MRO Magazine

PT Market Outlook Bright

Demand for industrial power transmission components (sprockets and chains, clutches and brakes, couplings and universal joints, pulleys and sheaves, etc.) is forecast to advance in the United States by 6.1% to $3.7 billion in 2008.

November 1, 2004 | By MRO Magazine

Demand for industrial power transmission components (sprockets and chains, clutches and brakes, couplings and universal joints, pulleys and sheaves, etc.) is forecast to advance in the United States by 6.1% to $3.7 billion in 2008.

Every type of industrial power transmission component will experience a solid rebound in demand following declines during the early 2000s recession. Gains will be spurred by an improving economy, which will stimulate capital expansion in a number of key end-use industries.

In addition, demand for products which can deliver enhanced power transmission in limited space situations or in harsh environments, along with products that improve efficiencies — such as single unit clutch/brakes and self actuated, hydraulically and pneumatically controlled clutches and brakes — will spur demand.

Shipments of industrial power transmission components are projected to increase 5.2% annually to $3.1 billion in 2008. Imports will continue to advance, although at a slower pace than was seen over the past decade. Still, imports are expected to account for nearly 30% of U.S. demand in 2008.


The clutches and brakes, and pulleys and sheaves categories will experience the strongest demand gains through 2008. Clutches and brakes will benefit from their role in improving manufacturing efficiencies, while technological innovations in the belt drive market will support increases in pulleys and sheaves demand.

Advances in belting materials

Belt drives are generally quieter than chain drive systems and advances in belting materials have enabled belts to handle loads previously requiring stronger chains.

Among all industrial power transmission products, self-actuating clutches, which operate without an external power source, are expected to show the fastest growth through 2008. The engagement or disengagement of the torque-transmitting elements of self-actuating clutches and brakes occurs in response to changes in speed, direction of rotation or some other characteristic germane to the elements themselves. These products improve the efficiency of machinery by requiring less labour and/or power inputs, thus cutting costs and increasing the desirability of self-actuating clutches and brakes for cost conscious businesses.

Metalworking machinery

Although improvements in demand will be evident in all industries that use industrial power transmission components, demand growth is expected to be fastest in the metalworking machinery industry.

Following the 1998-2003 period, which saw near double-digit declines in metalworking machinery shipments, a rebounding economy is expected to stimulate demand across all industry sectors requiring increased fabricated metal goods, leading to capital expansion in this industry.

Details on these and other key findings are available in a new Freedonia study, Industrial Power Transmission Components, priced at US$500. The study provides historical data through 2003 plus forecasts to 2008 and 2013 by product and end use. It also presents market share data and profiles 33 US industry competitors. For ordering information, visit, write, or call 440-684-9600.

Advanced technology fuels demand for linear motors

Another study, this one from Frost & Sullivan, forecasts that increasing automation, growth in high-technology industries, and a reviving economy will all serve to spur demand in the North American linear motors market.

End users, keen to improve efficiency and productivity favour an early replacement of drives, thereby creating a demand for next-generation products that are introduced into the market approximately every four years.

These clean, efficient devices, capable of high speeds and forces, are fast replacing belt drives, ball screws and rack and pinion systems. Linear motor manufacturers are, however, faced with the challenge of producing less expensive, more efficient drives that increase product value. They need to offer quality service — particularly delivery — to meet the long-term needs of their customers.

Designing motors with smaller physical dimensions is also expected to increase the demand for new applications.

However, the study reports, the majority of the users are not aware that the latest linear motors provide higher efficiency, precision and speed than rotary motors. More often than not, users limit themselves to the motors that they have been using for several years and tend to replace them with the similar models, and at times, even purchase less efficient, lower-cost types.

Manufacturers should educate their distribution representatives as well as end users of the advantages of linear motors, the report states.

“Several leading manufacturers are organizing seminars and training for end users as well as providing descriptive product catalogues with a listing of possible applications and ratings,” states the study’s analyst. “This has resulted in greater customer satisfaction and has increased the likelihood of subsequent business.”

Expenses associated with linear motors and the design changes that may be necessary for installation also discourage potential users. Further, considering only short-term benefits, customers are reluctant to invest in higher-priced equipment. Overcoming these barriers requires intelligent marketing tactics to raise customers’ awareness of the technology and its cost-saving benefits in the long run.

Price pressures

The linear motors market is characterized by a strong degree of price pressures and intense competition. Consolidation in some of the main user industries has given greater bargaining power to the customer base that demands a reduction in price levels. Faced with increasing R&D expenditure to meet end-user demands and high raw material costs, manufacturers are compelled to absorb production costs to keep prices competitive.

The high price of motors is partially due to the low volumes that are sold when compared to many industrial products, such as conventional rotary motors. “Since shipments of linear motors remain relatively low, every single sale is important and manufacturers focus on competing fiercely to build demand and win the order,” says the study’s analyst.

Until linear motors have demonstrated their advantages in a wider variety of applications, the high cost is expected to remain a key restraint. Domestic and foreign competitors flooding the market are expected to find ways to decrease prices, diversify, and provide integrated solutions.

The geographic coverage of this research is North America, including the United States, Canada, and Mexico. For further details on this US$4,500 study, visit or call 877-463-7678.

For further insight into the PT market, refer to Outlook for Power Transmission Industry Brighter for 2004, based on a PTDA member survey, published in Machinery & Equipment MRO, April 2004, pg. 39, or view it online at


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