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In this difficult economic environment for machine vision in particular, I was delighted to have contributing editor, Don Braggins, give us some valuable insight into the economic modeling forecasts for the true value of the worldwide machine vision industry. Don, whose views were expressed at a speech in Belgium on January 20th at the Optique et Vision Industrielle, Louvain de le Neuve conference, attempts to reconcile the difference between the way the AIA and German-based VDMA market research reports are structured:
?The years 2001 and 2002 were difficult for vision suppliers, as with most other industry sectors, and the slight downturn in market value and increase in average value of a system between the two years is probably of no real significance. It does, however, look as if the years of ever-increasing market value for these general-purpose systems are now behind us, and the average values of systems are struggling to keep just above the $10,000 level.? Don adds, ?It will be seen that there are several different ways of analyzing and presenting market data. One of the objectives of the European Machine Vision Association, formed in 2003, is to collect and present statistics in a way which can be reconciled with both the existing well-established VDMA process for the German market and, by suitable arithmetical operations, can also be compared directly with the AIA format. In this modified state, the data can then be incorporated into the AIA World Survey on a consistent basis. It will probably take more than one year to do this completely.?
Don further adds that ?It will be obvious to anyone familiar with the industry that a major contributor to the falling average value of a vision system of this ?general-purpose' type is the emergence of the so-called intelligent or smart camera, of which there are many, but those of the German company Vision Components and the US company DVT are perhaps best known. In 2002, these contributed an estimated 8,500 units of the total of 25,500 vision processors (ignoring boards becoming part of systems)?i.e., one third of all units?yet they contributed $11M out of $229M of value, just under five percent!?
I applaud this pioneering effort by Don. Nello Zeuch, who compiles the AIA forecast, does an outstanding job also. However, many of us who live in the world where it takes more than an optimistic forecast to get through a fiscal quarter?or, even better yet, a week?are perplexed by some of the large numbers that accompany these reports. The AIA was generous in giving me a copy of the last published report, but I will keep silent with my observations. The ROI Marketing Group segments out all vertical market segments, even the recently Korean-sponsored forecasts for the Asian and Far East Market.
Machine vision alone does not constitute all of the electronic imaging markets covered in this publication. The core technology that we cover may apply to various vertical market niches, but ask a machine vision specialist about DICOM interfaces for medical applications, or even MPEG4 H.264, and you will get a blank stare. If the camera, frame grabber or optics fit other applications, okay; just don't add them up as machine vision applications because machine vision centers its attention on inspection. Furthermore, speed and affordability with a productivity payback are critical to machine vision apps, whereas an app such as biomedical requires longer exposure times to capture the chemical reaction to ions emitting a green and sometimes red fluorescent response. Yet, noise and amplification are critical for the sensor, but the results are very different. A very serious discussion can also be made for throwing every product that is marketed for applications beyond visible light into IR categories.
It is the daily real world that we have to endure to make the paychecks!