Software vs Hardware

Get Ahead with Industrial Machine
Controller Software that Outperforms Hardware

Software motion control and machine vision does everything that traditional hardware solutions do, more efficiently and at a lower cost. See why software-based motion control and machine vision make sense for your organization.

Why is Software-Based Machine Control Better than Hardware?

With gains in PC processing power and the increased speed of motion control and machine vision networks, software motion control technology has the potential to eliminate the use of hardware.

Software motion systems take the functionality that was in stand-alone motion and machine vision controllers and split it between more capable drives and faster PCs. PC-based motion control solutions running on a standard industrial PC with a real-time extension (RTOS) and multi-tasking capabilities empower motion control and machine vision engineers to do things not possible on hardware.

With the combination of faster PCs and real-time extensions, software motion control and machine vision:

  • Reduces costs
  • Improves control and performance
  • Reduces programming time
  • Enhances programming maintenance
  • Provides greater data availability
  • Decreases complexity

Motion control and machine vision software is less expensive, more flexible and agile, and easier to maintain and upgrade. In short, it’s better performance, at half the price.

Motion Control

How Does Software Motion Control Outperform Tradition Hardware?


  • Software is infinitely more configurable.
  • APIs and interfaces can be extended to match existing systems as well as newly evolving systems.
  • Software processing can be distributed throughout multicore PCs with centralized control, while hardware is incapable of performing such distribution.
  • Centralized software control and distributed hardware allows for any axis to be aware of any other axis that it needs.
  • Software doesn’t require hardware boards, encoder interfaces or analog output.
  • With PCs, you can have either wired or wireless Ethernet connections that permit sharing, which is not possible with dedicated hardware systems.


  • Software is not limited to hardware and firmware constraints.
  • Hardware DACs have limited fidelity (16bit DAC versus 64bit in software).
  • Control variables start digital and stay digital all the way to the motor.
  • Electronic gearing can be done across a very wide range of axes with software, whereas with hardware may require carrying extra wires.
  • Technology advancements have enabled software to perform such tasks as 80 axes in 250usecs on a 2.0 GHZ PC.
  • Software eliminates interface issues with EtherCAT network protocol.

Durable & Reliable

  • Motherboards are limited to a specific number of high speed hardware boards.
  • Software does not wear out over time.
  • Bugs are fixed with updates rather than cutting new hardware.
  • The 64 bit Pentium has all of the resolution and processing power of the DSP, and more. Almost all DSPs today are 32 bit floating point machines.
  • Features are added without buying new boards.
  • Software can utilize the unlimited processing power of multicore PCs, while hardware is limited in its processing cycles.
  • The development cycle of hardware is much longer than that of software.


Software product is forever available, even after a supplier ends support. No more searching eBay for used hardware because the board is not being produced anymore.


The cost of hardware is exponentially more expensive. PC-based motion control built on EtherCAT delivers greater capability at half the price.

Machine Vision

How Does Software Compare for Machine Vision Image Processing?

Vision systems traditionally have a hardware board plugged into the PC, or a whole PC mounted near the camera that uses a network. Both solutions are expensive, and lock the user into a vendor’s capabilities and interface.

Software changes this dynamic by allowing the data to come into the PC through a network and get stored in RAM. You gain tremendous control and flexibility at a fraction of the cost.

With software-based machine vision, you can:

  • Change machine vision algorithms at will, with intuitive and customizable APIs that ensures freedom and flexibility.
  • Access every bit of functionality within the camera that hardware can.
  • Send images from a camera to an industrial PC that utilizes its multicore power and capability to process the images faster than hardware.
  • Take immediate action based on insights gleaned from camera images not achieved through hardware.
  • Reduce time and effort required to upgrade and/or add new features.
  • Provide the control and flexibility to handle the camera data received by the PC through the EtherCAT network and stored in memory.

Ready to see how KINGSTAR can benefit your company?