It looked like a successful show. The aisles were crowded, many times I had to wait in line to speak to a salesperson (and once I ended up chasing one around a stand. So why did people I spoke with seem despondent?
Here are a few thoughts.
This used to be a Vision show. The AIA still runs a ‘conference’, (though now it’s mostly just CVP training classes,) but it’s become very much an automation hardware show. That means lots of robots, grippers, guarding and so on and less machine vision, at least as a percentage of the stands filling the hall.
Most of the machine vision lighting guys were there, as were a good few camera makers. AVT, JAI, and Baumer all caught my eye. Optics was covered by Edmunds and Opto-Engineering, and it was good to see a Midwest Optical Filters presence, (filters are still so under-appreciated!).
Keyence had a big stand with attractive ladies eager to scan every badge, (I assume they’re just trying to grow their list of people to pester,) and SICK had a good-sized display. National Instruments showed up but I missed Matrox entirely. I did however stumble across the MVTec guys and Kithara (a somewhat new name in vision software.) Cognex were absent of course – it seems it’s beneath them to attend these shows - and I have a feeling Microscan were lurking somewhere, maybe close to Matrox.
So what really caught my eye?
Well there were lots of robots, lot’s and lots of ‘em, mostly Fanucs. And many had Fanuc’s 3D vision incorporated, a light-stripe projector with two cameras. It seemed to work pretty well, although there was one bin-picking application that I saw struggling.
In fact it was about the only bin-picking application, a notable difference from two years ago when everyone wanted to show it off.
3D though was everywhere, mostly for robot guidance, although it was good to see Canadian company Hermary with their log scanning technology.
But back to my opening comment; why so many long faces?
My belief is:
a) The big players, notably Keyence, are now so dominant they just suck in all the attendees. I’d bet that many of the people attending didn’t have a clue who MVTec are.
b) Likewise, Edmunds can afford a big, sexy display so they get lots of traffic. CCS and Opto-Engineering don’t have such deep pockets and again, they get overlooked.
c) Robots are just so dammed cool, with all those arms waving about, that boring little cameras don’t get much of a look-in.
d) The AIA, under it’s ‘A3Automate’ guise, is following the money. I’m just guessing, but I imagine it’s much more profitable to draw in a few companies with big marketing budgets than many small fish who can’t really afford the rental on the card scanning equipment.
Bottom line? If you’re exhibiting at this show, you’ve gotta go big or go home.