Whether it’s the crowds in the streets, the fantastic city skylines, or the vast industrial parks and dockyards, you can feel the driving energy and constant change underway in Asia. In particular, in the two largest countries in the region, Japan and China, the machine-vision market is undergoing rapid and important changes.
The largest machine-vision market in the world, by far, is Japan. The Automated Imaging Association (Ann Arbor, MI, USA) estimates 2004 sales were about $3 billion and the average annual revenue-growth rate was more than 13% between 2000 and 2004. This sort of market energy was clearly evident at the 2005 Exhibition on Sensing via Image Information, held in Yokohama, June 8-10. Well over 8000 attendees jammed the show floor each day, to the delight of the 200 exhibitors.
As you might expect, most applications for the machine-vision components and systems on display were in semiconductors and electronics, including the inspection of flat-panel displays. Yet a shift is underway. As several Japanese exhibitors explained, the cycles, outsourcing, and uncertainties in the semiconductor industry are causing them-often for the first time-to seek overseas markets and new application areas. Their primary interest is in North America and in deploying products in pharmaceutical, food-and-beverage, packaging, and automotive applications.
Much has been written about the heated growth of manufacturing in China but little about a corresponding machine-vision market. Yet Ding Shaohua, managing director of Second2None Machine Vision Systems (Shenzhen, China), says that 2004 saw an unexpected surge of machine-vision system integrators entering the Chinese market and primarily targeting the semiconductor and electronics industries.
Besides designing and installing machine-vision systems (including the design of outsourced systems from North America), Ding is a distributor for Adept Technology (Livermore, CA, USA) and PPT Vision (Eden Prairie, MN, USA). He has worked and taught in the USA, and his return to China is the result of government policy encouraging expatriates to bring their skills home.
Other Chinese system integrators/distributors also attested to finding new opportunities. The competition will be fierce and the profit margins tight for any machine-vision business related to Asia. But if they haven’t already, machine-vision equipment manufacturers and system integrators from other continents will soon feel the impact of the changes taking place in the Far East.