Wednesday, October 10, 2012


In the automotive world Sales and Marketing types like to talk to about cross-shopping. The three series BMW is often cross-shopped with the Audi A4, the VW Beetle with the Mini. In other words, consumers are smart enough to check out competitive products before plunking down their hard-earned.

So here's my question: how often do you cross-shop vision systems?

I'll bet the answer is “practically never.” I'll bet that when you need a smart camera you call your friendly local electrical bits-and-bobs distributor and ask what he can offer. If he carries Cognex, that's what you'll get. If he works with Omron, or Panasonic, well guess what you'll be using.

Is this a smart way to buy machine vision? I don't think so.

I'm shopping for a new car right now. I figured out my needs, (interior space, good gas mileage, good warranty,) and my budget, and now I'm compiling a spreadsheet where I can compare the models that meet my constraints. The final decision will still involve some subjective criteria – how it looks, how it feels – but I'm comfortable with that because I know I'll be working from a base of quantifiable data and will be making an informed decision.

I think we should buy vision systems the same way. There are a lot of vendors out there with products that differ but all have strengths and weaknesses. So before you buy a Matrox Iris, a Banner PresencePlus P4, or a Cognex InSight, figure out your needs and see which fits best. That way you won't be buying a Maserati when what you need is a minivan.


Anonymous said...

Your argument works if you know about all the details you are asking for. In image processing you can describe your needs and you have a good knowledge about the technical details behind the surface. But what about person who are not that experienced?

I'm wondering what happens if you have an application that is solvavle with a Checker but you are offered an InSight plus illumination plus integration support. You have to trust your contact person as you don't have that much experience.
Is trusting "one for all" fair in this situation? What, if you know your needs but not how to solve it?

Anonymous said...

In my long experience in the machine vision industry I would say its 90% the other way round. The customer has purchased a minvan when they actually need a Maserati..

Anonymous said...

There are negatives in shopping around for vision systems, especially from the perspective of an integration house. Having worked on several different systems, the first negative that we encounter is the learning curve for anything new. The increased integration time can make up the difference in hardware cost. The second thing is platform limitations. Without going up the learning curve, it is impossible to know the limitations are for a given platform. More specifically what are the limitations for a given platform performing a given inspection and meeting the customer requirements. If you get to the 11th hour on a project and something is in the way of meeting a required level of performance then the only thing that you can do is change out the whole system (which is far more costly). This is why we tend to spend a bit more on hardware, favour powerful systems over simple-to-use, and use what we already know.