Industrial Cameras, Their Markets and Their Technical Features
In collaboration with the trade magazines Vision Systems Design and Inspect, imaging specialist FRAMOS conducts an annual survey of trends and future developments in the industry from both the user and manufacturer’s perspectives. In this 8th edition of the market study, 99 manufacturers and users from 23 countries answered questions on the current state of the image processing market and future developments.
The study is based on the opinions of 79 users and 20 manufacturers who, in interviews of 15 minutes on average, gave very detailed responses on cameras, sensors and applications, as well as future developments. The majority of participants, at 47%, came from North and South America, while Europe was represented at 38% and Asia at 15%. Respondents were ranked by relevance based on surveyed purchasing and production volumes. Europe ranked first in terms of both purchasing and production at 57% in each category; 28% of the remaining production output came from manufacturers in North and South America, and 13% from Asia. Among users, Asia was the second-strongest purchasing market at 20%, while the Americas represented just 11% of sales. The five-fold increase in participants from the Americas in 2015 is reflected in the significantly higher production and purchasing figures for the region relative to 2014.
Recognition and frequency of use of the biggest camera brands
Making up 24% and 22% of sales respectively, Production Automation and Measuring Technology are the major sales fields for manufacturers, followed by Logistics and Quality Assurance at 13% each. Among users, 60% of the cameras and image processing systems are deployed in Automation, 22% in Quality Assurance and 14% in Measuring Technology, other important application fields for manufacturers are Traffic at 11% and Medical at 9%. The automotive sector is the strongest sales market for both groups, at 16% among manufacturers and 14% among users. So how are the cameras sold being subsequently implemented? 39% of manufacturers sell directly to system manufacturers, 32% to integrators and 24% directly to end-users. 42% of users stated that they are integrators. 48% of the remaining users implement their own systems, whilst 25% resort to integrators and 25% buy ready-to-use systems directly. As in recent years, all market participants see a continued upward trend in the image processing industry. 90% of all users plan intend to introduce a new image processing system within the next 2 years, or to replace an existing one, which provides for a similarly high level of investment as in last year’s study results. Manufacturers are even more optimistic: all study participants from this group see growth in new and/or replacement systems until 2017.
Classification of used or sold cameras into price ranges
The second important indicator of market development, besides willingness to invest, is the expected price level. A stabilisation of the mid-to-higher price range is emerging, reinforcing the findings of last year’s study. In 2014, manufacturers still wanted to produce 70% of their cameras at prices between $150 and $650, that share is now 44% in 2015. 33% of all cameras are to be produced at prices between $650 and $1,000, and 9% at $1000 and up and $3000 and up. This significant increase shows, even as image processing undergoes standardisation, that more customised cameras commanding higher prices are once again in demand. Manufacturer’s own studies indicate that they are, in fact, leading the trend for user demand in the coming years. Accordingly, it is also understandable that users are currently buying at lower prices on the basis of the high technology levels attained by the cameras and the image processing standards currently in place. Cameras priced at up to $150 played almost no role in last year’ survey, users have now indicated that they want to buy at least 23% of their cameras at this price point. With 43% of purchasing volume between $150 and $650 (15 percentage points less than in 2014), users are making the same assessment as the manufacturers. Figures have changed only marginally for cameras priced at $650 and up, $1000 and up and $3000 and up. The increase in the low-cost range has been fuelled mainly by the declines seen by prices between $150 and $350. That means those who had previously bought cheaply because they have low application requirements will in future be able to get very cheap cameras due technological improvements. It is reassuring to see that users requiring higher quality, and those with specific application requirements, are more willing to invest accordingly, and that manufacturers are quick to follow this emerging market trend. Flexible production of customised and specific camera models is already a strong selling point, and a market advantage, for smaller camera manufacturers. User opinion can be summarised as follows: they want “small, robust cameras in the mid-price range; design-in of new sensors with high resolutions (which they will gladly pay for) and the ability to combine components intuitively.” The interesting observation here is that smart cameras, much-acclaimed as recently as last year, are not projected to see a whole lot of growth (from 27% to 30% in the next 2 years). Intuitive operation is therefore not a theme specific to smart cameras, but instead refers to easier handling of all image processing systems. This explains the need for specific application solutions – custom solutions require customised systems, which in turn should be easy and flexible for users to put together themselves. This is especially important given that 50% of all users implement the systems they build themselves. 25% rely on the assistance of a system integrator, and the remaining 25% deploy finished systems (= smart cameras).
