Machine vision sales have risen steadily since 1992 because of significant price erosion, industry analysts report. Suppliers attribute the increases mostly to strong demand from semiconductor and electronics manufacturers, said Nello Zuech, president of Vision Systems International of Yardley, Pa., a machine vision marketing consultant. He addressed attendees of the Automated Imaging Association's annual business conference in Orlando in February. Zuech said the number of machine vision units delivered by North American suppliers to domestic and foreign customers in 1999 was 39,755, up from 30,922 units in 1998. For the same period, the average price of all machine vision systems fell from $51,200 to $43,100. The average price of a general-purpose machine vision system fell from $15,400 to $12,800. Industry revenues for North American suppliers in 1999 totaled $2.11 billion, compared with $1.86 billion in 1998. The numbers reflect worldwide sales and value-added OEM components. "1999 was a good year for the North American market and should be even better the rest of this year," Zuech said. Vision Systems compiled that information from a survey of 145 suppliers that make up an estimated 95 percent of the market. Sales to application-specific machine vision users and OEMs increased in 1999, while sales to end users decreased, he said. Competing systems -- namely, smart cameras and frame grabbers -- have captured some of the market. And color systems now represent about 4 percent of general-purpose units sold. The Business Communications Co. Inc. of Norwalk, Conn., issued its own figures this year for the machine vision industry. It reported that revenues for 1999 totaled $1.82 billion and that the price of machine vision units fell to the $5000 to $20,000 range. The report covered only US sales and did not include OEM sales.