The American machine vision systems market can expect compound annual growth of 13.6 percent in the next five years, with revenues more than doubling from $798 million in 1997 to $1.9 billion in 2004, report market analysts Frost & Sullivan. The study also projects revenues of $871 million for 1998. That's the good news. Whether or not there's bad news depends on the industry segment. The study, released at the end of 1998, predicts that the pharmaceutical and automotive industries will move up the most quickly, expanding at annual rates of 19.1 and 18 percent, respectively. But semiconductors and electronics -- the first- and fourth- largest market segments -- are expected to grow at only 9.5 and 9.3 percent, respectively. The food industry is projected to grow at a healthy 16 percent. According to industry analyst Nello Zuech of Vision Systems International in Yardley, Pa., however, Frost & Sullivan's revenue figures may be significantly off, under- estimating the total for 1997 by more than $430 million. Zuech said the Frost & Sullivan study was based on an incomplete sample of machine vision companies. "It's still missing some key ingredients of the market," he said, adding that firms in many segments of the industry with significant business income were left out of the report. Frost & Sullivan research analyst Sharon Villarreal, who wrote the study, said that the analysts' numbers are different because of their different focus. "We wanted to focus strictly on machine vision systems," she said, or systems that have only a camera, processor and display unit, excluding applications using lasers or x-rays, among others. "We did not include camera revenues because of the wide variety" of cameras and pricing schemes. Other discrepancies between the report and one done by Zuech for the Automated Imaging Association (AIA) include 1997 growth rates for industry segments in electronics, transportation and pharmaceuticals. Frost & Sullivan reports those figures as 19.3, 24.2 and 2.9 percent, respectively, while the AIA figures for the same segments are 14.4, 32.8 and 37.5 percent. The two reports found agreement on the average price for general-purpose machine vision systems, which account for one-fifth of market sales. Frost & Sullivan estimated a $17,750 price tag, and AIA reported an average cost of $17,077.