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News from VDMA Machine Vision, UKIVA and EMVA

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Chinese automation from Anne Wendel, director of VDMA Machine Vision; Paul Wilson talks about self-driving delivery robots at the UKIVA Machine Vision Conference; and Thomas Lübkemeier updates on the EMVA's events calendar

News from VDMA Machine Vision

By Anne Wendel, director

The Chinese automation market is developing rapidly, as are the Chinese suppliers of robotics and automation. In 2017, VDMA Robotics and Automation launched a study analysing competitive risks and opportunities in China for all three subsectors of robotics and automation: integrated assembly, machine vision, and robotics. The study also looked at system integration in several application areas. The study was carried out by Euro Asia Consulting and commissioned by VDMA Robotics and Automation, and here are some of its findings.

The Chinese robotics and automation market is projected to grow in the range of 20 per cent per annum for many years to come. China is already the world’s largest robotics market by far. For European suppliers of robotics and automation technology the crucial questions are: Will we be able to participate in these dynamics in the future? What do we have to do to make sure we do? In which fields will we be most likely to succeed? What are we competing against?

While the European automation sector is currently well positioned as a supplier to China, this could soon change. The market is too big to allow European companies to be complacent about the emerging technical automation competence within China. It is cheaper, it is faster, and it is often good enough to do the job.

The competitive threat from China for European machine vision companies is moderate so far. While the software and domain know-how is still limited, Chinese component manufacturers are trying to gain market share with aggressively priced products, especially cameras, lighting and lenses. At Vision 2016 in Stuttgart, 25 Chinese exhibitors presented their machine vision components.

For robotics and integrated assembly solutions, the situation is quite different. The government still plays an important role in developing the Chinese robotics and automation industry, especially through a clearly outlined industry master plan, even beyond 2025. While in the past massive government funding has spurred explosive development of robotics and automation in China, the funding scheme has changed. Now, the private investors are moving in too. Like no other technology, robots embody a vision of a high-tech future and attract the attention of institutional and private investors. What’s more, there is a powerful connection between government funding and private investment, through a newly launched government ‘guiding fund’. Hence, more resources are available for developing China’s robotics and automation competence – as a producer and user.

The study, with an analysis of important Chinese competitors in all three sub-segments of robotics and automation, answers questions like: ‘Are our Chinese competitors gradually developing an alternative approach to automation, one that is more cost-effective and simpler than ours?’, and ‘Are we being overtaken without noticing?’. It gives a detailed analysis of system integration in important customer industries, recommended actions, and success factors of European companies. It is available for VDMA members at vision@vdma.org.

News from UKIVA

By Paul Wilson, UKIVA chairman

Henry Harris-Burland, VP of marketing from Starship Technologies, which creates self-driving delivery robots, will give the first keynote presentation for the UKIVA Machine Vision Conference and Exhibition. The show will be held at Arena MK, Milton Keynes, UK on 16 May (www.machinevisionconference.co.uk).

Harris-Burland will give a presentation outlining the capabilities of the robot and discuss the future, what they’ve learned so far, the challenges they have faced, social acceptance and more.

Starship robots are advanced personal delivery devices that carry items within a 2-mile (3km) radius, using pavements to make their deliveries. The robot is equipped with nine or ten cameras, radar, and ultrasonic sensors that create an ‘awareness bubble’ allowing it to detect and avoid obstacles such as pedestrians, cars and cyclists. A proprietary-positioning system which includes GPS, but is accurate down to 2cm, allows it to find the exact location to which it is delivering the order.

A robot can hold the equivalent of three shopping bags of food up to 22lb in weight in a locked compartment that can only be opened using a code sent to the recipient via their mobile phone.

Starship Technologies was founded in 2014 by Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, who were both involved in the creation of Skype, and has its business headquarters in San Francisco. Extensive street trials have led to orders from major organisations such as Just Eat, Hermes Parcel Delivery in the UK, Domino’s Pizza Enterprises in Germany, Postmates and Doordash in United States, and the company has established other partnerships worldwide.

Starship is carrying out a major trial at present in Milton Keynes itself, and will bring a robot along to the event to dispense soft drinks and sweets during the lunch period so that visitors can see it in action. A ‘robot ambassador’ will be on hand to answer robot-related questions and engage with visitors. The keynote presentation will be made at the beginning of the afternoon session.

The full conference programme will be announced on the event website by the end of February. The conference will take place across seven presentation theatres that will cover the following subject areas: understanding vision technology, 3D vision, deep learning and embedded vision, optics and illumination, vision innovation, systems and applications, and camera technology. Over 40 companies have now booked stands for the accompanying exhibition, and their details have already been posted on the event website. We are also pleased to see that the number of visitor registrations is significantly higher than the equivalent time last year. Registration is open at: 
www.machinevisionconference.co.uk/delegate-registration/.

News from EMVA

By Thomas Lübkemeier

Within the last twelve months, the business environment has further improved for the European machine vision industry. The EMVA market data survey indicates a total double-digit industry growth between 12 and 14 per cent in 2017, and all signs point towards a continuation of this positive trend for at least the first half of 2018.

The EMVA, in the meantime, has further strengthened its membership structure during 2017 and also expanded its team: Arnaud Darmont has been appointed as the new EMVA standards manager. In his position, Darmont will be responsible for promoting the European machine vision standardisation activities worldwide and to coordinate the development process of machine vision standards. He will also identify new standardisation needs in the rapidly changing industrial environment.

Before Vision 2018 in Stuttgart opens its doors in November, the EMVA event calendar is filled. From 24 to 26 April, the third edition of the Control Vision Talks will be held during the 32nd Control international trade fair for quality assurance at the Stuttgart exhibition centre. The presentation forum for image processing and optical technology includes several dozen presentations during the first three show days, which are arranged thematically.

Plans are also underway for the next Parma Vision Night on the evening of 21 May prior to the opening day of SPS IPC Drives Italy, as a get-together for machine vision exhibitors and trade fair visitors. From 7 to 9 June, the 16th EMVA business conference will be held in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and will mark the highlight of the first six months in the European machine vision calendar. More information on the conference as well as registration for this annual European meeting of the machine vision community is available at www.business-conference-emva.org.

After the summer break the European Machine Vision Forum, this time taking place in Bologna, Italy, will be the bridge between the academic and industrial worlds. And last, but surely not least, after a very successful debut in 2017, preparations for the second Embedded Vision Europe conference have been started by EMVA in cooperation with Messe Stuttgart. Subscribe to the monthly EMVA newsletter and stay informed at www.emva.org.

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