Rising demand and competition drives proximity sensor market

After the devastating recession in 2009, the market for proximity sensors recovered quickly in 2010 and marginally exceeded pre-crisis levels in 2011.  In 2012, we see a slowdown in growth but positive momentum will continue to dominate the market developments from 2013 onwards.  Overall ARC expects a CAGR of around 8 percent during the forecast horizon.

The market for proximity sensors is strongly connected to the business cycle and the overall performance of automation markets.  During the last few years, most products have commoditized and reached a mature state, the only exception is ultrasonic sensors.  The latter still offer the potential to technically differentiate from competitors, and markets are growing fast despite falling prices.  For inductive and capacitive sensors, prices have nearly bottomed out.

“The proximity sensor market is mature, highly competitive, and hosts a large number of suppliers.  This has created a market that appears settled, but actually has a lot of movement going on beneath the surface.  This especially includes brand labeling and partnering agreements,” according to Analyst Florian Güldner, the principal author of ARC’s “Proximity Sensors Worldwide Outlook”.

IO-Link Further on the Rise
Smart sensing is a market that we expect to grow at an above average rate during the forecast horizon.  The technology enables new applications and enhanced performance in existing applications.  Proximity sensors are normally not equipped with a microcontroller for signal processing simply for cost reasons.  We talk about smart proximity sensors if:

  • A sensor communicates more than its measured variable
  • A sensor has built-in intelligence to self-adjust to the environment or the detected object
  • A sensor can communicate with the controller or other devices to receive parameters
  • A sensor is enabled for band-sensing

The definition includes all devices using IO-Link.  The additional intelligence also adds complexity and cost, and ARC sees ultrasonic, photoelectric, and capacitive sensors as the first target markets for smart sensors.  IO-Link has a strong value proposition for end users, sensor manufacturers, and also machine builders.  “We see this technology growing much stronger during the forecast horizon,” according to Florian Güldner.

Ultrasonic Sensing Grows Faster than Market Average
Ultrasonic sensors is a fledgling market in the discrete sensing sector.  The technical challenges, combined with relatively high R&D costs, have kept many suppliers of low-cost products from entering the market.

Compared to other discrete sensor markets, technological advancements are still possible.  As the technology gets more reliable and accurate, many applications which have previously relied on photoelectric and capacitive technologies now use ultrasonic sensors.  These can lead to increased competition with capacitive sensors and photoelectric sensors.  The high growth rates, in turn, will certainly attract new market participants. In general, extensive brand labeling is one of the key characteristics in the ultrasonic sensor market.

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