Frequency of use of the biggest sensor brands – today and in 2 years’ time
When it comes to future sensor brand deployment, manufacturers and users diverge quite substantially owing to the heterogeneous composition of survey participants. While users, in the light of Sony’s discontinuation of CCD, see the greatest growth for OnSemi with a 24% market share, CMOSIS and Sharp are increasingly seen as alternatives among manufacturers. Both groups foresee declines in Sony’s market share, to 39% (manufacturers) and 25% (users). Both groups are plan on making a complete transition to CMOS technology, which in 2 years is projected to have a market share of 80%. 10% of manufacturers and 14% of users will use non-Sony CCD sensors, while 10% and 28%, respectively, will fully switch to CMOS with some using other CCD brands for special situations. As in past years, CCDs will continue to be seen as indispensable for specific applications for 20% of respondents. It remains to be seen how CMOS technology can reduce this percentage further, how severe the impact of its strategy change will be on Sony, and which brands will ultimately profit from it. High sensor resolutions and megapixel numbers are equally relevant for manufacturers and users. The most significant declines in the next 2 years will be incurred by resolutions under one megapixel. All other megapixel classes are set for growth, with manufacturers seeing the most growth in resolutions of 5 MP and higher (+8 percentage points), while users favour (for now) the range between 1 MP and 5 MP (+9 percentage points). The demise of the smallest class is also predicted for frame rates. Here manufacturers and users respectively project decreases of 5 and 10 percentage points. Manufacturers are driving this trend as well – the market share for frame rates of 60 fps and higher is set to increase by 19 percentage points. Users see a more moderate acceleration of the strongest growth (+15 percentage points) in the range between 60 and 100 fps. The leap to over 50% for sensors with more than 100 fps predicted last year has not materialised; both groups project a more cautious 10% this time.
Use of different types of interface – today and in 2 years’ time
USB 3.0 is the fastest-growing interface port alongside GigE Vision, and in 2 years it will be the second-strongest standard for users after GigE with forecast shares of 10% (manufacturers) and 19% (users). Both groups project that CoaxPress will grow by 3 percentage points, while all other interfaces will see declines. Surprising is the “comeback” of Ethernet in terms of both actual use rates (55% of manufacturers and 21% of users) and the only slightly lower projections of 53% and 18% over the next 2 years. The altered participant composition, with a larger proportion of participants from the Americas than in 2014, appears to have provided new impetus here, nevertheless, 88% of manufacturers and 73% of users still rate bandwidths over 5 GB/s relevant or very relevant; just under 70% of each group believe that USB 3.1 or 10 GigE will have the highest application potential.
Respond on CCD discontinuation from Sony
Users and manufacturers both see good conditions for steady growth predicted for image processing, especially from the integration into industrial automation processes and other industrial sectors. Enhancement of image quality is of great importance to this growth, in terms of dynamics and sensitivity and the ability to achieve CCD standards through the new lower cost CMOS technology. Processing speed and computing power will also be important when it comes to accelerating the growth of image processing applications. Most users would really like to see a trend from rising performance to globalised, falling prices, however, most important will be the effectiveness of the application. Any introduction of new image processing systems must be justified by savings achieved in automation and process acceleration. The loud calls for improved analytical capabilities, software and powerful libraries are understandable, the effective utilisation of the systems being purchased must increase the return on investment for the business.
The 2015 Image Processing Study finds that the continued growth of the industry as a whole is assured with users and manufacturers seeing the impact on Industry 4.0 and automation processes as the basis for further social and economic development. On the other hand, with increasing globalisation, pricing efficiency becomes a very important criteria. In addition to image quality and speed, users are looking very closely at the system modules and target values important to them, and in return dispensing with what is not really needed. As most users have a hand in implementing their image processing systems themselves, these systems should be customised and flexible, but also easy to handle. For manufacturers, this means further development and expansion of their technologies and standard lines to deliver high-quality products at reasonable prices. The major camera manufacturers in particular will have advantages here, however, even small specialty manufacturers and medium-sized companies with flexible production that allows them to meet specific customer demands will continue to grow with the industry.