The rapid expansion of the machine vision industry has caused a dizzying array of vendors to bring new products to the marketplace. With so many options, it may be difficult for first-time vision users to sort through the maze of products to find a system that best suits their needs.

Here are some simple questions to ask before purchasing your first or next vision system.

Does the system have the power and flexibility to adapt to changes?
Due to advancements in camera and software technology, most machine vision vendors can offer an initial solution to common applications. However, it should be noted that continual success of an application hinges not only on the initial solution, but the robustness of this solution. Look for a system that provides a large array of tools and calculation sets. This way, if one particular tool is not working to 100% of the expectation level, another tool can be added to increase stability. Also, systems that provide multiple on-board processors can typically handle parallel processing with ease, meaning that running several tools at the same time while providing real-time graphical feedback does not bog down the camera.

Can my colleagues and I learn to configure the system without having to attend Vision University?
The fact is, you’re busy. The last thing you need is to lose a week’s worth of productivity trying to master the ins and outs of a new machine vision system. Try to find a system that provides an interface you can feel comfortable with after only a few hours of programming. Flexibility is good, but only when you can take ownership of your vision system does the endless possibilities of its use become apparent. Choose a system that doesn’t require a PC connection but provides the option to monitor or configure remotely via a PC. This way, machine operators can make minor on-line changes in real time, while at the same time you have the option to extract settings and work from your desk if you prefer.

What type of support will the machine vision vendor provide?
Things happen. At some point, you are going to run into programming obstacles that require skills beyond what you possess. Be sure to find a vendor that provides a nationwide network of technical support to answer your questions when you’re in a jam. Time is money; minutes or hours of lost production can equate to thousands of dollars of revenue. If you can simply pick up the phone and reach an experienced vision expert at the drop of a dime, you’ll thank yourself when the time comes.

Have a question? We have answers. Send your vision questions to [email protected], and look for more information at