North American sales of machine vision systems and components that provide intelligence to robots and other machines were down 4.6% through the first three quarters of the year. Meanwhile, Q3 orders in the motion control and motor suppliers space were up 1.9% through the first three quarters.
The machine vision numbers were reported from the AIA, the industry trade group that is part of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3). The motion control and motor supply report comes from another A3 division, the Motion Control & Motor Association (MCMA).
The AIA reported $2.07 billion in sales of machine vision systems and components through September 2019. Machine vision systems, which includes smart cameras and application-specific machine vision systems, saw a decrease of 2%, at $599.9 million, compared to the same period in 2018. In the machine vision components area, which includes cameras, lighting, optics, imaging boards, and software), sales decreased 4% to $92.1 million during the same period. Overall, total machine vision financial transactions fell 2%, to $694.1 million, the AIA reported.
In 2018, sales of the components and systems in the vision space broke records, with sales of $2.874 billion for the year, an increase of 9.2% compared to 2017. At the time, the AIA had predicted a flattening or decrease in the sales over the next six months, following a six-year period of growth in the space.
The AIA surveyed industry experts, and 53% of respondents believe machine vision component market sales will increase, and 38% believe sales will remain flat. In the machine vision systems market, 70% are expecting flat performance, and 24% believe sales will increase over the next six months.
“Despite the overall market performance, vision and imaging technology is a key player in a variety of automation solutions, and remains integral to the industry,” said Jeff Burnstein, president of A3. “Growing global trends like autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, and autonomous mobile robots depend on strong vision and imaging systems, bolstering this industry.”
Motion control growth
In the MCMA statistics, orders of $2.65 billion have been reported through three quarters of 2019. Shipments also showed growth, at $2.92 billion, which is up 1.5% compared to the first nine months of 2019.
In Q3, orders of $878.9 million were up 7.5% compared to 2018, and shipments of $977.5 million were up 1.8% over Q3 2018 shipments, the group said.
AC motors (44% growth) and ancillary components (up 19.7%) showed the most growth in orders, and AC motors (56% growth) and sensors & feedback devices (26.2%) showed the highest growth in shipments. The largest product categories were motors, followed by actuators and mechanical systems, and electronic drives.
The MCMA said that according to its survey of experts, 54% believe orders will increase in the next six months, while 33% expect flat performance.
“It’s encouraging to see growth as we near the end of the year and to report the positive projections from industry companies,” said Burnstein.