The North American machine vision market grew 26% in 2000, according to a study released by the Automated Imagining Association (AIA). Total units sold worldwide in 2000 are estimated at more than 145,000, with most of the business coming from the semiconductor and electronics industries. The pharmaceutical/medical and printing industries also increased orders for the machine vision market.

"Machine vision hardware and costs are declining as performance is improving," explains Jeffrey A. Burnstein, AIA's executive director. "This creates many new market opportunities for machine vision technology in a wider range of industries than ever before."

Addressing a slow start in 2001, Burnstein says this results from a slowdown in capital equipment expenditures and not a decline in demand for machine vision. Ex-pecting an increase of purchases in machine vision once the economy takes a positive turn, Burnstein says, "Machine vision is an essential technology for many companies and is high on the list of desired technologies for a growing number of manufacturers."