North American sales of machine vision components and systems that provide vision intelligence to robots and other devices declined 4.5% over the first quarter of 2019, according to the AIA.
The industry trade group, part of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), said financial transactions for the market contracted to $674 million, with sales of machine vision components down 12.6% to $93 million, and sales of machine vision systems down 3.1%, to $579 million.
The group said signs of contraction within the semiconductor industry, which is a leading indicator for machine vision, led to the expectation of lower sales for Q1 2019. However, the group offered some optimism in specific areas and applications in the machine vision space.
“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,” said Alex Shikany, vice president of membership and business intelligence at A3.
In a survey of the AIA’s industry experts, 41% said they believe vision component sales in total will increase, 39% said they will remain flat, and 21% are “bracing for further declines.” In the machine vision systems market, 71% of respondents expect flat performance, 23% expect increases, and only 6% expect declines. Overall, the group said, 66% of respondents said they believe the overall machine vision market in North America will remain flat over the next six months.
Robot orders, shipments down too
Today’s report comes on the heels of another announcement by an A3 division – last week the Robotic Industries Association said that robot orders in North America declined in Q1 2019, compared to the same period last year. The group said that North American companies ordered a total of 7,876 robots with a value of $423 million during Q1 2019, a decline of 3.5% in units and 3.2% in dollars, compared with Q1 2018.
The RIA said the decline was due to a decrease in orders from automotive component suppliers (down 16%), plastics and rubber (down 16%), electronics (down 17%), and metals (down 17%). Orders from automotive OEMs, however, were up 41%, as were orders from food and consumer goods industries (up 32%). The RIA said orders increased from Q4 2018, with unit sales up nearly 16%, and revenue up 9%.
In addition to robot orders, robot shipments were also down in Q1 2019. The RIA said 7,577 robots, with a value of $452 million, were shipped, representing a 29% decline in units and 11% in dollars from the same period in 2018.
“We are coming off a record year in 2018, so slight declines aren’t unexpected, and long-term signs remain very healthy,” said Jeff Burnstein, president of the RIA. He cited the strong growth of the group’s Automate 2019 event in Chicago in April, which grew 25% in attendance compared to the 2017 event.
“Many of the Automate show attendees are just beginning to explore how robotics and automation can help their companies become stronger global competitors,” said Burnstein. “Their expected purchase over the next year or so should help the industry grow forward.”