Sensors / Vision Systems

Sensing and vision ride the wave of robot and IIoT growth

The robotic renaissance has given us a renewed need for increased sensing technology and improved vision.

By Mike Bacidore, editor in chief

The rise and convergence of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and robot integration have meant continued growth for sensing and vision system technologies. Information is king, and you can’t measure what you can’t see or sense.

North American sales of machine vision systems and components grew by almost one-fourth in the first quarter of 2015. This was the market’s highest quarter in history, according to trade group AIA. Machine vision systems include smart cameras and application-specific machine vision (ASMV) systems. In Q1 2015, smart cameras expanded by 23%, while ASMV systems increased 24%.

Even machine vision components had a strong quarter with 11% growth over the first quarter of 2014. The leading product categories within machine vision components in terms of growth were lighting (28%), cameras (11%) and software (8%). “Industry experts remain bullish on machine vision components for the next two quarters—less so for machine vision systems however, where 55% of survey respondents believe the category will be flat, 25% expect an increase and 20% expect a decline,” says Alex Shikany, AIA’s director of market analysis.”

Sensor sales in the United States are expected to climb at more than 6% through 2016 to $14.9 billion, according to a recent report from Freedonia Group. Process variable sensors will remain the largest category, while chemical property sensors and proximity and positioning sensors will post the fastest growth. The Freedonia study analyzed the $11.1 billion U.S. sensors industry, presenting historical demand data for 2001, 2006 and 2011 and forecasting sales for 2016 and 2021 by sensor type.

The robotic renaissance has given us a renewed need for increased sensing technology and improved vision. Connectivity and collaboration have upped the ante to the point where a sensorless system might soon be considered a simple machine, comparable to a pulley or a wedge.

Robots soon will be as ubiquitous as the IIoT aspires to be. Vision systems and sensors play a major role in the rise of each. Collaboration will bring humans and robots together, and connectivity will bring machines together, but none of this can occur without sensing technologies. The connected enterprise will include equipment, robots and humans. Everywhere. All the time.

Sensors are becoming better, smaller, less expensive and embedded. From new technologies, such as LIDAR and leap-motion sensing, to established ones such as safety-rated sensors, all products are finding an equally impressive growth curve.

Machines and integrated robots are benefitting from mobile applications enabled by smart devices, as well. Industrial connectivity that includes sensor data can enable remote control and monitoring of equipment via access to big data and analytics over a network.

To learn more, our State of Technology Report on sensing and vision explores in greater detail these and other technology trends in the arena of sensors and machine vision. Drawn from the most recent articles published in the pages of Control Design, this special report includes articles on emerging trends and basic primers illustrating the latest technology in action. Download it for free here.