Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Vision market shrinking to grow?

According to, reporting a press release from the AIA that I can’t find on their website, the North American machine vision industry contracted in 2012. What I find interesting is that camera sales actually increased while optics sales were down.

One might expect the sales of cameras and lenses to move in lockstep, but clearly this isn’t so. Here’s what I suspect is happening: sensor resolutions and frame rates continue to grow while prices of cameras decline. In fact my informal price per megapixel index is down around $400 these days. So I think folks are upgrading the cameras in existing systems. I know I am.

The AIA think we’ll see a return to growth in ’13, albeit of the slow, incremental kind. All sorts of reasons are posited, but I think the real issue is that industrial machine vision piggybacks on manufacturing. Now there’s talk about manufacturing returning to the US, but frankly, I don’t see a lot of new investment that’s going to drive vision sales. So it will continue as it has done, helped by lower prices and higher labor costs.

The story in Asia is a little different though. Rising wages, plus a need to improve quality, will push many more manufacturers to invest in automated inspection equipment. That’s why this market report sees a rosy few years ahead for our industry.

I just need to find a job in China!

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