How to ‘Instantly turn your project into a “kit”’

Promotion of this idea has focussed so far on the creators or builders of projects creating and publishing a shopping cart from the BOM to create the easy purchase kit. This is very challenging for anyone not experienced in electronics and sourcing of parts! Here are a few snippets of people talking about this issue.

Ihsan, Littlewire project wrote:

Being a full time researcher/student and preparing an OSHW product is so exhausting …

Bunnie has several very interesting posts on part sourcing issues. Bunnie, Mitch Altman and others often travel overseas to the manufacturer and especially check on parts. Even fledgling projects like MCHCK travel overseas trip trying to get cost from $5.85 to $5 ($7 if use someone to sell/support).

Maybe once you have done it ‘many’ times and restrict yourself to a fairly standard process and parts, it gets easier, but for most of us, those first big hurdles remain. Even very experienced project designers have challenges, and as Bunnie has posted, this is an issue for commercial companies.

Ian from DangerousPrototypes has almost 24 products totalling almost 1900 items (not counting Tshirts) in stock at his MAIN supplier (retail value $US40,000) said:

… evidently Seeed was plagued with these problems in the beginning and now they swear by the broker. ….. Seeed has more experience than I will ever have sourcing parts, and this is how they do some of it, so I thought it was an interesting meeting to share. I’ll probably never buy a bulk lot of chips ever.

There other ways than doing it ALL yourself, to turn a projects BOM into a shopping cart, or even a full kit. These alternate approaches can be especially helpful to those with little experience in sourcing.

One partial step in this direction is the just announced Club Jameco. Yes this is commercial, and no, I have no affiliation of any kind. From an open source view, the design agreement (contract) and the return that starts at “5% of Net Sales” are limiting, but Jameco have allowed designer to keep intellectual rights. Jameco also reserves the rights to sell the project any way it can but that does NOT prohibit the Designer from selling his/her own designs to others. For some people, especially those just getting into design, this might be a good way to go!

But this Jameco approach once again demonstrates again the worth of the basic idea – your project can be turned into a kit that many others will buy!  The reality of hardware open or closed is that most of the parts need to come from a commercial source!

If you are not keen on going this way, then publish your own PCB designs and a good BOM, and everyone can then take their own approach to building. Publishing your project is the key first step, then easing the pain of sourcing with good BOMs is a critical next step, even if you just publish how you sourced or scavenged and then encourage others to SUBMIT how they sourced, so you can publish for them.

There are existing commercial vendors who will review and might publish and sell your project, Sparkfun is one. Some only manufacture and do not provide any sourcing assistance, for example SeeedStudios, so that approach is harder – you need the expertise to source and supply, the where the Jameco approach does most of this for you!

Another approach is via electronics magazines, either as formal circuits, or as brief, less formal circuit ideas and then hope that one of the kit supplier companies will stock and sell the kit! Disadvantage is that magazines require a very high standard of projects and also there is only a small number of magazines publishing a small number of projects, so competition would be very high if many people tried this approach.

Hackerspaces already help members develop skills to do this and some directly assist members sell projects, so you may want to check out your local space!

An approach that does not yet seem readily available to hobbyists is use of professional services to help with PCB design rules, gerbers, part selection, price management, best production/distribution/support approach, before project is sent to  manufacturing companies like Seeed, or Mitch Altmans manufacturer Etonnet. So this is a shout out to for someone to create such a business!

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