Jump to content

Soft Starters - A thing of the past?


Recommended Posts

Hi all,


From time to time I hear the comment that the 'market for soft starters is being eroded by falling price of AC Drives', however when I view market statistics, I see quite the opposite ie a growing market for soft starters and a stagnant market for AC Drives.


Albeit a somewhat 'commercial' subject, I would greatly appreciate your thoughts/comments to this.


Many thanks,


Link to comment
Share on other sites


My pennies worth!

While there will always be a market for drives, there are a considerably larger number of motors that run at constant speed and need some form of starter. The soft starter is just another form of starter with many worthwhile benefits over the more traditional reduced voltage starters. It is not, as some seem to believe, a poor mans speed drive, it is an engineers starter that can achieve results not possible with electromechanical starters. When starting situations are correctly designed, the advantages of the soft starter stand out.

Best regards,

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Many thanks Marke,


I am indirectly involved with an 'industry statistics group' whos function is to monitor and report on such issues.


Over the last three years the market for VFD's is best described as being stagnant. There has been some rise and some fall, overall no growth worth mentioning.


In the case of soft starters however the results are quite different. An overall growth rate of just above 10% per annum, with some segments eg compact soft starters, growing at around 17% per annum.


I firmly believe that the market for motor control is migrating away from electromechanical reduced voltage starting (such as star/delta, primary resistance & autotansformer) and moving to electronic soft starting.


I believe much of this migration has been brought about by the advent of compact soft starters which address the two key issues acting to limit growth of the soft starter market previously. These are of-course percieved complexity and the high cost differential between soft start and electro-mechanical alternatives.


To my way of thinking, VFD's will not bring about the demise of the soft starter market for three main reasons.


1. All motors/machines need to be started, whereas only a small percentage of industrial applications can benefit from speed control.


2. Currently the relative price difference between a VFD and a soft starter of same rating is approximately 5:1. This varies with kW rating and of-course product features/format.


3. As the price of VFD's reduces, so does the price of soft starters and hence there will always be a market for soft starters.


Is my thinking flawed? ;p;


Have I gone completely mad? ;p;


Should I be shot or thrown to the wolves? :mad: Careful!




Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...


I was the one who posted a reply on the Eng-Tips forum making that statement about soft starters losing ground to VFDs. I don't know what happened to that thread, but I had a reply for you at the time and couldn't get it out. If you recall, that was my response to another post asking for help in designing a soft starter from scratch. I responded in poor taste as I look back on it. I was perhaps bitter at some recent order losses to competitors I had never heard of before. Mea culpa.


That said, I still stand behind one aspect of my statement, that referring to small soft starters under 5HP. My own company makes soft starters but in that range we now sell micro VFDs cheaper than the equivalent soft start, and they are brand labeled as opposed to manufactured in house! 5 years ago we used to sell 2000 to 3000 soft starters 3HP and under per year. Last year we sold less than 100. Granted some of that was lost to competitors, but I have seen an explosive growth in micro VFDs at the same time.

"He's not dead, he's just pinin' for the fjords!"
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello jraef and welcome to the forum, hope to see you posting here as often as you do on Eng-tips.


It is not un-common to find threads (complete or part of) deleted by the management of any forum following an inappropriate post by one of its members. That may well be what happened to the Eng-tips thread to which you refer!


Your stats re decreasing sales in smaller soft starters are certainly an eye opener, but I wonder if what you have experienced is only a short-term proposition.


To my way of thinking there are two aspects that need to be considered.


1. With the falling price of Micro Drives end user customers are becoming increasingly aware that they can now purchase a more advanced alternative to soft start without a huge commercial penalty.


2. Compact soft starters, particularly single and two-phase controllers have not provided the performance required in many industrial applications and therefore it would appear many potential users are looking to other solutions. However recent technology enhancements and packaging strategies are driving increased functionality at greatly reduced cost…and to that end new generation compact soft starter products offer control to all 3-phases of the motor, comprehensive motor and system protection functionality, advanced interface (digital and serial) and fault & status indication. In other words, the core functionality provided by these products is not too dissimilar to that of the more traditional ‘high end’ soft starter products we are accustomed to, however in compact proportions and with pricing that reflects that.


In addition to the core functionality enhancements, what we find with several of these newer compact soft starters is that they are generally manufactured to compliment a particular range of industrial switchgear and control gear products. That is they fit onto bus bar systems, they connect directly to contactors and circuit breakers and through this provide a significant ‘installed cost’ advantage.


In conclusion, I have reviewed costs of Micro Drive and Advanced Compact Soft Starters and can advise the following:


At 1.1kW the Micro Drive is 26 % more expensive than an Advanced Soft Starter.

At 4.0kW the Micro Drive is 64 % more expensive than an Advanced Soft Starter.

At 7.5kW the Micro Drive is 166% more expensive than an Advanced Soft Starter.


You will note this is a very simplistic comparison. That is when we consider the options from an ‘installed cost’ basis eg add EMC filter, ventilation etc to the Micro Drive option it becomes a far more expensive proposition.


Note to all: Please excuse the 'commercial reference' however it was the only way an adequate response could be provided.


I hope this clarifies my position.




Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello jraef


Welcome to the forum. I also look forward to lots of quality posts from you. I likewise have noted some good posts being deleted from eng-tips. It seems that to some, it is a competition to gain red stars or top the list, and I suspect that some messages get deleted just to keep the opposition down. My attitude is that I post purely as a means of helping others learn from my experience as I learn from theirs.

Feel free to post here as often as you wish, I promise not to delete quality postings.

I believe that the potential market for soft starters is much greater than the drives market, and as the market grows, the prices will continue to fall. The only thing that is bringing the drive pricing close to the soft starters, is volume and cross subsidies. - buying market share.


Best regards,

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...