‘One person’ product design & manufacture

I came across this website tonight, and checked it cause, well, I have iPod charger kits for sale too! What’s interesting about this company and product is that it seems to be a stellar example of the kind of lightweight manufacture that is becoming commonplace.

The future is: a product company is a couple people, fairly adept at designing stuff at the university-educated level but probably not 20-year veterans. There’s no injection-mold tooling guru, there’s no power supply engineer, there may not even be a CAD person. Instead, they can scan online sales-lead sites like alibaba.com and find already-manufactured products that are very close to what they want, like say this

Within a few days they can arrange to buy a sample and figure out what they have to do to get it to work the way they want (say changing around the data line impedances to make Apple stuff happy). Then contact the factory through their friendly sales person and negotiate pricing for any changes. 4 weeks later, they have 1000 pieces in hand (a paltry amount compared to what would normally be considered a reasonable run, like 10-50K) at a few $ each. Design some packaging and stickers and they can set up a webshop to turn a profit within 3 months of the original idea.

Your assignments for tonight?
1) Spend some time at Alibaba (or whatever your favvy sales-lead site would be) and come up with a hardware mashup using ready-to-manufacture products.
2) A USB-power supply such as above costs $2 in qty 1000 and you’ll get it sea-freighted to you in 4 weeks. The extra tooling/hacking costs $0.50 each. Your packaging is another $0.50. Assuming you sell 10/day at $6 each, what is your overhead for a website (include all website and paypal costs) per month? How long does it take to break even?


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2 Comments

  1. I was curious, how did you know the supplier in China would do the extra tooling/hacking for $0.50? Perhaps they say it costs as much as the $2 product itself. Have you found that the factories can be that reasonable on changes personally? I’ve been looking at importing some stuff and doing basically what you mention, hacking it up and making it available to the hobbyist electronics/robotics crowd. There are some really great base things that are very hackable out there.

  2. i dont, its a guess.
    lets say adding 4 resistors to a power supply takes about 4 minutes (with the proper setup and tools)
    that means you can do about 15 per hour
    if you were to pay someone $7.50 an hour its $0.50 each

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