Worldwide machine vision revenues grew more than 10% in 2011, to nearly $3 billion, according to IMS Research. But this kind of growth is unlikely to be sustained in coming years.
"The main reason for the restricted growth of this industry is considered to be instability in many economies around the world, particularly those countries that have adopted the euro," said John Morse, senior market analyst for IMS Research.
The machine vision industry recovered well after the last recession, Morse noted. "However, revenue growth showed signs of slowing in the second half of 2011," he added. "Many manufacturers expressed caution about growth in 2012 and beyond."
In North America, these findings are backed up by the latest statistics from AIA, which showed that machine vision sales in the region dropped 2% in the first quarter, compared with the same quarter the previous year.
Source: IMS Research
The decline resulted primarily from sales of complete vision systems, which account for the largest sales volumes in the North American market. Sales of machine vision components actually gained 2%, led by strong growth in vision software (+26%), lighting products (+11%) and imaging boards (+7%). Smart camera sales rose 4%, and optics sales were up 1% in the first quarter.
"We are not surprised by the slight overall decline in growth," said Jeff Burnstein, AIA’s president. "First quarter 2011 sales were exceptionally robust, occurring during the height of the market recovery. Though the market has cooled down a bit, the long-term growth trend remains strong."
IMS Research expects worldwide growth over the next five years to be less than previously forecast, but it’s not all bad news, Morse said. "Despite manufacturing estimated to account for more than 80% of machine vision revenues, there is a trend towards machine vision products being used outside the manufacturing environment — for example, high-quality security and surveillance, traffic monitoring, and control and medical."