Linear motors: Components or systems?

Sept. 21, 2006

There is a trend in manufacturing companies toward buying complete industrial automation systems rather than purchasing components to assemble in-house. One factor contributing to this trend has been cutbacks in engineering resources in recent years. This has a direct impact on the direct-drives market, according to a recent study by IMS Research.

IMS found that the global market for linear motor (LM) systems, estimated at $354 million in 2005, was almost double the LM components market. The study projects there will be a continued shift to pre-assembled systems, with linear motor systems growing at an 11.0% CAGR compared with 8.5% for linear motor components.

The most notable regional disparity is between Europe, Middle East, Asia (EMEA) and the Asia Pacific regions, which are the largest markets for linear motors. EMEA is the dominant region for LM components, with $104.3 million in revenues—accounting for half of all global sales, but the EMEA makes up less than a fifth of the total systems market. The largest region for systems was Asia Pacific, with sales of $193 million in 2005. Systems also were forecast to have the highest growth in this region.
One source of these differences is in the prevailing industry sectors in each region. The EMEA is the largest market for machine tools, while the flat-panel display and semiconductor machinery markets dominate the linear motor market in the Asia Pacific. These industries differ tremendously in their preferred architecture for linear motors report the IMS analysts.

“In the machine tool sector, for example, engineers prefer to develop their own systems, and therefore purchase components,” says the report’s chief author, Alex West, senior research analyst, mechatronics group. “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.”

The flip side to this is in 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,” concludes West.