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North American vision market to grow in 2012

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The North American machine vision market will see 4.3 per cent growth in 2012, according to the latest figures from the AIA. The data was presented at the organisation's annual business conference in Orlando (18-20 January). In outlining the figures, Paul Kellet, AIA's director of market analysis, added the caveat that the growth is dependent on how events unfold in the Euro crisis, but that another recession in 2012 is believed unlikely.

Last year saw 5.2 per cent growth over 2010, with North American turnover for Q1, Q2 and Q3 combined at $1,419.3 million. Q3 sales were two per cent down on 2010's figures and Q4 turnover, while expected to exceed that of Q3, will still be negative growth due to exceptionally high sales in the same quarters in 2010.

Computing and electronics, food and beverage, and petroleum were the healthiest manufacturing industries in North America in 2011, according to Kellet. He also drew attention to the semiconductor and automotive industries as sectors that continued to grow during the last year.

Agreeing with Kellet, Alan Beaulieu, a senior analyst at the Institute for Trend Research, commented that '2012 will be as least as good as 2011', with regards to the global economy in general. His view was that the European economy will do no worse than flatten out in 2012, that the US and Asia will expand and that, in terms of manufacturing, the US retains a strong presence, commenting that this will be a 'good decade for automation technology'.

It wasn't all positive though, and Beaulieu did predict some longer term problems for the US economy, suggesting there would be a mild recession in 2014 and another big recession in 2019.

Re-elected to AIA's board of directors, George Chamberlain, president of Pleora Technologies, outlined the reasoning behind the proposed Future Standard Forum, which will be run by the G3 (AIA, EMVA, and JIIA). The forum, which is yet to be formed, will aim to provide a roadmap for future standard initiatives and also attempt to avoid early conflicts between competing standards.

Steve Varga, a senior engineer at Procter and Gamble, commented that, as an end user of vision equipment, he doesn’t want standard developers to wait to see which standards will prevail in the future, but to actively drive their development, which chimes with the aims of the Future Standards Forum.

There are currently 10 machine vision standards in existence, each of which are being updated and developed. The first version of Camera Link HS is expected to be released in the first quarter of 2012, while a meeting in February has been scheduled to discuss USB3 Vision.

The conference hosted presentations on opportunities for machine vision companies in Mexico, Brazil and China, as well as the latest trends in embedded vision. Terrence Southern, a senior supply chain engineer at food manufacturer, Frito-Lay, spoke about the flexibility robotics and vision can provide in food production, while Dr Bahram Jalali at UCLA presented on a high-throughput imager his laboratory has developed. The researchers have used the imager to screen for rogue cancer cells in real time in blood samples as the cells pass through a flow cytometer. The system is able to screen and image up to 200 cells per second, an extremely high volume of data.

Gregory Hollows, director of machine vision solutions at Edmund Optics, was announced as the new chair of the AIA board of directors. George Chamberlain of Pleora, John Merva of Advanced Illumination and Kyle Voosen at NI were re-elected, while Phil Arsenault of ATS Automation, Steve Mott of Components Express and Todd Miller of JAI were newly elected to the board.

John Stack, president of the optical systems division at Zygo, was presented with the AIA achievement award.