Anne L. Fischer, Senior Editor
The machine vision market saw strong growth in 2004, and the Automated Imaging Association in Ann Arbor, Mich., expects that 2005 also will prove to have been a positive year, although not at the same level.
The worldwide market for machine vision was approximately $8.1 billion in 2004, with the North American market at $1.9 billion, showing a marked increase over previous years. This reflected an upturn in the US economy, according to the association’s “Machine Vision Markets: 2004 Results and Forecasts to 2009.” In that report, product categories showing strong growth in 2004 were vision processors (in terms of revenue) and lighting and optics (in terms of units sold). The report forecasts that the worldwide application-specific machine vision systems market will nearly double between 2004 and 2009.
The Automated Imaging Association’s machine vision index shows that stock performance for the segment was lower in the first half of 2005 than in the first half of 2004, suggesting that last year’s sales did not reach the levels of the previous year.
The association is completing its annual machine vision market study for 2005. Nevertheless, by looking at economic data, composite share prices of publicly traded machine vision companies in the stock market and information from the companies about year-to-date growth, it offers some predictions.
Paul Kellett, director of market analysis, explained that there are long- and short-term drivers of demand for machine vision equipment. Long-term drivers are an increased use of automation and a growing emphasis on product quality and greater efficiency in production for cost savings.
Short-term drivers are largely economic; for example, although companies might wish to use machine vision, they may not be able to make the initial investment unless the economy is growing, their stock prices are rising and they can afford equity funding. Interest rates, as an indicator of the ability to obtain debt financing, also act as a short-term economic driver.
Looking at how well machine vision companies performed in the stock market indicates that the first half of 2005 was favorable but less so than the first half of 2004, when the segment greatly outperformed the stock market.
The association will release its market study in March. More information is available from Kellett’s Corner at www.machinevisiononline.org.