What is a project engineer looking for when specifying any piece of equipment?
Its all about delivering a quality solution within budget and on time. This can be summarized by looking at cost, capability, reliability and support.
Lets start with reliability & support
Most vision systems are now completely solid state, unless there are moving parts such as linear slides or conveyors to move your product. Modern systems use LED lighting , solid state cameras and often high performance processors with no mechanical disk drives.
If PCs are used they should be housed in industrial enclosures and air conditioned . If there are going to be issues, it is almost always around operator usage and sometimes trigger sensors.
All integrators now should use commercial off the shelf parts (COTs) , so manufacturing operations can support their vision systems without having to revert to a vendor that is often not in their own time zone.
Purchasers often try to buy from the vendor who has a local office . But when dealing with the larger companies that does not guarantee fast support. Very few companies stock their field offices with spare parts and often the local service guys are not up to speed on all products, so you end up getting support from some other time zone anyhow. So why pay extra for zero benefit.
Look to make sure that the components you are supplied in any system can be purchased from local distributors. Make sure your vendor can provide you with remote support for operator usage issues. The mix of both is today's gold standard. It is rare once a system is operational that it needs to be touched. Tear up those preventive maintenance agreements and seek a software upgrade program instead.
Lower costs and increased capabily is possible
Cost and capability should be directly linked but often they are not. When building an inspection system usings COTs, they tend to be more cost effective and an increase in capability often does not adversly affect the budget. If a vision solution uses proprietary parts, the cost can rise. A vision system is split into the following key costs
- Hardware with cameras and lights being the larger part of that budget
- Software - is probably the key element of the solution as this is what the operator uses and how you will derive value.
- Services, the cost of integration, installation and training.
The split is normally a third for each of the three elements. Best practice is to choose a vendor that will use commercial off the shelf components ( COTS) and is open to collaboration. You can then maximize capability and keep costs under control. If a system supplier is looking to meet some magic gross margin figure , this will result in spiralling costs as you drive capability.
So what's the conclusion?
The way to go is to understand what you are purchasing and work with suppliers that support that learning curve. Use commercial off the shelf parts and focus on support of the software as that is what your production personnel will interact with. Why not download our white paper on building vision networks to learn more on this topic.