Drives & Controls Magazine November/December 2022

n NEWS November/December 2022 8 THE NUMBER OF INDUSTRIAL robots installed around the world hit an all-time high of 517,385 in 2021, representing a 31% year-on-year expansion. This number was 22% higher than the pre-pandemic record of 422,000 reached in 2018, and took the number of robots operating around the globe to a new high of around 3.5 million. Most major industrial countries increased their sales of industrial robots during 2021. One exception was the UK, where sales fell by 7% to 2,054. The UK now has around 24,445 industrial robots in operation – a 6% rise during 2021, but less than 10% of the number in use in Germany. One reason for the poor UK performance was that the number of robots bought by for automotive uses fell by 42% to 507 during 2021. The figures come from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) whose latest World Robotics report shows that Asia is by far the world’s largest regional market for industrial robots, with 74% of all new robots being installed in the region – up from 70% in 2020. And China remains the biggest adopter with the 268,195 robots shipped – a 51% increase on the previous year. This means that half of all new robot installations worldwide during 2021 were in China. “The use of robotics and automation is growing at a breath-taking speed,”says IFR president, Marina Bill.“Within six years, annual robot installations have more than doubled. According to our latest statistics, installations grew strongly in 2021 in all major customer industries, although supply chain disruptions, as well as different local or regional headwinds, hampered production.” The number of industrial robots bought globally by the electrical/electronics sector is pulling ahead of the automotive market, which was the biggest buyer until 2019. In 2021, electrical users bought 137,000 new robots (a 24% increase on 2020), while the automotive sector bought 119,000. Although the use of collaborative robots (cobots) is rising, and new models are offering higher payloads and longer reaches, they still represent a tiny part of the total robot market. In 2021, just 39,000 cobots were sold worldwide, compared to 478,000“traditional”robots, but this is a 50% rise on the 2020 figure of 26,000. UK robot sales buck the global growth trend THE CHINESE AUTOMATION and drives manufacturer Inovance is making a big push into the European market, spearheaded by its first public outing at the recent SPS show in Germany. Although its name may not be well-known outside China, the company already claims to be the world’s fifth-largest servodrive manufacturer and its eighth-largest LV AC drives supplier. Inovance, founded in 2003, achieved revenues worth $2.8bn in 2021 when it employed almost 17,000 people – 21% (3,560) of them being r&d engineers, including a team based in Germany working on real-time machine control software. In 2021, Inovance shipped three million servodrives and motors and 100,000 electric vehicle drivetrains. By the end of 2021, it had shipped 10,000 industrial robots and 10,000 medium-voltage drives. Around 30% of Inovance’s revenues now come from AC drives, 25% from servomotion, PLCs, HMIs and robot sensors, and 26% from elevator products. It claims to have more than three million elevator drives installed worldwide, many of them hidden behind the names of well-known lift-makers. C K Fong, a former vice-president of Control Techniques who is working with Inovance in Europe, admits that when the company started up, it was making me-too products but, he adds, it now spends 11% of its revenues on r&d and is designing products for the global market. For example, at SPS the company launched a new PLC designed with the European market in mind. The Easy series PLC, which handles up to 32 EtherCat axes, offers PLCopen-compliant axis control and can support up to 16 of Inovance’s new GL20 I/O modules which are a third of the size of the previous generation and offer minimum cycle times of 125μs. Other products launched at SPS included: n the AC703 IPC motion controller which offers a Codesys IEC 61131-3 programming environment, control of up to 32 axes, and safe shutdowns without needing an UPS; n the SV670 high-performance single-axis pulse servodrive; and n the MD800 AC multidrive which was meant to make its debut at the cancelled 2021 SPS show. It supports up to eight drives using single- and dual-drive modules rated at up to 7.5kW. The MD800 has been designed to meet European OEM demands for low installation costs and compact dimensions. Inovance was also previewing a high- performance single-axis servodrive (SV680) which spans ratings from 0.1–7.5kW and offers advanced safety functions, including Functional Safety over EtherCat. Inovance’s European headquarters are in Germany, and it has set up offices in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Turkey. In the UK, it is represented by Coventry-based CAPSS. The company claims it is relatively unaffected by current component shortages. “Unlike many drives and automation companies at the moment, we are able to supply product immediately and with very short lead times,” says David Bedford Guaus, strategic marketing manager for AC drives and servos. Inovance’s new Easy PLC has been designed with the European market in mind C K Fong: Inovance is no longer a me-too supplier but is designing products for the global market Chinese automation giant pushes into Europe