Future of USB 3 for machine vision depends on industry demand
Research from IHS indicates that USB 3 cameras will continue to account for a small fraction of machine vision revenues because, while faster, many users lack an urgent need for USB 3 and it isn't as convenient and widely accessible as USB 2.
Machine vision cameras with an Ethernet interface accounted for half of the industry's world revenues in 2014 according to a report recently published by IHS. The research estimated that the interfaces with the next largest camera revenues were camera link and camera link HS combined, accounting for 18.9%; and USB (USB 2 and USB 3 combined) with 15.7%.
What is surprising is that, despite the promotion and anticipated market growth of USB 3 cameras, they are forecast to account for only a quarter of USB camera revenues by 2019. USB camera revenues are projected to account for only 16.3% of the total by then.
IHS concludes that users will only be motivated to upgrade to USB 3 if a faster speed is necessary for their application. In theory, this is an increase in data rate from 500Mbits/s to 5Gbits/s; although this rate is not always achieved, there is invariably a substantial increase. However, factors that favour USB 2 rather than USB 3 include the longer permissible cable length, the lower power requirement, and the abundance of USB 2 devices and computers with only USB 2 connectivity. The switch from USB 2 to USB 3 will take time.
During the research, some manufacturers commented they were receiving more enquiries about cameras with interfaces for the more general industrial communication technologies, such as Profinet, EtherNet/IP and EtherCAT. IHS believes this suggests a trend to more users considering machine vision as an integral part of the automation system rather than an add-on inspection tool.
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