Smart Cameras Set the Pace in Machine Vision

A comprehensive machine vision market study projects that smart cameras will continue as the fastest growing segment.

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As vendors look to cash in on an expanding industrial market for machine vision products and systems, some might say the smart money is on smart cameras.

Galloping growth in North American smart camera revenues averaged more than 32 percent compounded annually during the first half of the decade, according to a new market study from the Automated Imaging Association (AIA), an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based trade organization. With that kind of track record in the books, approximately 30 suppliers have now piled into the smart camera product category, the study reveals.

Explosive

“No other machine vision market in North America has experienced the explosive growth of the smart camera market,” says the study, titled “Machine Vision Markets—2005 Results and Forecasts to 2010.” And while growth is expected to slow during the decade’s second half, smart camera revenues are projected to remain the fastest growing of several machine vision categories examined by the study. Specifically, the AIA predicts that North American revenues for smart cameras will grow by 11.9 percent compounded annually during the period, rising from $99.2 million in 2005 to $174.2 million in 2010.

Because smart cameras integrate processing intelligence and related input/output (I/O) capabilities, in addition to an imager, they offer end-user benefits in terms of cost and simplicity. But strong growth is also projected for traditional machine vision cameras, which are often used for more complex applications and where flexibility is important.

The AIA study projects 11.2 percent growth in the North American market for traditional cameras over the forecast period, with revenues rising from $75.6 million in 2005 to $128.7 million in 2010. Among camera product trends, CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) technology will continue to make inroads, but will not supplant CCD (charge-coupled device) sensor technology, which itself is evolving, the study says. Additionally, digital interface technologies will continue to find increasing acceptance in the camera market at the expense of analog technologies.

The AIA study projects more moderate, single-digit compound annual growth rates over the next five years in other product categories, including optics, lighting, imaging boards and software. In addition to component categories, the study also looks at the market for application-specific machine vision (ASMV) systems, which represents the single biggest North American market segment, at nearly $1.2 billion in revenues last year. The study projects 5.3 percent compound annual revenue growth in the ASMV systems category during the five-year study period, with sales rising to more than $1.5 billion in 2010.

Near-term optimism

Commenting on recent market results and more near-term projections, AIA Director of Market Analysis Paul Kellett notes that 2005 machine vision revenues displayed “strength and vitality” that built upon record sales levels achieved in 2004. “All indications point to continued growth in 2006,” Kellett says, “as companies continue to invest in technologies such as machine vision that can help them become stronger global competitors.”

The annual AIA study, which dates back more than a decade, has undergone a complete transformation this year, the association says. In addition to a new focus on component markets—including year-by-year market forecasts for each category—the study includes in-depth product details for components and systems, export analyses, an in-depth look at market and technology trends, and identification of major market participants. The study is available for purchase through the AIA.

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