Learn how embedded vision products can be developed quickly, high-quality and cost-effectively, with local partners.
Embedded Vision is an important driver of digitization and automation, it makes machines and devices autonomously by enabling them to see. Many companies and OEMs work with components and suppliers from the Far East. Historically, this geographic location allows the integration of image processing into machines and devices, cost-effectively, and efficiently. Axel Krepil, VP of Sales for FRAMOS in Munich, Germany, reports on the resulting challenges from a developers point of view - how manufacturers and customers can develop tailor-made vision, high quality, and low cost solutions directly with local partners; and, at the same time, shorten their products' time-to-market.
What are the challenges to Embedded Vision development, and what are the experiences faced by OEMs and other companies?
Axel Krepil: Many manufacturers and companies can make their products "smart" with Embedded Vision through visual sensors, or by which to automate their processes. Seeing robots, drones, or autonomous assistants, aid industry in being more competitive. Smart home devices, or AR/VR applications open new, high-potential consumer, industrial, and medical device markets. The development of products and solutions with Embedded Vision must be fast and efficient; and, be cost effective for companies to fully exploit these competitive advantages. Of course, these advantages must be aligned with the best possible quality. I have observed that many customers initially resort to vision components and perceived "bargains" from the Far East to achieve this balancing act of speed, cost, and quality, and, stay a step ahead of the competition. Often, I hear customers complaining about the inadequate communication; the prolonged coordination of details; delays in delivery; and, poor quality. Some of our current customers have worked with Far East suppliers - they end up working with us as local partners to achieve optimum results in quality, price, technical support, and rapid development cycles.
What are the problems reported by your customers?
Axel Krepil: In particular, we hear about the various expectations of the product, quality and integration, and difficulties in communication. For example, many solutions from the Far East include a pure sensor, or camera module. However, they are often supplied either without an evaluation platform, or without a sufficiently flexible and versatile evaluation platform that is required for Embedded Vision. Additionally, customers miss integrated sensor and optical solutions, testing platforms, suitable IP and technical support, and, advice about teaching their machines to see. This situation is particularly difficult for customers with strengths on the system side, but are working with Embedded Vision for the first time. Other customers do not have the time or resources to delve deeper into vision development.
Do you have concrete examples citing some of the issues?
Axel Krepil: Customers have related to me, that in their search for suitable sensor modules, they have encountered dimensions in the realm of 38 x 38 millimetres. Modules of this size are fine for evaluation purposes, but they are often too large for the final integration of Embedded Vision into the smallest assembly space. Other reported examples were poorly developed drivers, or insufficient documentation. These problems hamper fast and efficient vision development, and generate additional costs. Often, quality does not appear to be a priority - however, increasingly, only those customers looking for better alternatives; requiring higher quality designs; or, needing higher functioning drivers, are coming to FRAMOS. Just the same, there is a larger variability in Asian markets, with evidence of many good suppliers. It always depends on the individual vendor.
Also, you have mentioned communications issues....
Axel Krepil: I can only discuss the individual experiences that customers bring to me. Subjectively, personal contact or direct technical support often does not seem to exist. Personal service and technical support appears to be possible from China or Taiwan, but only in the case of high-volume customers. We often work with medium-sized companies, whose unit quantities will never reach the volume of Apple Computer or similar sized corporations. Therefore, customers miss a direct relationship with the supplier, and complain about catalogue sales without technical support. Here, FRAMOS can help with local personnel and the direct communication that results in better individual customer solutions - ultimately, the solutions are achieved faster and are more favorable to the customers. For example, in the case of image sensors, we have been a reliable source for Sony and ON Semiconductor for decades, and for the right choice of optics. We have extensive in-house sensor experience, and offer various direct support channels.
According to Axel Krepil customers often miss personal contact or direct technical support while dealing with asian suppliers - Framos offers various direct support channels and local experts advise.
But, often the main reason for cooperation with Asian suppliers is the price. . .
Axel Krepil: In terms of volume pricing, we are extremely competitive with our long-standing partnerships with sensor suppliers like Sony or ON Semiconductor, and other service providers. FRAMOS offers competitive prices with both local and offshore production capabilities, and provides maximum flexibility for the customer. Our in-house product line for Embedded Vision development consists of a variety of sensor modules and adapters. These products complement each other and provide a direct connection to common processor platforms. The modular design of the ready-to-use components and simple connectivity significantly reduces the effort for prototyping, testing, and integration, right up to series production of products with embedded imaging. The customer can rely on our experience in image processing, thereby saving their own resources and can concentrate on their core business. In addition, they save on material and development costs, and at the same time benefit from a shorter time-to-market.
How exactly do customers reach a faster time-to-market?
Axel Krepil: FRAMOS sensor modules are an extremely versatile platform for hundreds of image sensors. We supply all products with comprehensive documentation that enables customers to accelerate their own development. Using our wide range of image sensors and the modular design of our embedded vision concept, new and future sensors can be designed quickly. The customer can build on existing solutions and bring innovative products with the latest vision technology to market faster. In any case, customers benefit from FRAMOS' in-depth sensor knowledge, and thereby avoid technical surprises in the end. The FRAMOS sensor module concept and simple connectivity ensures a fast and flexible evaluation. In addition, individual customer requests and adaptations of any kind can be implemented in the shortest possible time, even for smaller quantities. We do work with both European and Asian partners for series production. Subsequently, we take care of communication and coordination for the customer, and, as a local contact, we ensure clear processing and efficient project management for a quality solution.
Many Thanks for the interview and insights!