In spite of all the gloomy economic news these days, a few bright spots still exist. One of them is the linear motors industry. The global linear motor market was estimated to have reached $660 million in 2007, representing growth of almost 40% over a three-year timeframe. This was relatively high in comparison with many areas of the industrial automation market, and was despite a decline in global investment within the semiconductor and flat panel machinery markets, industries that traditionally constitute two of the largest markets for these products.

In 2007, the portion of the direct drive linear motor market accounted for by high-end semiconductor and flat panel industries had fallen from 54% in 2004 to represent approximately 33% of all market revenues for these products. This was a direct result of the much lower levels of global investment into these sectors during this period. While the recent boom in demand for linear motors from the machine tool sector served to magnify this difference, an equally critical contributor was the recent increase in demand for linear motors into other high-end applications.

“Demand for direct drive linear motors in medical, test and measurement, and photovoltaic machinery has increased dramatically over the last couple of years, culminating in these markets accounting for between 10 and 15% of all linear motor systems revenues in 2007,” according to market analyst Rob Carter.

“Recent investment within these sectors, and a need for high functionality technology provided a substantial market base, outside of traditional industrial markets, for many linear motor suppliers in 2007. This undoubtedly helped cushion the blow of investment decline within the semiconductor and flat panel display machinery sectors, and has provided new opportunities for many suppliers who were previously focused on traditional sectors. The fact that these markets are not directly linked to consumer markets is undoubtedly beneficial to these suppliers, especially in the current economic climate. This is a major factor to why medical, test and measurement, and photovoltaic applications are collectively expected to account for almost 20% of all linear motor revenues within the next five years,” he adds.

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