Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Software selection: pricing and support

Software costs money and time. Let’s start by discussing what you get for your money.

When you receive a quote for machine vision software, review it very carefully to see what’s actually included, and perhaps of greater importance, what the limitations are. For example:

- Can you connect to a camera and capture and save images? (Don’t just assume this is the case.)
- Can you connect to any camera? Any resolution? Color? How about line scan?
- Are there any interface limitations? Are GigE cameras covered, for example?
- What tools are extra? (pattern matching might be an add-on, for example.)
- What about multiple cameras? Included or extra?
- Software replication/licensing costs – what’s the pricing for deploying an application?

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should show you not to take anything for granted. Read the quotation, and ask questions.

Now, what about time?

New software can have a pretty severe learning curve; even if you have ton of machine vision experience it can take many hours to become familiar with the specific terminology, menus and functions. Think of that learning time as money, because it is. This is why ease of use matters so much.

Ccoupled to the learning curve is the quality and availability of tech support. To use a simple example, you might need to call up an expert at the vendors’ to ask where the morphology functions are to be found, so you need to know there are people waiting for your call.

We can sum up the whole pricing issue with the old phrase, “cheap is dear and dear is cheap.” Tech support, useful help utilities and easy-to-use graphical interfaces all cost money, so the lowest priced package may not be so much of a bargain.

Just a few points to ponder before raising that P.O.

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