So a funny thing happened on the way to the forum.
I went to this massive manufacturing trade show a few weeks ago. It was, of course, chockablock with traditional big scary companies and, of course, an imposing representation of odd Chinese vendors you've never heard of. And the odd Chinese vendors you've never heard of had some impressive stuff - theoretically.
I started talking to one about a sophisticated machine that does fancy stuff (the particulars don't matter). Over the course of five emails, it was revealed that:
- It does not speak to any software other than their own. They assert it can be made to. This is important as the first half of CAD/CAM is "software" and if that slash in the middle is an X factor, your process can't make it more than halfway.
- If it breaks they have Youtube videos. In Chinese. That's it.
- If you have trouble setting it up they have Youtube videos. In Chinese. That's it.
- It uses its own proprietary control system and cannot be upgraded to speak anything else.
The sixth email revealed that it was within 10% of the price of the gold-standard Swiss machine that speaks every post known to man, is supported out of California and New York, has authorized repair and support within eight zip codes of me and comes with the industry-standard control protocol.
Usually, if you're going to deal with shady fly-by-night Chinese vendors, you do so because of a terrific price discount. But we're talkin' $200k vs. $220k. And that was kind of universal across the board- the Chinese stuff was simply not cheap enough to justify buying fly-by-night.
It felt foreboding.