Sunday, December 30, 2012

It’s BCB time

The BCB I’m referring to is Brian’s Crystal Ball, and I’ve been dusting it off and taking a look at what the future has in store. So here, with no particular structure or order, is how I see 2013.

There’s going to be lots of machine vision growth in Asia as those countries, especially China, continue to both grow their manufacturing and invest in automation. This is good news for the hardware and software makers – Cognex, Keyence, Omron and so on – but on the integration side only benefits the global players.

If I was younger and bolder I might want to start a Chinese machine vision integrator, although I suspect competition is pretty fierce over there. Perhaps they need a good integrator certification scheme.

Speaking of which, I think the AIA’s certification scheme will gather strength, especially if they start to promote it aggressively. (Are you listening Jeff?) For North American integrators this will be a pretty easy way to gain differentiation from the herd and as I see little to no growth here at home that will be something to think about.

Zeroing in on technology trends, my feeling is the growth in camera resolution is just about over. We have all the pixels we need now, although I do think the lack of market growth will bring prices down a little, (which will spur some growth.)

The bigger issue facing machine vision users is, I believe, data rates. We have an ocean of pixels, but getting them in to the PC is a challenge. So the new interfaces link CoaXpress and CameraLink HS will grow, as will the adoption of USB3 for machine vision.

I don’t anticipate any big breakthroughs in image processing, although structured light and stereoscopic 3D will become faster and easier to use. Likewise, LED lighting and optics will be rather unchanged.

What I would like to see is more emphasis on image quality from the camera-makers. I know I can buy a gazillion dollar scientific grade camera and get incredibly stable images, but what I want is a sub-$2k, 5Mp monochrome camera with effectively zero noise. I want the gray values to be exactly the same in every successive frame. Is that too much to ask for?

Am I optimistic about 2013? Of course I am. We vision people get to play with fascinating technology, and opportunities abound, not just to cut manufacturing costs to enable new products and processes. So stop reading this drivel and get to work!

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