growth of 10% a year, reaching more than 45 million new connected nodes by 2015.

New connected nodes will grow fastest in servo and inverter drives in the Americas, and in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), according to IMS’s latest industrial networking report. Their grow rate will be almost 12% a year, resulting in 3.5 million connected inverter drives and about 800,000 connected servo drives in 2015.

“These new network nodes will grow so fast because of the high growth in shipments of servo and inverter drives,” said Graham Brown, market analyst and author of the study. “Drive shipments are growing quickly in all regions, although the industry sectors creating this growth differ by drive type and region. The adoption of medium-voltage drives, for example, is growing in the oil and gas industry; growth in shipments of servo drives is in the machine-tool industry.”

Although shipment growth is a key factor, IMS also sees a steady increase in the percentage of drives that are network-enabled and connected. The current focus on improving energy efficiency in factories is pushed mostly by its potential to reduce running costs, though it might also be legislated in coming years. Networked drives offer an effective means to improve overall factory efficiency; the number of new networked drives will likely increase by a substantial amount if such legislation is introduced. However, this is not likely to happen before 2015.

Many more networked drives are forecast to be shipped in Asia-Pacific, partly because of many new greenfield projects. IMS projects about 4.3 million new servo and inverter drives networked in this region, equating to a growth rate of well over 15% a year, significantly above the world average rate.

“This is not surprising,” Brown said. “Since 2009, several countries in Asia, especially China, have enjoyed strong economic growth. Heavy spending on industrial and infrastructure projects means that markets for several industrial products, particularly operator terminals and industrial PCs, are also growing quickly at over 14% a year. This suggests that the strong growth already seen in automation and in turn industrial networking in Asia-Pacific is likely to continue.”