MRO Magazine

AC drives will see huge impact from new technology, says research report

San Juan Capistrano, CA -- May 10, 2002 -- After suffering a double-digit decline in 2001, the North American AC dr...

San Juan Capistrano, CA — May 10, 2002 — After suffering a double-digit decline in 2001, the North American AC drives market is expected to resume growth in 2002, according to a market research and technology forecast report by Drives Research Corporation.

Despite a slow recovery over the next few quarters, Drives Research is predicting nearly 3% growth for AC drives in North America in 2002, with stronger growth following over the next few years. North American AC drive end-equipment and end-user markets will experience slow growth in the second quarter of 2002, the company forecasts, with an overall gain of 2.2% for the year as the U.S. economic recovery begins to take place in the second half of the year. But over the next two years, the industry will see growth between 4% and 7%, Drives Research said.

“We expect the billion-dollar-plus North American AC drives market to post nearly a 6% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for the next five years through 2006, compared to the 8% achieved from 1995 to 2000,” said Tom Kaporch, president of Drives Research. He is the principal author of the market research and technology forecast report AC Drives Outlook for North America 2002-2006.

“Similarly, we see AC drive end-markets growing at a CAGR close to 4% from 2002 through 2006, almost the same as the CAGR of 4.1% posted for 1995 to 2000,” Kaporch said in a statement.


Growth in North America will be driven by the need for energy conservation, higher productivity, neglected infrastructure needs and new emerging applications. It will be led by the process industries and utilities market segments, with building HVAC, material-handling, semiconductor fabrication and packaging machinery also showing significant improvements.

Industrial manufacturing growth, however, will lag slightly, according to Kaporch, but this will be offset by emerging applications such as marine propulsion, non-auto traction, commercial and household appliances and products.

The study notes that while some of the largest AC drive suppliers in North America absorbed the largest sales decreases in 2001, a number of second-tier suppliers, using focused, application-specific product and marketing solution strategies managed, to increase their sales revenues.

Price erosion, consolidation and globalization will continue to have an impact on the industry, Kaporch noted, even as integrated power electronics packaging solutions, power ICs, and dedicated DSP and microprocessor motor control solutions continue to lower the barriers to entry in the fragmented industry.

With more than 32 AC drive suppliers currently serving the North American market and the majority of low- and medium-power AC drives viewed as commodity products, the effort to deliver value differentiation by price, application-specific solutions, system integration, and distribution channel is expected to intensify.

Trends in drive design

The study identifies increased intelligence, sensorless control, multilevel converter topologies, active front-ends, and new advanced control schemes as key trends that will impact AC drive design in the future, while new high-voltage power semiconductors will reduce the cost of medium-voltage AC drives, greatly expanding their application opportunities.

In the longer run, Kaporch notes, high-temperature silicon-carbide power semiconductors, bi-directional current capability, matrix converter topologies, and neural/fuzzy logic-based control schemes promise to revolutionize the industry, propelling it into a new level of explosive growth.

Further information on the report is available from Drives Research at, tel. 949-487-5163, or at The complete report is US$3,750. An absract of its contents is available on the company’s website.

Drives Research is a market research and management consultant firm specializing in electronic motor drives, controls and electric motors. Drives Research provides market research, strategic planning and technology assessment services.