DA & Control

Data Acquisition Products: Global Market Demand Analysis

September 1, 2008 By: James K. Taylor, Venture Development Corp. Sensors

A recent worldwide market report on DA products shows significant growth in the use of external DA equipment and increased demand for higher channel counts, higher-resolution data converters, and higher sampling speeds.


Venture Development Corp. recently completed a worldwide report on the market for external DA chassis and modules (data loggers, distributed and remote I/O, paperless chart recorders, USB PC front-end modules, other PC front ends, and standalone systems) and plug-in analog I/O boards (CAMAC, CompactPCI, ISA, PC/104, PCI, PCI Express, PCMCIA, PXI, PXI Express, VME, and VXI). This article highlights some of the principal findings of this investigation.

Market Overview
Figure 1 shows the estimated 2007 and forecast 2012 worldwide shipments of these products. The market for the external chassis and modules is the larger and is forecast to be the fastest growing.

Figure 1. Current and forecast worldwide shipments of DA products studied ($US in millions)

  2007 2012 CAGR*
External Chassis and Modules 652.9 850.7 5.4%
Plug-In Analog I/O Boards 227.5 259.5 2.7%
Total 880.4 1110.2 4.7%

* Compound Annual Growth Rate

A major factor in this forecast is the ongoing trend in DA applications toward using external devices, especially USB PC front ends, instead of plug-in analog I/O boards. These external products are attractive as portable peripheral add-ons to computers, and can easily be moved to another platform in a different location.

Product Categories
External chassis and modules. For external chassis and modules, estimated worldwide 2007 shipments are $140.2 million for data loggers, $132.2 million for paperless chart recorders, $215.2 for PC front ends ($92.1 million for USB modules and $123.1 million for other), $90.0 million for standalone DA systems, and $74.4 million for distributed or remote I/O, for a total of $652.9 million.

The forecast worldwide shipment growth rate rankings of these products through 2012 (from greatest to least) are distributed/remote I/O; USB PC front-end modules; paperless chart recorders; stand-alone systems; other PC front-end modules; and data loggers.

The highest forecast worldwide growth rate is for distributed/remote I/O devices, the smallest product market in 2012. A principal reason for this growth forecast is the availability of distributed/remote I/O products with Ethernet connectivity. With Ethernet readily available in many facilities, use of these products provides an inexpensive and easily implemented means of acquiring data.

The second highest worldwide shipment growth rate is forecast for USB PC front-end modules. Much of this market growth is coming through displacement of plug-in analog I/O boards. USB modules are attractive as peripheral add-ons to computers because they are portable and can be moved easily to another platform in a different location.

The paperless (or videographic) chart recorder segment, the second largest in 2007, is forecast to be the third fastest growing through 2012. These devices replace the paper-recording mechanism with an electronic display and have the ability to store the information recorded in memory for future viewing/printing. The data stored by these recorders can be transmitted to a PC and manipulated via software to provide summary reports. Many of these recorders also incorporate data analysis capabilities.

There is an ongoing trend toward use of these devices instead of paper recorders, because they eliminate use of paper consumables, simplify long-term data storage, provide more flexibility and better data analysis, and can result in significant cost savings. Acceptance of paperless chart recorders by government regulators such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency is aiding the market growth for these products. New paperless chart recorders are being released with more channels and larger LCD screens and these continually improving features are converting many of the paper-based chart recorder holdouts.

The worldwide shipment growth rate for standalone systems is forecast to be below average. Offering additional features while maintaining current price points should drive sales of these systems, but this is a more mature market that requires larger investments than alternatives. Typically, these systems are used in laboratories and for large-scale research projects that require more powerful devices.

A below-average worldwide shipment growth rate is forecast for PC front ends other than USB modules. The slower growth is due both to the greater maturity of this market and the growing popularity of USB front ends. Sustaining growth are products with connectivity to popular busses/networks such as Ethernet, making for easy implementation.

PC front ends are similar to distributed/remote I/O products in function but typically have more channels and tend to be more expensive. Most have been specifically designed for DA applications. In contrast, many of the distributed/remote I/O products that are used in DA applications are also intended to provide remote interfaces for machinery controllers, among other capabilities.

The slowest worldwide growth rate is forecast for data loggers. This is also a relatively mature product market, with established applications. Loggers are also being displaced in applications, as purchasers seek more modular, cost-effective solutions by using PC front ends and distributed/remote I/O products to satisfy their DA needs.

