German and US machine vision markets up 10 per cent in 2014

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Both the German and North American machine vision markets are predicted to grow around 10 per cent in 2014, according to the latest figures from the VDMA Machine Vision group and the AIA.

The data from both industry groups was presented during the Vision trade fair in Stuttgart, Germany, which took place from 4 to 6 November.

Turnover of cameras is expected to grow 8.2 per cent this year in North America to $2.135 billion, according to the AIA figures. The total German industry turnover is predicted to exceed €1.8 billion by the end of 2014. 

Dr Olaf Munkelt, chairman of the VDMA Machine Vision group, commented that further growth is expected in the German market in 2015. He pointed to the continuing growth in exports to non-European regions, particularly China and North America, and how alternative markets to manufacturing are contributing to the machine vision sector's success.

Munkelt identified the distribution of robots to areas such as China, Japan, and the United States as a key driver for the German machine vision industry. He explained: ‘Sales figures of industrial robots are a good indication for the level of automation and of the further development of the turnover of machine vision.’

Alex Shikany, AIA's director of market analysis, commented when presenting the North American data that a 25 to 35 per cent growth in robotics was expected in North America this year, largely tied to automotive production.

Munkelt said that, in the past four years, the annual supply of industrial robots to China has more than doubled. He said that, according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), sales of industrial robots in China are expected to increase at least 25 per cent on average per year from 2015 to 2017. Munkelt predicted that many of these robots will be equipped with ‘Robot Vision – Made in Europe’.

China has been, according to Munkelt, the most dynamic market for German machine vision suppliers. ‘Except for the 2009 crisis year, exports to China have risen significantly above average. Since 2008, turnover has more than quadrupled; in 2013, turnover rose by 23 per cent compared to 2012.’ He added that, with a share of 10 per cent, China ranks second after North America in total turnover of the German machine vision exports.

Although world-wide sales to non-automotive manufacturing sectors dropped by three per cent in 2013, revenue from the automotive share increased by 15 per cent.

Increasingly though, non-manufacturing markets are important to the industry and now make up almost 29 per cent of turnover, having increased by 25 per cent in 2013.

Munkelt stated that intelligent traffic systems accounted for the highest share in the total turnover of non-industrial applications, followed by medical technologies, logistics, postal sorting, and safety and surveillance. He explained: ‘Increasing standardisation, simplification, and intuitive interfaces, greater efficiency, improved computer performance, and miniaturisation remain real growth drivers.’

The view that atypical industries are becoming increasingly important for machine vision was seconded by Chris Yates, CEO of Odos Imaging. He told the press conference: ‘Non-traditional applications are providing strong growth in the machine vision sector, often requiring solutions in complex and ill-constrained environments, for example the automated measurement and harvesting of crops in the field or greenhouse.’

Odos Imaging was announced as the winner of the Vision Award 2014 in the evening of 4 November for its time-of-flight 3D imaging system, Real.iZ VZ-1000. Yates said that high-resolution 3D imaging offered particular benefits to applications that are away from the factory. He said that such applications often have to tolerate high levels of ambient light while delivering a high-resolution image to identify specific features. He also predicted that combination imagery, such as hyper-spectral and range information from the same system, would increase the scope of application for machine vision techniques.

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