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Machine vision market set to grow

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Smart cameras, smart sensors and compact vision systems all have one thing in common; they are leading the charge in the field of machine vision with above average growth, according to a new report by IMS Research. The world hardware market is estimated to have been worth more than $1.5bn in 2007 and is forecast to grow to $2.1bn in 2012.

The report focuses on machine vision hardware, but incorporates software included in vision systems, such as that found in smart cameras and compact vision systems. Improvements in this area are a major driving factor for the overall growth of machine vision, noted John Morse, author of the report. 'Developments in software and sensor technology help manufacturers to produce greater functionality per dollar to reduce prices,' he said. Sales of pure software were ignored, as were those of accessories, such as stands and brackets, as these would be extremely difficult to quantify.

Developments in camera technology are also important and as prices drop, vision systems become more readily available to the customer. Morse suggested that unit shipments are predicted to grow faster than revenues as prices are steadily chipped away.

There has also been an increase in the quality of machine vision lighting and sales have risen accordingly. 'Companies are moving away from DIY lighting systems,' commented Morse, 'and using more professional setups.'

Traffic and security applications are the two areas exhibiting particularly high demand for vision systems, according to Morse. Vision manufacturers providing cameras for applications such as automatic number plate recognition and traffic flow monitoring, as well as numerous surveillance applications, are dealing with increasing amounts of enquiries into utilising their systems.

The report details geographical variations in the state of machine vision markets. 'Market growth in machine vision is above the average for industrial automation in general, but there are substantial regional differences,' commented Morse. 'Not surprisingly Asia Pacific is expected to grow fastest.' This is not necessarily only in China, but rather in more developed countries such as Taiwan, where growth is expected to be substantial. The Japanese market has a significant presence at the current time, but can be treated more like a European market, with growth slowing over the next three to five years.

Morse noted that the American markets are showing very slow growth, with opinions varying over whether growth in sales of machine vision units has levelled off entirely. The European markets are fairing better and sales growth is stronger than in the US.