Manufacturing and selling proto boards

  • Hi everyone,

    I'm now in the situation that I want to go life with my little MCU board. But I want to sell these shiny little pieces as I spent almost a year of my spare time on it. And yes, it is still a hobby for me... but who knows where it will go πŸ™‚

    So, my question is... is here someone who has experiences in producing and selling small batches?

    I encounter these challenges so far:

    • time, as I will become father
    • USB ID for the bootloader (5000$)
    • the manufacturing
    • selling to many different countries
    • legal aspects (like EMF, etc.)

    I think the last point is the biggest one which is also the most ignored one !? Even if you don't sell the board with the RF module soldered on, you will not get an exception from the FCC for instance because of the MCU on it...

    And as I see, there are some ways to go..

    • manually manufacturing (but this is quiet hard for about more than 5 or 10 pieces)
    • self made pick and place (still a lot of work and mony - but would be funny)
    • manufacturing in China (I think Europe is too expensive - or does someone know a good service?)
    • manufacturing and selling in China (like the Seeed propagation)

    I'm also quiet interested in the ... but it does not solve the legal situation. Why do you choose PCBWay?

    And where and how do I have to get certifications regarding EMF? How much work would that be and how much would it cost? Which countries do I have to bear in mind?

    Who has experiences with manufacturing in China? Which one has the best service? (I need all standard pcb colors and 6mil traces/clearance) What does OEM, ODM mean at Seeed propagation? Who is responsible for the sold product? What do you get for a sold piece? I do have non standard components.. do they buy them for me or would this be too expensive?

    Many many questions, maybe someone could answer some of them.. or where I can find them. But I have the feeling that I'm not the only one here πŸ˜„

    And to tell the truth, it is a SAML MCU πŸ˜‰ Most of my time went into the Arduino compatibility...

  • Contest Winner

    @sky2000 I'm also interested in the answers to a lot of your questions. I think that getting an approval for your hardware for different countries might be the hardest and probably the most expensive part. But maybe @Hek knows more about this.

  • FCC reading, bear in mind that FCC only applies to US

    In EU we use CE

    I would manufacture in China, somehow those salaries are fairly low

  • Yes, I know that CE marking is even more important than FCC. But CE seems to be easier .. or it's just because your are more in charge for it on your own.

    But this is also a question: which countries do you have to deliver to, to reach most of the makers..

    The more I think about it the more I think it is impractical. Even if I pay about a 1000€ for a CE marking, I don't know how much I would earn with these boards. So, I want to have three different ones and I can never ever change and improve them anymore or pay again.

    I cannot imagine that Sparkfun and the others are getting an approval for all of their MCU boards. Maybe Adafruit with it's feather RFM69 is an exception. I read about the evaluation boards of TI which do not have an approval but a disclaimer in their documentation. Would this be enough? Otherwise they would not do this..

    So, lets pretend you have an MCU board like all the others on the market. We assume that it is designed correctly. Is it so hard to get an answer to this? Is it because it's legal and no one can guarantee anything? Is it because it is different from country to country?

    Okay... so, my preferred option is so far Seeed Studios. Who has experience with them? Do I circumvent the legal problem by letting them to sell the product because the one who sells or import is in charge of correct approval? Does someone have experiences with this? I know that some well known names like dangerous prototypes are selling their product at Seeed. But if I am only selling my design.. I could have any drawbacks by open source it !?

    I would like to spend more time on designing and prototyping as on these questions πŸ˜„ But I think selling it would be fun too..

  • Hardware Contributor

    saml..nice. I think you have all resumed πŸ™‚ for markings etc...and if you want to sell it. assemble it or ask fabhouse, or kickstarter. fabhouse may not be able to source every components, it depends. and other "non standard" component for them, if they source it it can cost a bit more. same thing for soldering dfn etc cost more than smd..that's why it can happen that makers do their tindie too I guess.
    why drawbacks for opensource it? at seeedstudio, there are opensource products.
    can't wait to see your stuff πŸ˜‰

  • @sky2000
    When TI sell a proto MCU board (This is not a product), this is supposed to be used for evaluation and check functionality, that you can use, and when you then incorporate this into your own product, then you must ensure FCC, CE and other legal docs.
    There is a line between a product (Product= sell to a consumer) and a module/board that is supposed to be used be an expert to develop a product

  • A bit more info here, skip the part about BT membership and go down to FCC

    The easiest is CE, valid for Europe
    Then FCC id for US
    and IC-ID for Canada
    And then as I remember Taiwan, Korea, China, Brazil and other similar countries needs an individual country approval (Brazil is almost impossible to get and takes forever...)

    And a little extra help, design your device so it can be used with a 5Volt micro-USB adapter, then its much cheaper and easier for you to get approvals, since you then don't need to take the high dangerous voltage into account - instead to design your own 230VAC voltage device

  • I think once in a while there was an article on hackaday:

    You probably don't have to reinvent the wheel so why not try to contact some1 who is selling her/his project in small scales?

    It is just a wild guess but I would hope people out there to be friendly and give you a push in the right direction

    I wish you much luck and success!!

    PS: USB ID for the bootloader (5000$) .. why do you want an usb device? If you are just starting why not make a serial connector and sell your product with a already certified USB-Serial connector?

  • Admin


    I guess he is using the onboard USB in the SAML device, which makes things a lot easier/simpler than to have an external USB to serial device (like ftdi) on the board as well..

  • Admin

  • Hardware Contributor

    and i think if you have something nice, want to sell it, so you may need ce or fcc etc. then the best way imho, is kickstarter, or other ways of incubation. because as you said, "I don't know how much I would earn with these boards"
    and, then if you want to design other things, and each time you pay it from your pocket..
    or like others said, contacting well know sellers..
    I'm a bit in the same case as i have few design which could be products, especially one for long range radio, and just thinking about this issue..πŸ˜“ and a KS involves things.. or keep things local/hobbyist like "component" so it stays ambiguous πŸ™‚

    links from Hek looks very nice though.
    I can't help you so much as you can see!

  • Thanks for all your comments πŸ™‚

    I would like to start as small and cheap as possible but to be able to scale it up. It is on purpose to not have kickstarter in mind. I even don't want to calculate a big business case.. But I would need to if I have to pay for all the certifications and USB id.

    So, I am still not sure if it would work with this component/evaluation thing using a big disclaimer. If so, I could think about assembling and selling it on my own. But I only know the Chinese services - but have not tried them for assembling yet. I think any service in Germany would be too expensive.. And all the selling/shipping part.. is this easier on eBay? I think I have to look around much more..

    Or let Seeed or Itead produce and sell it as ODM. Then they would be responsible for everything!?. But I don't know how flexible this works and how much I would get in the end. I think I try to go this way.. first for assembly..

    I think the series on hackaday does not cover the real interesting things on selling a kit/electronic part - so far.
    But this is a good hint. I will ask some well known names out there πŸ™‚ Too bad, that I don't know any kind of incubator here in northern Germany.

    Yes, the board is powered by 5V like from the USB port which is directly connected to the MCU. So, I need to burn a bootloader otherwise someone could only program it with a 10 pin SWD Cortex programmer. But thanks for the pid.code - I have not known/found this before. This would be really great πŸ™‚

    So, still a lot to think about and not enough time.. and I even still don't have a name πŸ˜„ but things are going on..

    My real dream would be to create such an "all in service" to realise all these nice hobby projects out there! Maybe will be there one day πŸ™‚

Log in to reply

Suggested Topics

  • 60
  • 6
  • 1
  • 5
  • 7
  • 306
  • 7
  • 3