A new report on the global I/O module business from IMS Research, Austin, indicates significant growth. It shows that the market — especially for Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) I/O modules — has briskly recovered after the recession with double-digit growth in both 2010 and 2011. However, analysts note that the comeback of the Distributed Control System (DCS) I/O market was somewhat slower. I/O modules, mostly used with controllers, are essential components in industrial automation systems. By adding more of these modules, an entire system’s scope and flexibility can be enhanced. PLCs, for example, can move their control capability to the field level by adding remote modules.

I/O modules can be broadly separated into three categories by controller type, including PLC, DCS, and industrial PC. The worldwide recession hurt the industrial automation industry, with the market for each controller type falling more than 20% from 2008 to 2009. Accordingly, the I/O market also decreased due to lower demand for controller products.

“The recovery since 2010 is quite exciting,” says analyst Alex Hong. “The entire I/O module market has benefited from the recovery of the controller market, especially for PLCs.”

The I/O module market grew more than 20% in 2010, and another 10% further in 2011. The main contribution to growth came from PLC I/O modules due to expansion in machine-builder markets. Because they use PLCs widely, the demand for the I/O modules, which are attached to the PLCs, also enjoyed strong growth. On the other hand, demand for process automation has lagged; the market for DCS I/O modules, closely associated with the process industries, grew slower than that for PLC I/O modules.

“The I/O module market will benefit from a growing PLC market,” says Hong. “However, growth in PLC and DCS I/O module demand will differ, mirroring the performance of discrete and process automation markets.”

Additional topics covered in the 2012 report include revenue and unit shipment information for local and remote I/O modules, the market for each product type segmented by region, control system type, and functionality, and further details on the PLC I/O module market, with statistics on protection level and product types. Detailed industry breakdowns for PLC and DCS shipments, segmented by machine builder and end-user sector, are also included. For more information, visit imsresearch.com.