North American sales of machine vision (MV) components and systems that provide vision intelligence to robots and other machines declined 4.5 percent Q1 2019 when compared to the same period in 2018. According to statistics from the AIA, the industry’s trade group part of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), financial transactions for the entire market contracted to $674 million, with sales of MV components down 12.6 percent to $93 million and sales of MV systems down 3.1 percent to $579 million.
“Based on what we were hearing from our member companies at the end of last year and into the new year, we expected the statistics to reflect fewer sales for the quarter,” said Alex Shikany, vice president of membership and business intelligence at A3. “The semiconductor industry, which is a leading indicator for machine vision, showed signs of contraction at the end of last year, which led us to believe lower sales figures might’ve been ahead to begin 2019. Fortunately, machine vision technologies are still becoming smarter and smaller to fit within in-demand automation applications such as AI-driven bin picking, autonomous vehicles, and advanced inspection technologies, which is a positive indicator for the future health of this industry.”
Sales of MV components and systems totaled $2.874 billion in 2018, an increase of 9.2% over 2017 and a new record for the market.
According to AIA’s latest survey of industry experts, 41 percent believe machine vision component sales in total will increase, 39 percent believe they will remain flat and 21 percent are bracing for further declines. There is more consensus for machine vision systems markets with 71 percent of respondents expecting flat performance, 23 percent expecting increases and only 6 percent bracing for declines.
Overall, two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents believe the overall machine vision market in North America will remain flat in the next six months.
Robot sales in North America down 3.5%
The Robotic Industries Association (RIA) recently reported that robot orders in North America also declined slightly in Q1 2019 in comparison with the first quarter of 2018. From January through March 2019, North American companies ordered a total of 7,876 robots worth $423 million, said the RIA. That’s 3.5% fewer units and 3.2% less in value than in the first quarter of 2018.
“[Some RIA] members have told me that slowing capital expenditures were a factor,” Shikany told The Robot Report.
Here are some of the declines, according to the RIA:
- Electronics: -17%
- Metals: -17%
- Automotive component suppliers: -16%
- Plastics and rubber: -16%
While some robotics companies have blamed the latest U.S. government shutdown and trade tensions with China for a drop in orders, there isn’t yet data to support that conclusion, Shikany said.