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.

By John Morse, IHS Technology August 29, 2015

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.

– John Morse is a senior analyst for industrial automation, at IHS Technology. IHS Technology is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.

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