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Machine vision market remains resilient in face of global recession

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The resilience of the machine vision industry to the current economic downturn is proving greater than in other areas of industrial automation, according to John Morse, senior market analyst at IMS Research, a supplier of market research and consultancy services. Morse went on to suggest that 2009 will be a difficult year for the vision market, with a levelling off in growth, but this could begin to recover towards the end of the year and into 2010.

The Automated Imaging Association's (AIA) 2009 market study, Machine Vision Markets – 2008 Results and Forecasts to 2013, corroborates this opinion, with worldwide sales forecasted to remain static in 2009 ($5.87bn compared to $5.74bn for 2008) but to grow in 2010 ($6.51bn) and 2011 ($7.12bn).

Paul Kellett, AIA's director of market analysis, commented: 'The global recession has and will continue to affect worldwide machine vision sales in 2009 and to a lesser extent in 2010. Not until 2011 are vision sales volumes expected to return to the normal trend line.'

AIA based its forecasts in part on the latest economic forecasts of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). 'Clearly, the recession is widespread but the recovery gives hope for improvement in machine vision sales,' Kellett said. 'The recession will depress machine vision sales in 2009 and 2010 but pent up demand for vision products will boost sales in 2011.'

IMS Research's Morse suggested there are a number of reasons for the robustness of the machine vision market. 'The pressure placed on businesses to cut costs and increase profitability is leading to increased automation,' he said. 'Customers are demanding more cost-effective solutions from manufacturers and machine vision is one of the tools used to improve efficiency.'

Secondly, according to Morse, machine vision hardware is often incorporated into long-term projects and systems houses supplying vision hardware may have received orders for products up to a year ago. There are also an above average number of privately owned small businesses in the machine vision market that are less reliant on the banks for credit. 'These companies are often able to operate with greater flexibility than larger companies,' Morse said.

Morse suggested that the trend towards a slowdown at the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009 is a worldwide phenomenon experienced by the EMEA, Americas and Asia Pacific. There has been greater growth in Asian markets compared to EMEA and Americas over recent years, but the growth is slowing along with the rest of the world. 'This is due to a levelling off in domestic markets as well as being reflected in the export levels to western countries,' said Morse.

Although machine vision is used heavily in the automotive sector, one of the hardest hit by the current global recession, the future for the vision industry looks secure, with sales figures forecast to start increasing again from the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010.