VDMA study shows global success of German machine vision products

July 12, 2007
JULY 11, 2007--The German machine-vision industry continued its growth in 2006 and increased its aggregated sales volume by 9%, reaching 1.1 billion euros in total.

JULY 11, 2007--The German machine-vision industry continued its growth in 2006 and increased its aggregated sales volume by 9%, reaching 1.1 billion euros in total. This result confirms last year's forecast by the machine vision group of the VDMA (German Engineering Federation; Frankfurt am Main, Germany; www.vdma.com/vision).

"Notably the domestic market developed favorably. Our sector expanded sales in Germany by 11%", said Dr. Olaf
Munkelt, Member of the Board of VDMA Machine Vision and managing director of MVTec Software (Munich, Germany; www.mvtec.com). For 2007 the companies surveyed by the VDMA estimate a further increase of 6% in the sector's total sales volume.

A few years ago, the export share stood at approximately 40%. In contrast, by 2006 approximately 57% of sales were achieved abroad. In terms of volume, exports increased by 8% in 2006. More than one fourth of total sales were achieved in Europe (excluding Germany), whereas the
Asian and American markets both accounted for approximately 15% of turnover.

The German suppliers achieved the largest growth rate (+15%) in Europe (excluding Germany). Shipments to Asia (including rest of world) rose by 8%, whereas exports to America (South, Central, and North America) declined by 2% (however sustaining a rather high volume following dynamic growth rates the previous year). For the current year, the surveyed companies foresee exports to America (forecast: +19%) and Asia (forecast: +11%) to be the major growth drivers. The total European sales volume is expected to increase by 2%.

Vision sensors, a new product category in the VDMA survey, have advanced especially well. Vision Ssnsors are turnkey vision products, based on a CCD or CMOS chip, combined with a processor in a box and equipped with application- specific software. Vision sensors are usually designed for a specific and widespread task (eg, code reading in semiconductor production). The sales volume of these easy-to-use and well-priced machine-vision products rose by 157%.

In 2006 smart camera sales for the first time recorded a lower growth rate (+19%) than conventional machine-vision cameras (+29%). Sales of other machine-vision components were up more: Lighting grew by 43% (2005: 34%), optics by 34% (2005: 10%), and vision software by 30% (2005: 29%). Frame Grabbers gained some ground again and rose by 3% (2005: minus 1%).

Among the complete machine vision systems, standard products that can be flexibly applied and configurated by the users continue to be in strong demand. The sales volume of such configurable vision systems rose by 5% (2005: +45%).

In contrast, the sales volume of vision systems that are designed for a specific task (application-specific systems) declined by 4% in 2006. This is a continuation of the trend recorded in the previous survey: Sales in this product category had already dropped by 3% in 2005.

Among the customers in the manufacturing sector, the automotive industry (including automotive suppliers) is still leading with a share of 29%, followed by the glass industry (13%) and the electrical/electronics industry (8%).

Applications outside of mass manufacturing accounted for one fifth of the total turnover of German vision suppliers. Examples include the detection of melanoma, intelligent traffic systems, driver assistance systems, reading license plates, and iris or fingerprint scans. These applications continue to offer substantial growth opportunities for suppliers of vision technology.

Among the general application categories, the inspection of continuous materials (web inspection) gained further importance, rising from 21% in 2005 to 27% in 2006. The inspection of piece parts remained the biggest application area with a share of 44%. In addition, 3-D techniques continue to play an increasing role.

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