Drives and Controls Magazine
Prospects for USB 3 in machine vision look limited
Published:  22 July, 2015

Machine vision cameras with an Ethernet interface accounted for half of global camera revenues in 2014, according to a new report from IHS. The research, carried out during the first half of 2015, found that the interfaces with the next-largest camera revenues were Camera Link and Camera Link HS combined, which together accounted for 18.9% of sales, and USB 2 and USB 3 combined (on 15.7%).

Despite the heavy promotion of USB 3 interfaces, IHS predicts that they will account for only about a quarter of USB-equipped camera revenues by 2019. Total USB camera revenues are projected to account for only 16.3% of the camera market by then – only slightly more than today.

IHS concludes that users will only be motivated to upgrade to USB 3 if they need a faster speed for an application. In theory, USB 3 can increase the data rate from 500Mbits/s to 5Gbits/s, although this rate is not always achieved in practice. There are several factors that favour USB 2 over USB 3, including the longer permissible cable lengths, the lower power requirement, and the abundance of USB 2 devices and computers that have only USB 2 connections. Because of this, the switch from USB 2 to USB 3 will take time, IHS predicts.

Will demand grow for machine vision cameras equipped with USB 3, such as this one from Basler?

During the research, some machine vision camera manufacturers reported they were receiving growing numbers of enquiries about cameras having interfaces for more general industrial communication technologies, such as Profinet, EtherNet/IP and EtherCat. IHS believes that this suggests that there is a trend for increasing numbers of users considering machine vision as an integral part of automation systems, rather than an add-on inspection tool.