Position Sensors: A look into the Photoelectric, Proximity and Limit Switch Markets

Earlier this year, VDC Research Group’s Industrial Automation and Control Practice teamed up with Automation.com and other Industrial Automation and sensor industry partners to conduct a survey on the position sensing market. This survey was in support of a comprehensive 3 volume report on position sensing technologies. As most readers know, the past few years have been an unprecedented roller coaster ride from market highs in early 2008 to huge setbacks in 2009 and a bit of an uneven future. The VDC report gives market participants a view of where we have been and where things appear to be going. This article will provide readers with a few selected insights into the Photoelectric, Proximity and Limit Switch markets.
First of all, let’s take a look at the demographics of the survey participants of which there were a significant amount of Automation.com subscribers. Overall there were approximately 400 survey participants that indicated a role in the selection, purchasing and/or usage of position sensor products.

As we can see, there was an excellent cross section of business types and industries represented. We also looked to the roles of the survey participants within their companies.

One interesting question that the VDC report looked to answer was about whether the trend of moving industrial production to APAC from EMEA and the Americas had leveled off. To provide user insights into this we asked the survey participants to describe regional percentages of where they were receiving orders for position sensing products.

As expected, our survey demographics were slanted towards the Americas but, the significant finding was that only 10% were seeing additional regional shifting of the market. The follow up question showed that the shifts that were occurring were still toward APAC but the Americas market was showing advanced signs of stabilization ahead of EMEA. If we look at a 2009 snapshot of the Photoelectric, Proximity and Limit Switch market, we see that it is fairly evenly distributed but, as we have noted, the APAC market has been growing faster than the Americas and EMEA.
Now lets take a look at the total market for position sensors which in addition to Photo, Prox. And Limit Sw. also includes Linear (displacement) and Rotary (position) sensor products.

Between 2007 and 2008, the market rose at a rate much higher than the ~ 3 – 5% rate that had been the rule previously. This was then followed by a 20 – 30% drop depending on sector with the exception of the Mil/Aero market that had been stabilized by long term contracts. What is happening now and what will happen next for the position sensor market is based as much on economic reality but also consumer perception of whether the apparent recovery is stable in the long term. To assist with the building of the model, VDC uses many sources including supplier interviews but also the insights of the sensor user community. Toward this end, there were several questions aimed at gauging the user perception of the future as compared to their past (2008) purchase of position sensing products.


As we close this article, we look to a snapshot of two different position sensor products to show the regions and vertical markets that they are used in. This information was mainly based on supply side analysis but the demand side often provides context that determines the growth prospects for a given market or sensor product. As a sample we chose to show the non Mil/Aero Inductive sensor and the E.M. Limit switch products that are extensively covered in the published report.


The above charts represent a 2009 snapshot of 2 key position sensing markets with the Non Mil/Aero Inductive sensor market predicted to reach $1.1 Billion in 2013 and the E.M. Limit Switch market prediction being approximately $420M in 2013. The growth/recovery will of course not be even in all markets and regions but, at the same time will be shared across most markets to at least some degree. As most Automation.com subscribers probably realize, the position sensor business is complicated with many competing technologies vying for the same markets. A given technology has traits that make it superior for one application but problematic for another. The manufacturers that adapt and extend technologies to enter existing markets or enter new ones are destined to be the most successful. The insights provided by your participation in the VDC position sensor market study make it possible for these new sensor products to meet your needs. On behalf of VDC and our customers, the Industrial Automation and Control Practice wants to thank the Automation.com subscribers for their participation and support.
About VDC Research Group
VDC Research Group (www.vdcresearch.com) is a technology market research and strategy consulting firm that advises clients in a number of technology markets including: Automatic Identification and Data Collection, Embedded Hardware and Systems, Embedded Software and Tools, Industrial Automation and Control and Mobile and Wireless. Using rigorous primary research and analysis techniques, the firm helps its clients identify, plan for and capitalize on current and emerging market opportunities. We strive to deliver exceptional value to our clients by leveraging the considerable technical, operational, educational and professional experience of our research and consulting staff. During our nearly four decades of ongoing operation, we have had the pleasure of serving most of the world’s leading technology companies, many high-profile start-ups and numerous blue-chip early and later stage investors. Our products and services consist of research reports, annual research programs and custom research and consulting services. Founded in 1971, the firm is located in the Boston area.

About The Author

By David A. B. Laing, PMP - VDC Research Group

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