(The process of turning an Idea into a Product.)
Build a better Mouse trap...
But before the world can beat a path to your door to buy it, you'll need to design it, debug it and manufacture it. Whether it's a child's toy or a space shuttle; the same basic principals apply and you'll face the same fundamental challenges.
This page provides a basic checklist for pre-productization. By asking the right questions early on, you'll improve your odds of success and reduce the number of surprises on the wild ride ahead.
What is it?
You must have a simple, yet concrete, description of your project. Include:
a. All major features. GET THIS PART RIGHT! Adding a feature halfway down the road can be VERY expensive!
b. the physical size, shape and weight
c. User interface (description of all buttons, switches etc.)
d. potential customer base.
How many do you want?
Production Volume is the single biggest factor in determining every cost involved! Your best off being a bit pessimistic (at least to start). The development cost for a high volume product is usually much higher than for a low volume product. However, the cost per unit (once you're in production) will be significantly lower.
We should probably define some terms:
low volume: less than 100 per year
medium volume: several hundred to several thousand per year
high volume: over 5000 per year
Note that these are our definitions, the Chinese define "high volume" as millions per month!
What's your target price?
This is intimately and irrevocability tied to the previous question! If you want Wal-Mart pricing; you'll need to hit Wal-Mart volumes. This is a good place to make what should be an obvious statement (but seems to surprise some people): "If you want the 10,000 piece price, you have to buy 10,000 pieces".
How soon do you want them?
This is also tied to the previous questions. If you want a high volume, low cost product, you better plan on a much longer development schedule. Just a quick example, a bare Printed circuit board (no components installed) could cost less than a buck on a 4 week lead time, high volume order. Order five prototypes on a 1 day turn and they'll cost you several hundred dollars each!
Who's your customer?
This affects more issues than you might expect. Some impacts are minor, other's could bankrupt you! For example, an instrument intended only for use by the military will have a completely different qualification plan than one intended for home use. The consumer unit may actually cost more to qualify! For example, the military doesn't care much about UL or FCC testing but these can add significant expense and delays to a consumer product.
Have you filed a patent?
A better question might be: "do you need a patent?". Most people assume that they've got a patentable idea and that they must get a patent to protect it. The patent process isn't that simple but it is a fast way to spend $10K. Again, we're not qualified to give legal advise but we do recommend carefully evaluating this aspect of your project (hum, that sounds like something a lawyer would say).
What's your budget?
There's no way around it, productization isn't cheap! While we believe we provide a very cost effective solution to your product development needs, you'll need to plan on spending some money. After all, if you're going to make a huge fortune with your new idea, you're probably going to spend a bit of cash to do it. Here are some rough guesses, organized in a 'top down' approach with somewhat arbitrary price points. Of course, your project could be wildly different and standard disclaimers apply.
As a rough rule of thumb, the expenses often breakdown as follows:
electronic design/board layout: 25%
mechanical design issues: 25%
software development: 75%
And yes, that's how it usually adds up. Also note that the following estimates DO NOT include stocking inventory, packaging etc. They also only include the initial prototypes. Contact us for more details (there are lots of them).
$5000 - $10,000
Plan on using only 'off-the-shelf' components. We can probably spin one of our PDK circuit boards, build a few prototypes and maybe help out with some software depending on complexity. You might be able to squeeze in a customized keypad (via a PDK) or simple silk-screening on a standard enclosure. You might get away with a machined housing if your margins have room.
$10,000 - $20,000
Ok, now you can get a fully customized circuit board and a highly modified enclosure. Maybe even a custom extruded aluminum case. Also, there are some custom plastic housings that could be considered if your margins are high enough. You'll have enough cash for a medium sized software project and some environmental testing etc. If you're careful (and lucky), you might even be able to include FCC approval.
Depending on other expenses, you might consider a custom LCD bare glass display. This would be a '7 segment' style display with icons specific to your project (about $2500 NRE plus inventory expenses).
USB and wireless interfaces are within reach.
$25,000 - $50,000
Now you're getting serious! We can plan on everything above but start thinking about custom plastic/die cast housings. You can also get your own LCD or VFD module, fully custom keypads etc. FCC and maybe even UL approvals might fit in.
$75,000 and up...
Wow, there are too many options to even start listing them. Call us right now, collect, anytime, day or night...
People often figure that they can save money by doing it themselves. Maybe, but probably not. If you're a software engineer and have written a lot of embedded code, then sure, write your own software. But don't try doing the mechanical design, it will take you 3 months just to learn the CAD package!
Yes, you need an advertising budget/marketing plan!
You'll need to figure out how to tell people what you've got! Just buying a few Google words probably won't do it!
Do you like surprises?
If you're getting into product development, you'd better love the unexpected! Things will not go according to plan and the ride never smoothes out (not for long anyway). Components go "end of life"; parts that were supposed to fit, don't; your biggest customer wants changes; the software has a glitch; etc. The list is endless but the rewards are priceless.
The above is just a summary and is by no means complete. Unfortunately, most of the questions are interrelated and the answers are very non-linear. We're not trying to scare you, we just want you to have some idea of what lies ahead. Give us a call, we'd be happy to discuss the issues.
Don't miss our Product Development Kits!
Enclosure, keypad, protoboard, display and they all fit together!
JEM Innovation specializes in turning ideas into products. We can help with all phases of product development from writing the specification to production manufacturing. We also do electrical, mechanical and software design. While we don't have all the answers, we do have a pretty good grip on the questions!
Give us a call, we'd love to discuss the possibilities.