Where’s the best place to start if you want to design your own electronic gadget and have it manufactured as cheaply as possible?

Joseph Videtto December 9, 2012
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I’m aware there are prototype kits like Make’s Arduino (that’s all I’m really aware of), but if you manage to design an electronic gadget that does what you want it to, and you’d like to have it manufactured first on a small prototype scale (say 10 to 100), and maybe then a much larger scale, what would you do?

I realize it depends on the gadget’s electronic needs – so, what components (semiconductor models) are most typically used for ‘smart’ children’s toys that talk, and what websites are best for further reading on this topic?

  1. Vishal Srivastava
    December 13, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    Best website for smart children toys- http://www.letsmakerobots.com . See for yourself...

  2. Joseph Videtto
    December 12, 2012 at 12:33 am

    Wow, thanks - great ideas and feedback. Thanks very much - am enjoying your suggestions and links very much.

  3. Paul Pruitt
    December 10, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Hmm...Well there is Quirky which fields dozens of ideas per day, some of them electronic. However only few of the ideas are made (though it appears to be increasing) and very few of those, are electronics idea. Most are easy to manufacture non-electronics stuff. Maybe that is slowly changing.

    Ideas normally cost $10 to submit to Quirky, however if you go to RetailMeNot and other coupon sites, there are at least 10 coupon codes that will work to get you a free pass to submit an idea to the design community and pro team at the site.

    However, I am aware of a better approach for your plans I think. I can't tell you about how to get ideas on where to get chips and the like but I can suggest that there are a huge number of Chinese factories just dying to manufacture your item for you. Maybe you can start to find some of these factories on alibaba.com or aliexpress.com. There should also be a similar clearinghouse site directory with companies listing or offering their service for manufacture and even design.

    There are many 3D printing prototyping companies out there. I haven't really run into electronics prototyping sites, but maybe because I travel in a different circle of links than is necessary. They must exist. There are probably cheaper offshore prototyping companies too.

    So I would like to know too. It would be very cool to be able to design one's own electronics device. It would be super cool if you without owning a company could give conveniently hired consultant, similar to the directions you give a programmer consultnat programmer, some ideas or even better, schematics on what kind of device you want and then they come back with a prototype. in fact I bet their are engineers available for hire on sites like freelancer.com, elance.com etc. who are willing to make a prototype or help you with whatever level of help you need, even if it is just sourcing chips and the like.

    I hope you are not building a bomb...

    Keep us up to date. Heh, this would be a good idea for a website. That is a site you can submit ideas as sketch or detailed as you like for physical electronics products. Low cost engineers from around the world (India graduates far more engineers than we do every year I think for instance) would compete on price and reputation to design or help you design and source and produce your prototype. That sounds like a site that must exist already come to think of it.

  4. Andrew Newey
    December 10, 2012 at 3:33 am

    Hey Joseph, there is a whole story to write here about commercial viability and market testing. But I'll put that aside as that is not what you have asked. To technically develop your product at the small scale of under 100 items, you'll be best using an off the shelf product such as the Arduino or even the AVR Butterfly if that suits your needs.

    To custom build PCB's will require:
    1) board design from an experienced technician
    2) prototype assembly (small scale will be a few people with soldering irons, larger scales of over 5,000 will justify getting automated build systems in place)
    3) prototype testing. testing to make sure your assumptions hold true and the concepts of your system work well
    4) certifications (e.g. c-tick, etc...)
    5) production

    These steps are vague and high level, but hopefully provide some insights to what may be on your horizon. Before doing any of this, I suggest market testing (researching your market demand, expected costs, market value, competition, etc...).

    Here are some further tips I have blogged about in the past: building a product to sell

    Perhaps try searching for your local tech group like Hackerspace for specific tech guidance.

    Best of luck! :)

  5. Ron Lister
    December 10, 2012 at 3:01 am

    Create a business plan, and approach the whole idea as a buisness, apply for a patent then document and video your gadget working. research and find a reputable electronics manufacturing service(EMS) and get a quote to do the size run you want some EMS services even offer other services such as prototyping and distrobution, then look for funding croudsourcing has become popular set up a kickstarter for funding and try to launch your product. Then cross your fingers. Good Luck to you on your endevors. I am not a professional these are just my opinions and of what you might do to get started after doing a general internet search.

    • dragonmouth
      February 14, 2013 at 10:31 pm

      There is a fee of $10,000 and up for a patent application.

  6. Giggity Goebbels
    December 10, 2012 at 1:02 am

    You need setup a company to sell stuff.

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