Machinery IndustryAutomationDrive Technology > Use of servo drives in machinery industry

Market survey in the German mechanical engineering industry

The use of servo drives at the machines is growing above average and dynamically to 2020

Machine builders are specifically expanding the use of servo drives at machines to 2020, a result of many interviews with machine-builders from Quest TechnoMarketing.

July 3rd, 2018 - Machine-builders expect their machine production to grow by 5.5% per year until 2020 but the number of electronic drive components at these machines is expected to increase even more during this period, namely by 6.3% per year.  

So the electronic drive technology for machines remains a growth market. The average number of electronic drives will increase slightly to 15 per machine to 2020.

Use of servo drives at the machines will grow dynamically to 2020

Servo drives confirm their role as dynamic growth engine. Their use at the machines will increase above average by 8.2% per year to 2020.

This growth exceeds that of machine production and the number of electronic drive components. As a result, the average number of servos at machines will increase to 7.6 servo drives per machine.

Use of servo drives at machines in the German machinery industry to 2020.

Quest TechnoMarketing's market research identifies among others three trends expressed in these figures.  


  • The use of servos will remain a dynamic growth market until 2020, a market that is growing faster than the electronic drive technology to which it belongs.

  • The use of servos is growing extensively as primarily servos at more machines are concerned for new applications and less in regard to an increasing number of servos per machine.

  • However, the use of servo drives is also growing intensively. It will increase its use intensity, i.e. the number of servos per machine, which is connected to substitution of current solutions.  

This growth structure of the use of servo drives results in high demands on servo manufacturers, since servo users will deal both with new applications and substitution of other electronic drive technology. In this process the experienced servo user is the typical contact for the drive manufacturer. This is because first-time users of servo technology among machine builders will only add 0.9% per year to 2020.

The use of servo drives to 2020 differs in the sectors

The investigated ten automation-relevant sectors show a broad range of growth rates up to 2020.

Regarding the growth of the use of servos in the sectors, growth rates range from 3% to 16% per year to 2020. In terms of the number of servos per machine, the sectors differ from 2 to almost 19 servos on average per machine.

After all, there are servo-intensive sectors that account for 20% or more of the total use of servos in the ten industries and those in which 1% of servo potential will be used.

Specific benefits aimed for the use of servo drives

Machine builders are aiming for specific benefit effects from servo applications, among others there are the higher energy efficiency of servo drives.  


  • "Due to the trend towards energy efficiency, we want to switch more and more from frequency converter to servo drives. However, this also depends on the price development, whether we can go still further switch more increasingly from asynchronous technique to servo technology." (Packaging machines)

  • "Switching to servo technology means a better energy balance, better dynamics and better pressure control behavior. The servo will replace the three-phase motor with speed controller and pump." (Rubber and plastics machines)

  • "Finally, we want to replace frequency converters by servo drives to an extent of 5% to 10% because of higher energy efficiency (the check on IE3 motors is omitted then) and higher dynamics. This will concern positioning servos.“ (Wood processing machines)  

The replacement of mechanical couplings by virtual ones is always up-to-date.

  • "The increasing number of multi-axis positioning is due to the fact that mechanical couplings will be increasingly replaced by electronic couplings via servos.” (Packaging machines)

  • "More flexibility with regard to product formats and thus faster changeover times, and less mechanics, thus shorter commissioning and assembly times.” (Printing and paper machines)  

The use of servo drives also serves to compress the automation structure of the machine.


  • "The PLC is to be replaced and the control system integrated into the converter. The PLC now controls the entire axis network or controls the single axis. Our goal is to dissolve this by integrating it into the converter with a web-based solution." (Conveyor)

  • "It's all about cost savings. Today we have servo converters and PLC and thus two computer capacities in the control cabinet and thus redundant systems. One computer would be enough if the servo could do it. Now there is the PLC with everything it can provide such as protocols and external interfaces. Today's servos with PLCs, on the other hand, are only reduced to reading in and out. That's not enough." (Robotics and Automation)  

Partly machine-builders substitute servo-like converters with servo technology.


  • “Higher functionality for cam plates and synchronous operation than vector-controlled frequency converter.” (Textile machines)

Growth expectations regarding the use of servo drives based on market research

Interestingly, the growth expectations of the machine-builders at 5.5% per year are slightly higher than the current growth of the machinery industry’s production at 3.6% per year from 2017 to April 2018.

The Quest study „The future of the servo use until 2020 in the German machinery industry“ provides more details. Quest TechnoMarketing interviewed 21% of the machine-builders in 10 sectors with 100 and more employees mid 2017.