The market for next-generation metrology and inspection solutions will top US$12.1 Billion by 2030 as automotive, consumer electronics, and industrial machinery manufacturers advance their Industry 4.0 journey. These solutions include everything from new, portable, and robotic form factors to the software, sensors, and infrastructure that enable them—i.e., connectivity (5G), , machine vision, and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Early indicators of the changes to come can be seen in Zeiss’s acquisition of GOM, Hexagon’s acquisition of AMendate, and the flurry of developments at companies like Nikon (in-body inspection), PTC (acquired Frustum), and Siemens (via NX).
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The market for next-generation metrology and inspection solutions will top US$12.1 Billion by 2030 as automotive, consumer electronics, and industrial machinery manufacturers advance their Industry 4.0 journey. These solutions include everything from new, portable, and robotic form factors to the software, sensors, and infrastructure that enable them—i.e., connectivity (5G), machine vision, and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Early indicators of the changes to come can be seen in Zeiss’s acquisition of GOM, Hexagon’s acquisition of AMendate, and the flurry of developments at companies like Nikon (in-body inspection), PTC (acquired Frustum), and Siemens (via NX).
This ABI Insight looks at the state of the stationary and portable metrology markets to provide context and guidance on the shift from off-line to at-line and in-line solutions.
A Tale of Two Worlds
Stationary equipment is the classic (historically off-line) business. This is where incumbents Hexagon and Zeiss traditionally see the most activity: Hexagon, for example, ships about 6,000 Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMMs) per year. Stationary solutions are typically designed and offered based on not only the use case but also the environment in which they are to be used, such as in a lab versus on the shop floor, due to different operating requirements.
While accuracy used to be a big driver within CMMs, these machines have largely reached the point at which the margin of accuracy to gain is so small that most are looking at sensor fusion to gather more robust datasets. This is why stationary metrology equipment providers are primarily focused on building out sensor and device management capabilities: Better sensors and better control over connected equipment means better control over the overall process. Closing the product-process feedback loop is a key focus for emerging manufacturing techniques, such as additive manufacturing and generative design, that need solid metrology solutions to speed Time to Market (TTM).
Equipment has a long lifecycle—anywhere from 10 to more than 30 years—and the machines are often costly. An entry level CMM could be US$40,000 to US$75,000, while a more robust solution could easily cost upward of US$500,000. The hidden cost is training, especially when it comes to higher-end equipment and/or complex software; implementation times vary based on the machines, size, and region, but three months is a reasonable average. In cases where a new metrology solution means faster TTM for a new product, the time to implement may be considerably shorter. This is also an example of how suppliers can start to think of a sales process driven by productivity drivers/needs, rather than one that leads with a product sheet.
Portable equipment comprises a range of mobile measuring solutions. This includes laser trackers, which are often employed for large parts in aerospace, automotive, construction, and energy applications (e.g., wind turbine production); robotic measuring arms, such as Hexagon’s Absolute Arm, which packages tactile probing and laser scanning in a shop-floor-deployable form factor; and structured light products, which measure the three-dimensional surfaces of an object.
Portable suppliers often come to market with incremental innovations, such as new scanners and sensors, every couple of years, and major updates roughly every seven years. ABI Research expects this cadence to continue but increasingly include connectivity as well as mobility-enabling enhancements (e.g., application development), particularly with improvements to machine vision, network (WiFi 6, 5G), and Edge-to-Cloud (E2C) infrastructure.
Like stationary equipment, portables are often sold as a Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) item (rather than leased), with a perpetual software license and Service Maintenance Agreement (SMA) that typically covers the annual recertification and calibration of hardware. SMAs are generally 12-15% of the cost of hardware, which is anywhere from US$60,000 to 200,000 per unit. Implementation times can be as little as two to three days.
From Off-Line to At-Line and In-Line
The biggest opportunities for the metrology and inspection supplier community are in the areas of robotics, automation (automated machine measurements, automated feedback for serial part improvement, automated vision inspection/functional surface topography), and software integration (for remote monitoring, asset management, simulation, etc.). From a technology development standpoint, however, the major effort must be to unite these worlds.
Users of intelligent metrology solutions want A) something that works (e.g., does it do the job? Does it solve my problem?) and B) a single throat to choke. This means a wholistic solution that can tackle the same problem from different angles, and multiple problems with a single supplier. But if a jack of all trades is a master of none, where do you start?
Focus on the Quick Wins: Isolate your functional areas/strengths; is it design (functional simulation and part/product modelling), planning (optimization for a particular machine or process), or production (capturing machine telemetry data to evaluate/validate performance relative to process plan)?
Make Mobility Part of Your Metrology Product Roadmap: Metrology is becoming a more integral part of the assembly line. This means that operations once reserved for a metrology room or random sample test are becoming part of the production process for more regular and higher fidelity data inputs. Define your digital strategy.
Connect Everything: Networking assets is the first step toward understanding what those assets are doing. Metrology equipment wasn’t privy to the same innovation as the products and parts they measure until recently but, now that it is, the race is on to better monitor equipment and part production and improve the overall process. In the long run, we see the market moving away from off-line solutions in favor of at-line and in-line alternatives.