Plug-in analog I/O boards. Estimated worldwide 2007 shipments of the plug-in analog I/O boards are:

  • PCI $US 93.7 million
  • PXI $US 38.1 million
  • VME $US 35.7 million
  • CompactPCI $US 19.8 million
  • ISA $US 19.6 million
  • VXI $US 7.4 million
  • PCI Express $US 5.2 million
  • PCMCIA (PC Cards) $US 3.1 million
  • PC/104 $US 2.1 million
  • PXI Express $US 1.6 million
  • CAMAC $US 1.2 million
  • Total $US 227.5 million

The forecast worldwide shipment growth rate rankings of these products through 2012 in descending order are PC/104, PXI Express, PCI Express, CompactPCI and VXI (tied for 4th place), PCMCIA (PC Cards) and PXI (tied for 5th place), PCI, VME, ISA, and CAMAC.

The worldwide market trend among the plug-in DA analog I/O boards is toward those with greater capability. The desire for smaller form factors, more available bandwidth, and faster bus speeds are driving the market toward newer standards such as PCI Express and PXI Express. This trend is also evident in product lines shifting toward higher channel counts, greater ADC resolution, and increasing sample data rates. As product features are refined and consolidated to meet new standards, the desire to have the newest equipment generally follows.

The small PC/104 and PXI Express segments are garnering the highest worldwide growth rate forecasts. PC/104 is a small (3.6 in. x 3.8 in.) form factor board system suitable for highly integrated embedded DA applications. These systems are designed to tolerate shock, vibration, dust, and humidity; they operate over an extended temperature range without a fan, depending on the processor speed, and are primarily used in rugged settings. Despite being based on older technology, PC/104 has been expanded from its original offering to stay up-to-date, evolving beyond ISA to include PCI and now PCI Express compatibility. Many of these boards also support USB as well, providing additional flexibility.

By integrating the bandwidth capabilities of PCI Express with the PXI standard, PXI Express adds additional features while remaining backward compatible with existing systems. With bandwidth of up to 6 Gbps, PXI Express offers forty-five times as much bandwidth as traditional PXI at 132 Mbps. The greater bandwidth of PXI Express is ideal for high-speed image capture in automobile crash tests or other video-intensive experiments.

The third highest growth rate is forecast for PCI Express. PCI Express is software-compatible with the PCI standard, yet provides significantly faster operating speeds—up to 10 GHz—and is better suited for operating with modern processors. Being software-compatible with PCI is an important benefit when upgrading from PCI because existing software can be used.

Product Channels
The worldwide market for the DA products under study is shifting to those products with more channels. Users are demanding the ability to collect and analyze more data with their DA equipment. In addition, the ability of vendors to lower prices per channel is making this equipment more attractive to customers.

External chassis and modules. In 2007, 63.1% of worldwide shipments were in products having 20 channels or less. This share is forecast to decline to 53.6% of the total in 2012. Products with more than 70 channels accounted for 8.5% of shipments in 2007 and this share is expected to increase to 13.7% in 2012.

Plug-in analog I/O boards. In 2007, 66.5% of worldwide shipments were in products having 20 channels or less. This is forecast to decline to 57.4% of the total by 2012. Products with more than 70 channels accounted for 10.8% of shipments in 2007. The share for these is expected to increase to 12.1% in 2012.

ADC Resolution
The worldwide market for the DA products under study is shifting to those with higher data converter resolution. Shipment share gains are expected for all units, extending to those with 32-bit converters. Aggressive salesmanship and vendor marketing of products with higher resolution offered at attractive prices (rather than real application needs), are expected to cause many of the gains for converter resolutions greater than 18 bits.

Many purchasers seem to equate resolution with accuracy, reasoning that the better the resolution, the higher the accuracy. Thus, if they can afford the higher resolution units, they will purchase these; and declining prices for the higher resolution products are helping this trend. Some purchasers admit that if the price premiums are not large, they will buy higher resolution products even though they probably do not need these for their applications.

External chassis and modules. In 2007, 55.8% of worldwide shipments were of products with 12- or 16-bit resolution and only 14.0% for those with resolution greater than 18 bits. It is forecast that in 2012, 49.2% of shipments will consist of products having 12- or 16-bit resolution, and 27.6% will be of products with resolution greater than 18 bits.

Plug-in analog I/O boards. In 2007, 76.4% of worldwide shipments were in products with 12- or 16-bit resolution and just 4.9% for those with resolution greater than 18 bits. It is forecast that in 2012, 71.9% of shipments will consist of products having 12- or 16-bit resolution, and 9.0% will be of products with resolution greater than 18 bits.

Sample Data Rates
The worldwide market for the products under study is shifting to those with higher maximum sample data rates. While there is growing demand for products with higher sample data rates, these procurements are not always needed for identified applications. There is a tendency for users, when upgrading their DA products, to look for greater sampling speeds for potential future applications.

