After an abstinence lasting three years, the machine vision industry was able to meet again in person. Over 5,400 trade visitors came to Stuttgart for the restart of the leading trade fair for machine vision. This year the majority of visitors came from Europe. The top 10 countries from outside Germany were Italy, Switzerland, France, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Poland, the United Kingdom and Sweden. Contrary to expectations, some individual visitors actually came to the industry event from the USA, Korea, Japan and Taiwan despite the travel restrictions and quarantine regulations.
In its capacity as the promotional supporter of VISION, VDMA Machine Vision affirmed the positive mood in the industry during the opening of the trade fair. According to the Association, the order books in the machine vision industry are well-filled and the demand for components and systems is at a consistently high level. Looking back at 2020, turnover in the European machine vision industry dropped by 4 per cent compared with 2019. The VDMA Robotics + Automation Association expects turnover in the European machine vision industry to rise again by 7 per cent in 2021. According to Mark Williamson, Chairman of the Board of the VDMA Machine Vision Division, this was reflected in the mood during VISION 2021. However, one drawback in regard to turnover development is the continuing worldwide shortage of chips: «Camera manufacturers and system integrators – there is practically no company which is not suffering due to the lack of chips. Although this is not leading to a downturn on the market, it is dampening growth prospects,» said Mark Williamson. Nevertheless, VDMA Machine Vision is again expecting 7 per cent growth next year.
The pent-up demand for personal discussions was quickly noticeable in the two exhibition halls. A quick survey by the European Machine Vision Association (EMVA) beforehand confirmed the importance of trade fairs for companies. 60 per cent of the survey respondents said that they were only able to partly attain their targets regarding new customer acquisition in the last 12 months without the opportunity for personal meetings. VISION now provided a platform again for precisely these business contacts. The participants (95%) always felt safe at the trade fair on account of the hygiene concept.
The high quality of the contacts was positively highlighted in many discussions with exhibitors. These contacts had improved still further compared with the last VISION. «Compared with trade fairs featuring a machine vision area, the discussions are deeper and more detailed. Customers have specific demands backed up by corresponding unit numbers,» said, for example, Christian Vollrath, Head of Computer Vision at Wenglor. This is reflected in the figures of Messe Stuttgart: more visitors (61%) said that they were solely or partly responsible for purchasing decisions concerning machine vision solutions in their companies.
Attendance at VISION was especially worthwhile for Prophesee. As one of the four companies on the nomination list, Prophesee was presented with the traditional VISION Award on the second day of the trade fair. Prophesee’s event-based vision sensor technology is inspired by the human retina. Combined with AI-based vision processing, the technology records a scene faster and more efficiently than conventional sensors. Winning the VISION Award 2021 is a great honour for co-founder and CEO Luca Verre: «We want to make a new contribution in an industry which has been working for many years with conventional, frame-based vision technology. The great acknowledgement we received by winning the VISION Award 2021 is both an immense honour and recognition for the hard work we invested in our new technology.» The company is therefore representative of a trend at VISION to show new technology approaches which originate, for example, in mobile radio, medicine or the Internet of Things (IoT).
The innovative capacity is also expressed in the large number of successful start-ups which were showcased in the theme area of the VISION Start-up World. 15 newcomers also took part in the daily start-up pitch sessions during the trade fair. On the last day of the trade fair, a first-class jury chose from the individual day winners GrAI Matter Labs as the «VISION Start-up 2021» for the development of its energy-efficient Life-Ready AI Chip. The company is optimistic that this will help to increase the production of AI chips in Europe.
The positive mood means that the exhibitors are already eagerly looking forward to the next VISION. «As far as we are concerned, VISION is and will remain the leading trade fair for machine vision. We are already looking forward to next year when we will again present highlights in innovations,» affirmed Christian Vollrath. 72 per cent of the visitors are already definitely planning to attend VISION 2022. VISION will next be held from 4 to 6 October 2022 – concurrently with the Motek trade fair – and thereafter again every two years. The talks in the Industrial VISION Days are now available on demand on the VISION website.