Service suggestion


I am an engineer. I have plenty of simple product ideas (as do most engineers). It is plenty fast to design them and make a few prototypes, but the overhead of converting this into a business is quite large. I would need to set up manufacturing facilities, handle orders and inventory, and a number of other things. For small designs, the cost is much higher than the profit. For large designs, I still bear substantial risk – instead of investing a week or two, I need to invest a couple of months. At that point, to cover costs, I need to make a professional device, with an enclosure, manual, potentially CD, and packaging, which a single person can’t really do in less than a year.

You seem to have everything in-house to handle manufacturing and distribution. You also cater to hobbyists. It’d be a sweet service if you acted kind of like a Cafe Press, but for circuits. I would upload a PCB design, pay for an initial batch of PCBs, as well as maybe enough components to populate 5 boards. I would also specify a pricing scheme.

You would place the design available for purchase on your web site available, either as a kit (cost of PCBs+parts+your profit+my profit) or as an assembled product (cost of PCBs+parts+your profit+my profit+assembly). If it sells two (one for me and one for my sister), that’s okay – I’ve paid for everything – you’ve lost nothing, but only made minimal profit. If it sells a million, you handle scaling up supply chain management, production, and distribution for me. I maintain control of the IP, and you agree that if my design becomes popular, you won’t simply clone my design to cut me out.

You, perhaps, give a discount for free/open source designs (free as in free speech, a la Richard Stallman – not necessarily zero profit).

If it was fairly structured, I know a huge number of people who would use such a service (myself included). I’ve thought about starting a business like this myself, but it isn’t really reasonable to start in the US – the local assembly costs are obscene. I am not ambitious enough to start an international business yet. Started by someone in China, this could be quite reasonable – you can do manual assembly at reasonable cost, so could do it with minimal capital expenditures. In the US, I would need to automated just-in-time manufacturing and assembly of circuit boards (I have ideas about how to do this, but it would cost a few hundred thousand dollars to implement).

As this picks up, the next step would be to automate simple enclosures (e.g. simple plastic box with a laser-cut top for cables and connectors), and eventually, complex enclosures, so that we can design consumer products rather than just hobbyist products.

Very inspiring! ^______^

We were thinking of offering more prototyping options… and your idea showed us another interesting direction! We will seriously consider the business pattern, and draft the details.

My most critical concern now, is on the IP part. This scheme is perfect for niche market product, which wouldn’t get noticed by those pirates who make short money out of copying. For those hot products, people can copy and produce faster than you could image. If we are in the position of OEM, we are always the first one to point at whenever a similar product appear.

Maybe it is a open source hardware ecosystem we would discuss about?

(to be continued… ;P)

I have to say I love this idea. I have many a circuit that I would like to see made and sold and this model would be ideal. It would as boost advertising to the site as I would then have a vested interest in directing people to your site to hopefully sell my device.

I would like to see open source as an option rather than a necessity and personally I would like the ability to sell a mix of open and closed source devices.

Sign me up!