In 2007, 56.5% of shipments of external chassis and modules consisted of products with less than 10,000 sps capability. Those capable of sampling at rates of at least 1 Msps accounted for 7.5% of shipments. It is forecast that in 2012, 50.9% of shipments will consist of products with sampling rate capabilities of less than 10,000 sps, and that those capable of at least 1 Msps will account for 13.1% of shipments.

For plug-in analog I/O boards, in 2007, 65.3% of shipments consisted of products with sample rates of less than one 1 Msps. Those capable of at least 1 Msps accounted for 34.7% of shipments. It is forecast that in 2012, 62.9% of shipments will consist of products sampling at less than 1 Msps, and that those sampling at rates of at least 1 Msps will account for 37.1%.

Application Markets
The five estimated overall largest worldwide application markets in 2007 ranked in descending order are, for external chassis and modules: online process manufacturing, scientific, online discrete manufacturing, offline production testing/QC, and military/aerospace and for plug-in DA boards: online process manufacturing, military/aerospace, online discrete manufacturing, offline production testing/QC, and education. These accounted for an estimated 77.8% of the external chassis and module shipments and 85.8% of the plug-in analog I/O board shipments.

For external chassis and modules, the application markets forecast to have the highest overall growth rates through 2012 are, in descending rank, online process manufacturing, online discrete manufacturing, military/aerospace, and industrial maintenance and offline product testing/QC. For plug-in analog I/O boards, these are in industrial maintenance, scientific, online process manufacturing, offline production testing/QC, and laboratory/R&D.

For the external chassis and modules, four of the five largest application market segments are also expected to be among the five fastest growing versus only two for the plug-in analog I/O boards.

Here are some of the more important factors behind these growth rate expectations:

  • Laboratory/R&D—The need for firms to fully test out designs before committing to production. In addition, there is ongoing growth in the medical/health care field
  • Industrial Maintenance—Industrial maintenance has become increasingly important to manufacturers faced with the need for improvements in efficiency and reduction of downtime. DA products provide a means to achieve this through data collection and analysis. In addition, these products reduce the number of maintenance personnel required
  • Military/Aerospace—The growing sophistication of military/aerospace hardware being produced in less developed countries, particularly in China
  • Offline Production Testing/QC—An increased focus on quality control and product safety
  • Online Discrete Manufacturing—Here the products are being used to improve quality and safety and to shorten manufacturing times. In many applications these products provide real-time monitoring to meet new requirements and to make manufacturing adjustments
  • Online Process Manufacturing—Newer emission, production, quality control and safety standards/regulations, along with stricter enforcement are making process monitoring more imperative
  • Scientific—Environmental monitoring and weather forecasting are expected to continue to generate demand, especially by government agencies and universities.

Geographic Markets
Figure 2 shows estimated 2007 and forecast 2012 shipments of the DA products under study to markets in the major geographic regions of the world.

Figure 2. Current and forecast shipments of DA products studied to markets in major geographic regions ($US in millions)

  2007 2012 CAGR*
A) External Chassis and Modules
Americas* 265.4 321.5 3.9%
EMEA** 206.2 256.8 4.5%
Asia-Pacific 181.3 272.4 8.5%
Total 652.9 850.7 5.4%
B) Plug-In DA Boards
Americas* 102.6 105.3 0.5%
EMEA** 67.4 75.7 2.3%
Asia-Pacific 57.5 78.5 6.4%
Total 227.5 259.5 2.7%

*Central, North, and South America
**Europe, the Middle East, and Africa

For the external chassis and modules, the Americas accounted for 40.6% of the 2007 worldwide market, with EMEA accounting for 31.6%, and the Asia-Pacific region for 29.8%. For the plug-in analog I/O boards, the Americas accounted for 45.1% of the worldwide market, with EMEA accounting for 29.6%, and the Asia-Pacific region for 25.3%.

For both the external chassis and modules, and plug-in analog I/O boards, the slowest market growth rates are expected in the Americas, with by far the fastest for the Asia-Pacific region. A major consideration in the Americas forecast is the expected slow growth rate of the U.S. economy.

The most significant reason for the high growth rate forecasts for the Asia-Pacific region is the rapid rise in manufacturing operations in countries there with emerging economies, particularly China. Manufacturing businesses in these Asia-Pacific countries are being formed and expanded. In addition, manufacturers in other regions are moving operations to countries in this region because of low labor costs. Part of the increase in capital investment by these firms will be in DA products, both for use in manufacturing operations and in the design and testing of new products. In addition, these countries have growing needs for environmental monitoring, and in medical applications.


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