Subject: Re: making devices
From: Ian Lance Taylor <ian@airs.com>
Date: 31 Aug 2001 20:40:12 -0700

Tom Lord <lord@regexps.com> writes:

> I would like to learn more about what I'll call "device
> manufacturing".  For example, let's suppose I want to build a
> hand-held device with a form-factor similar to Palm devices, or
> stereo-shelf devices similar to HP's linux-based music box.
> 
> I think I can find the electronics easily enough.  What I'd like to
> know more about is low-cost approaches to designing and building the
> device itself.  What's the state of those pipelines?  Where's a good
> place to start?  Are there any rules of thumb about the start-up cost,
> per device cost, and minimum initial run size of typical devices?
> Anything to look out for in areas such as the quality of plastics
> and processes (shock resistance, accuracy of fit, weight, feel, etc.)?
> 
> I have the vague impression that there have been lots of improvements
> in this area in recent years -- but where can I dig in to find the
> details?

I learned a little about this stuff a couple of years ago.

The more you can outsource, the better.  Hardware's tough.  If you try
to do it yourself, it will cost twice as much as it could.

Start up cost for plastic is relatively high.  You have to make a mold
before you can make any plastic items, and that can be expensive.  In
particular, you generally don't get it right the first time--the
connectors are in the wrong place or something--and then you have to
make another mold.

The startup costs for metal are cheaper, but refinements like rounded
corners will cost more.  These guys know a lot about metal cabinets of
various sorts: http://www.corazasystems.com/

The bigger shops use just in time manufacturing.  They keep a small
inventory of various parts on hand, and actually build the devices
when they are ordered.  They replenish the inventory as necessary.  Of
course they prefer to use standard parts which are used by multiple
devices.

If you want to sell a bunch of devices, then supply chain management,
inventory management and quality control are really hard problems.

Hope this helps.

Ian