Drives and Controls Magazine
8% of UK drives users are DC diehards
Published:  01 February, 2006

8% of UK drives users are DC diehards

About 90% of UK industrial companies are now using variable speed drives, although not all of the motors they use are fitted with drives. Around 56% of these companies use only AC drives, 36% use both AC and DC drives, and just 8% rely solely on DC drives.

These figures come from a study of drives end-users, conducted by the market analyst Frost & Sullivan. The company interviewed drives users in nine sectors - including water, food and beverages, machine tools, materials handling, building services, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, and mining and metals - to canvas their opinions and assess the challenges that they face.

The survey reveals that 71% of UK sites are using standard drives, 21% are using a mixture of standard and servo drives, and 8% use just servo drives. But, F&S adds, the proportion of servos being sold in increasing, with one in three drives sold during 2004 being capable of servo performance.

However, this upsurge in servo sales could take several years to be reflected in usage figures, because users expect their drives to last for 11.5 years, on average. This leads to an expected turnover rate of 8.7% of drives each year, although many companies are happy to continue using drives that are more than 20 years old.

F&S reports that just 2% of drives are replaced on site as a result of the previous drive failing. The other 6.7% are replaced as a result of corporate replacement policies or are identified as needing to be replaced before they fail.

Although the DC drives market appears to be in steady decline, says F&S, some interviewees were "ardently supportive" of DC technologies, especially for precision applications. For example, the use of DC motors is universal (either alone or alongside AC motors) in the machine tool, and pulp and paper sectors, where they are used for fine control of tensioning and tooling functions. According to Frost & Sullivan, many respondents reported that AC technologies were simply not good enough for these applications.

The end-user analysis is a companion report to the UK drives sourcebook that F&S published. That study predicted that the UK drives market is likely to remain tough but will show steady growth, reaching some $274m by 2011 (from about $235m, this year).