With energy efficiency becoming the buzzword in every sector, government bodies, especially in Europe and North America, have mandated that industrial equipment such as motors, pumps and fans should conform to regional regulations. This has sprung belt drives and chain drives to prominence, as they are highly cost effective and energy efficient modes of power transmission.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Strategic Analysis of Global Belt Drives and Chain Drives Market, finds that the market earned revenues of $8.80 billion in 2013 and estimates this to reach $10.57 billion in 2018. The belt drives segment covers belts and pulleys, while the chain drives segment covers chains and sprockets.
While conformance with regulations plays a part in promoting the use of belt and chain drives in Europe and North America, the debt crisis in the former and outsourcing in the latter has caused manufacturing to increasingly move to Asia and Latin America. The considerable investments in infrastructure development and rapid industrialization in these regions are likely to boost sales of belt drives and chain drives in the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) market.
“Apart from the opening up of new geographic markets, manufacturers of belt and chain drives also benefit from the periodic need for spares and replacement of their products,” said Frost & Sullivan Industrial Automation & Process Control Research Analyst Guru Mahesh.
Improvements to the design of belts and use of lubrication in chains have extended the life of these products, but their improper use and lack of regular maintenance have necessitated replacements. The periodic replacement of the large volume of installed drives is an important source of revenue for the market.
While replacement sales are keeping the mature market afloat on the one hand, the restricted scope for innovation hinders market growth on the other. This is a significant issue, as the rising energy cost is creating a demand for power-efficient solutions. While belt drives and chain drives are some of the most energy efficient systems, they are in danger of being phased out by a number of alternate advanced power transmission systems such as variable frequency drives (VFDs).
“Belt drives and chain drives are on the verge of reaching saturation when it comes to technologies, which restricts manufacturers’ opportunities to develop new products,” noted Mahesh. “Additionally, alternate technologies such as VFD and electric drives are highly efficient and offer higher energy savings, enabling them to eat into the market for belt drives and chain drives.”
At present, the application scope for the advanced power transmission systems such as VFD is limited; however, they are likely to find wider use in the long term. Recognizing this, belt drives and chain drives manufactures are investing significantly in R&D to develop cost-effective solutions that are also energy efficient.
One such solution is synchronous belts. This solution is witnessing visible transformation in terms of technology, which is likely to boost its demand in the long term. Nevertheless, the simplicity, lower costs, and easy availability of belt and chain drives are expected to give them a competitive edge over VFDs.