Sunday, November 14, 2010

Commerical, Off-The-Shelf Hardware

The next great change in the 3D metrology industry is going to come from
commercial, off-the-shelf hardware.  No longer will customers spend tens of
thousands of dollars extra for a “higher-performance” model, when that
“higher-performance” model is really just a higher-megapixel camera, brighter
laser, brighter light, smaller box, or beefed-up design.  If these
“upgrades” only cost the 3D metrology companies perhaps a few thousand dollars,
why should you, the customer, spend tens of thousands?  Why should the 3D
metrology company dictate the “value” of the upgrade, when the marketplace has
already done so at the hardware component level? 


A parallel to this is computers.  When computer hardware was very
expensive, it made sense to place the emphasis of a system’s design on the
hardware.  But now, hardware is a commodity.  We don’t pick our
computers based on their absolute performance, we pick them based on the
software we’re going to run.  The same is true for cameras, lasers, and
light sources - to an increasing degree, they are commodity items.  This
means that you, the customer, should not pay big bucks for them.  You
should pay for the software to run them, but if you need higher performance
(more megapixels, brighter laser, more light, etc.), you should pay only an
incremental price for that performance, dictated by the hardware
marketplace. 


To look at this another way, if a customer needs the higher performance, but
the 3D metrology company has priced (i.e. upcharged) it out of reach, the
customer is forced to purchase a less-than optimal solution.  This does not
benefit the customer (who needs the better hardware) OR the 3D metrology (who is
not supplying an optimal solution).  In the future, 3D metrology companies
will become software companies, and allow the customer to pick whatever hardware
they need to accomplish the job. 


Now here’s a secret: 3D metrology companies already ARE software
companies.  They’re just not letting you know it yet.  They’re
purchasing off-the-shelf cameras, light sources, lasers, power supplies, and
cables, and assembling them into branded packages.  Then, they’re selling
you the software to run them.  No 3D metrology company is making their own
cameras or light sources.  They’re simply re-packaging them as
components of engineered products.  Then, they’re hooking them up to
software. 


What does this mean to you, the customer? It means great things,
because, soon, you will be able to get exactly the performance you need, without
the major hardware markups.  You will be able to buy one software license,
and then pick the hardware performance that’s right for you.  Just like
with regular computer software.  And the 3D metrology companies will help
you engineer the exact performance you need, without marking up the hardware
cost. 


Yet another advantage of this is supportability.  When the hardware
becomes decoupled from the small, volatile 3D metrology companies and becomes
sourced off-the-shelf, your manufacturing environments are no longer held
hostage by these 3D metrology companies.  You can purchase redundant
equipment inexpensively, and deal with large camera manufacturers, laser
suppliers, etc. for replacement.  Your risk for deploying 3D metrology
systems will diminish, and even if a 3D metrology company goes out of business,
fails to support the product, or gets bought out, you can always purchase
hardware. 


Under this model, any hardware component that truly IS custom-made will be
blueprinted, and easy to replicate, along with information on the
supplier/source.


Sound good?  It does to us, too.

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