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Decline in Robotics and Machine Vision Uptake in 2020

The Association for Advancing Automation (A3) and ITR Economics has delivered a Global Economic and Automation Outlookproviding year-to-date updates and forecasts through 2021 based on recent market data reflecting the impact of COVID-19. A3 statistics showed robotics, machine vision, and motion control markets all contracted in the first half of 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.


“It’s clear that our industry is feeling the effects of COVID-19, its strain on supply chains, and the overall economic uncertainty due to our current circumstances,” said Alex Shikany, A3 Vice President, Membership & Business Intelligence. “Despite the numbers reflecting these recent challenges, our latest market surveys tell us that there is optimism for what the next six months will bring.”

With 13,524 units ordered, the North American robotics market decreased 18% from the first half of 2019. Order revenue totaled $716 million, which is also down 18% compared to the first half of 2019.

“Despite the overall contractions, there were two notable industry bright spots in life sciences (+97%) and plastics & rubber (+49%),” Shikany said.

A3’s recent survey of its robotics industry members showed optimism about what’s to come. When respondents were asked what they believe will happen to their sales in the next six months, 36% believe they will increase moderately (between 1% and 10%), while 22% believe they will increase significantly (more than 10%). Only 19% of respondents believe there will be further decreases, while 23% believe their sales will remain flat.

Machine Vision

The North American machine vision market is also below one year ago levels, decreasing 8% in total to $1.3 billion.

Machine vision components, consisting of cameras, lighting, optics, imaging boards, and software, fell 9% in total to $174 million. Machine vision systems, including application specific machine vision (ASMV) and smart cameras, fell 8% to $1.1 billion.

When asked about the next six months, A3 vision and imaging members were similarly optimistic, with 42% believing sales will increase moderately (between 1% and 10%), and 17% believing sales will increase significantly (more than 10%). A greater share of vision respondents (27%) believe there will be further decreases, while 15% expect sales to remain flat.

Motion Control

Order revenue in motion control and motor markets totaled $1.669 billion in the first half of 2020, marking a 6% decrease from last year. All product categories (including motion controllers, AC drives, motors, AC motors, actuators, sensors, and support) experienced year-over-year decreases in revenue.

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