Legacy Product Support, eBay,and Sales
Automation component suppliers should provide at least minimum support such as downloadable manuals and drivers for forever.Â First, many machines last a long time, and customers need to keep them running, including if manuals or drivers get lost.
Second, it’s smart business to support the second hand market, such as eBay.Â I often buy automation equipment from eBay, and I expect reasonable support, which means I can download documentation and drivers; I don’t expect free tech support.Â (I understand that for controllers such as PLCs or motion controllers, the programming software often isn’t free; I won’t buy that controller if I can’t program it).
My eBay purchases have lead to some substantial orders.Â I still might have selected the Copley Accelnet servo drives, but having myEBay units really helped.Â Right now, I’m considering using some AllMotion servo drives for a very specific application; the only reason I am considering AllMotion is because I have one I can use to prototype the system.
Yes, I can (and have) received loaner units, but it’s a hassle, not all companies will provide them, and some times there’s a long time between using something and being able to spec it into a machine.
Microchip is the classic example; they make microcontrollers (MCUs) and owe much of their current success to the fact that they are hobbyist friendly.Â Many of the their microcontrollers are still available in easy to use DIP packages, they provided good documentation, support, and free software.Â Their chips became very popular with hobbyists, who created an ecosystem of designs, articles, forums, etc, which over time has led to substantial production orders, especially as people familiar with their chips moved into engineering positions.