Blake has worked as a Market Analyst at Interact Analysis since 2017. Covering the markets for low voltage AC motor drives, predictive maintenance, and mobile hydraulics, Blake has developed expertise in automation systems, industrial digitalization, and off highway-electrification.
The market for low voltage motor drives continued to grow in 2018. A bullish industrial sector, encroaching energy efficiency regulations, and the continued development of manufacturing in the Asia Pacific pushed the market up 6.1% versus 2017 to a value of 11.7 bn (USD Float). Motor drive suppliers have been agile in their response to this developing market environment, many of whom released products or introduced new features during 2018 which are telling of both the respective company’s strategy for the future, and the direction of the market more broadly. In this insight we look at some of these products and analyze them within the context of various market developments.
Siemens’ G120X – Capitalizing on Strong Investment in Water & Wastewater
In late 2018, Siemens announced an extension to their G120 product family. Designed for any motor between 0.75 and 630 kW, the G120X is aimed at serving infrastructure and industrial water & wastewater applications. This is a major play for Siemens considering the anticipated growth of the water & wastewater segment within EMEA; a region in which Siemens is amongst the top suppliers. According to the previous edition of our research covering the market for low voltage motor drives, sales of drives to water & wastewater is expected to grow faster than any other segment within EMEA, growing with a CAGR of ~23% for the period 2016 to 2022.
Aging water & wastewater infrastructure across Europe has spurred European water services to invest an average of €45bn annually into upgrading pipe networks and treatment plants. This, coupled with increasing pressure from the EU’s Energy Efficiency Directive to design more energy efficient systems, is driving much of the growth for LV drives in water & wastewater and is why we think Siemens G120X is a strong play for the already entrenched supplier.
There is another aspect of the G120X that is very telling about the current status of communication protocols within the market. Upon release, the G120X only supported PROFINET and Ethernet/IP (Wi-Fi was available through an add-on module). Traditional fieldbus protocols like Siemens’ own, PROFIBUS, are set to be introduced this year. General feedback from multiple suppliers in the market indicated that revenue from drives using Ethernet-based protocols recently surpassed drives using a traditional fieldbus. This assertion is validated by Siemens’ move to launch the G120X with only Ethernet based protocols and no fieldbus options available in the first instance. Even its proprietary fieldbus, PROFIBUS, did not make the cut. We take this as a strong signal for the continued momentum of Ethernet-based protocols used in drives.
Mitsubishi Electric’s FR-XC – A Focus on Regeneration
In May 2019, Mitsubishi Electric announced its new FR-XC regenerative converter. Power regeneration in drives is nothing new to the market but given the increasing focus on energy efficiency in EMEA (and to a lesser extent the Americas), adoption of such technology is on the rise. Methods of adoption usually fall into two categories. The first uses a stand-alone drive to achieve regenerative benefits in applications like cranes and hoists. In these systems, when a load is lowered naturally by gravity, the electric motor runs in reverse acting as a generator which pumps energy through the drive, back into the system.
Mitsubishi Electric’s FR-XC
The second method utilizes multiple drives under a common DC bus in a multi-axis system. Multi-axis implies use of multiple motors and, in these systems, any time one of the motors is being run in reverse, it’s pumping energy back into the system. In a multi-axis system, benefits for the end-user extend beyond energy savings. Since all drives are sharing a common DC bus, space and cabling costs are also reduced. These cost saving benefits coupled with the increased demand for energy efficient devices are why regenerative technology is seeing heightened demand and is why this product launch is so well timed.
Mitsubishi Electric’s FR-XC was designed to be coupled with a drive to enable regenerative capability. In effect, this device opens opportunity for retrofit on existing non-regenerative systems. The value proposition here is that it’s less expensive to retrofit this device onto an existing drive (or multi-drive system) than it would to purchase and replace existing drives with regenerative drives. The FR-XC is a product which demonstrates the observed amplification of a trend toward more energy efficient systems and Mitsubishi Electric has done well to try and capitalize on it.
Danfoss’ VTL Pressure Transmitter PTU 025 – Using Intelligent Drives to Extend the Life of Ventilation Systems
Danfoss is one of the top suppliers of low voltage motor drives globally; however, it’s in a unique position compared to its immediate competitors. Unlike ABB or Siemens, Danfoss is not a full industrial automation solution provider. This characteristic of Danfoss has influenced the company’s strategy when developing its drive products. Since Danfoss has no inherent loyalty to any automation provider, the company has made a point to be motor-agnostic, protocol-agnostic, and more recently, IoT platform-agnostic. This has cast a wide net over the industries and applications Danfoss’ drives are suitable for, and has allowed Danfoss to focus on developing greater embedded intelligence for its drives. The PTU 025 offers an example of how that intelligence can be used to bring tangible benefits to customers.
Danfoss’ PTU 025
Danfoss’ PTU 025 is a pressure transmitter that when attached to a Danfoss HVAC drive, can offer up performance data of ventilation systems to the drive. A Danfoss drive can then take this data, analyze it, and predict the optimum time to replace air filters. This reduces energy consumption costs and helps bring ventilation systems in compliance with the EU’s Energy-Related Products Directive (ErP).
The PTU 025 reflects increasing market demand for the ability to aggregate and analyze external sensor data. In this case, analysis of raw data is taking place on the drive itself, but it is just as common for the drive to be used as a gateway device to push that data to the cloud or to an edge computer for analysis. Most likely, this data is being utilized to perform predictive maintenance on whatever system the drive is connected to. The PTU 025 is an example of how predictive maintenance technology is being used in new applications. To use an industry-centric analogy: the PTU 025 is to ventilation systems what the ABB Ability Smart Sensor is to electric motors. A bet on predictive maintenance is a safe one, especially considering the retrofit opportunity for this product on already installed Danfoss HVAC drives.
Increasing energy efficiency regulation continues to drive demand in the market however the opportunity to retrofit drives to installed motors is still very large. Addressing energy efficiency demand by promoting things like power regeneration capability and being flexible in terms of communication protocols can help suppliers capitalize on both new and retrofit opportunities. In the realm of predictive maintenance, drives have been monitoring the electric pull of a motor for some time. However, with the continued rise of smart sensors, we will begin to see drives play an increasingly important role in this trend. Whether, as with Danfoss, the drive itself will be performing the analytics, or the drive will be acting like a gateway for offering up data to the other devices/the cloud, we still don’t know – it will likely be a mix of both. However, what we do know is, heightened demand for predictive maintenance is on the horizon and drive vendors will need to offer suitable solutions that address this.
For more information on our Low Voltage AC Motor Drive Research, please contact us at email@example.com