ByDeborah Austin The special machine-tools market -- driven by manufacturers' growing need for metal work pieces cut, shaped, polished, or drilled in very finite dimensions -- totaled $5.6 billion in 2000 and could reach $9.4 billion by 2007, forecasts consulting and training firm Frost & Sullivan, San Jose. Growth in small job shops, due to larger firms' downsizing and outsourcing, also has boosted market growth. But high ownership costs limit market penetration to applications beyond conventional technologies' scope, says the Frost & Sullivan analysis, World Special Machine Tool Markets. To increase penetration, the industry could find ways to raise the price-performance ratio and reduce manufacturing costs. The analysis outlines market categories for special machine tools -- machines using non-standard technology to perform metal cutting, metal forming or inspection operations -- including:
laser machine tools, which shipped about 10,400 units in year 2000 electrical discharge machine tools (EDMs), 22,500 units electro-chemical machine tools (ECMs), 300 units waterjet machine tools, 2,900 units coordinate measuring machine tools (CMMs), 15,600 units.