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Circuit Board Design For a Small Startup?

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the board-games dept.

Businesses 262

Patrick Bowman writes "I'm with a small (okay, it's just me) startup planning a camera-related USB device for the mass market. It's probably patentable so I can't give details. I can handle the software but have no hardware design or manufacturing experience. Does anyone have any recommendations for a company to handle the PCB design and manufacture? Instead of starting from scratch I've also considered approaching one of the companies (mostly in China) that make similar devices and asking them to modify their hardware for my requirements, and to provide their source for me to modify. Has anyone taken this route before? How did it work for you?"

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Fuck you Linus and the horse you rode in on (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27356663)

Linux just isn't ready for the desktop yet. It may be ready for the web servers that you nerds use to distribute your TRON fanzines and personal Dungeons and Dragons web-sights across the world wide web, but the average computer user isn't going to spend months learning how to use a CLI and then hours compiling packages so that they can get a workable graphic interface to check their mail with, especially not when they already have a Windows machine that does its job perfectly well and is backed by a major corporation, as opposed to Linux which is only supported by a few unemployed nerds living in their mother's basement somewhere. The last thing I want is a level 5 dwarf (haha) providing me my OS.

Try Express PCB (5, Informative)

pcjunky (517872) | more than 5 years ago | (#27356695)

Express PCB will do prototype PCBs for as little as $50 for three units. Free software to get started with (no autorouting but hey).

Re:Try Express PCB (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27356727)

Yes, ExpressPCB or PCB123 is nice. Do not go the China route. You will only wind up banging your head against the wall unless you speak fluent Chinese.

Re:Try Express PCB (5, Informative)

odin84gk (1162545) | more than 5 years ago | (#27356847)

He is asking someone to design the board, including the schematic design. ExpressPCB, PCB123, and all other PCB houses fabricate the printed wiring board. They do not design and populate a circuit board for a non-technical person.

Yes, there are a LOT of companies who do this. I would compare it to asking Slashdot for a recommendation on a website designer. If you want a professional product, expect to spend well over $50,000 for a decent company.

On a side note, my experience with Chinese contractors is that they focus on making things as cheaply as possible, to a fault. You will hear stories about contract manufacturers in China who will take a design and remove components until it fails functional testing, keeping the savings for themselves. (This is a very, very bad thing since they can remove safety and quality features, such as a snubber circuit).

I would heavily recommend outsourcing to Mexico before outsourcing to China. Even better, do it in the US.

Re:Try Express PCB (3, Insightful)

b96miata (620163) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357357)

Even better, how about we stop encouraging/helping wild-eyed "entrepreneurs" who have these great ideas that are "probably patentable" but who are wholly incapable of actually inventing said devices.

Hell, I have an idea for a 400mpg car for the automotive market. It's probably patentable so I can't give details. I can handle the in-car dvd and entertainment system but have no automotive engineering or manufacturing experience. Does anyone have any recommendations for a company to handle the drivetrain design and manufacture? Instead of starting from scratch I've also considered approaching one of the companies (mostly in Michigan) that make similar vehicles and asking them to modify their hardware for my requirements, and to provide their in-car dvd and entertainment system source for me to modify. Has anyone taken this route before? How did it work for you?"

Re:Try Express PCB (2, Funny)

mcvos (645701) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357501)

1. Ask Slashdot
2. ????
3. Profit!

Re:Try Express PCB (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27357527)


Re:Try Express PCB (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357555)

When I have a "probably patentable" idea, I say "screw it" because patents cost the thousands of dollars I can't afford to gamble, especially since patent law is on the corporations' side and totally against the little guy.

Instead I just post the idea to slashdot so the world will have it for free; prior art. If someone has an idea for a camera but doesn't know how to build a camera, or the electronics for one, he doesn't have much of a chance at making a marketable product out of his "probably patentable" and possibly already patented idea.

Re:Try Express PCB (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27357571)


Re:Try Express PCB (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27357583)

Yeah, let's stop helping people, that's a good idea.

Many companies start off without the complete expertise to produce the product they envision. Outsourcing part of the work to another company might be smart and profitable for both parties. As long as I don't have to share the risk I'm perfectly OK with that. What's your problem?

Re:Try Express PCB (4, Insightful)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357629)

how about we stop encouraging/helping wild-eyed "entrepreneurs"

bullshit, I've seen inspired people with ideas hook up with the people with know-how and build amazing businesses. teamwork multiplies brain power. and your mocking of the article poster isn't even accurate, embedded software is a core component of his product vision

Re:Try Express PCB (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27357641)

Patrick, just ignore b96miata. Don't put all your financial eggs into this basket, but keep pursuing it. Hopefully you'll be posting in a few years about how fabulously well your camera-related-usb-device company is doing. Anyone who dismisses innovators and inventors as 'wild-eyed entrepreneurs in quotes' should do us a favor and either replace their counter-productive smartass remarks with constructive criticism or save their crabbiness for their kids who won't get off their lawn. Good luck.

Re:Try Express PCB (4, Insightful)

AutopsyReport (856852) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357643)

Even better, how about we stop encouraging/helping wild-eyed "entrepreneurs" who have these great ideas that are "probably patentable" but who are wholly incapable of actually inventing said devices.

He did invent it, but he doesn't know how to build it. There's absolutely no shame in having the brains to invent a better product but not having the skills to build it.

So, you can lose the attitude. We do need encouragement for enterpreneurs, whether or not they understand something so inconsequential like how to design hardware. Very, very few of us can.

Bull Crap! (1)

gbutler69 (910166) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357749)

An "Great Idea" is not an invention! Anyone who says otherwise is a douche-bag!

Re:Try Express PCB (3, Insightful)

b96miata (620163) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357801)

What, exactly, is your definition of "invent"?

Part of an invention is the process by which it operates and is constructed.

Patenting an "invention" that you have no ability to actually produce is no different than these companies who patented things like "an internet-connected gaming system with wireless controllers" but never built one, because they didn't know how, yet now feel sony, nintendo, MS et al owe them billions of dollars.

Re:Try Express PCB (4, Insightful)

AutopsyReport (856852) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357981)

You are a little off-base here, bud. What you are talking about are patent trolls which spec out an idea, typically already in use, patent it but do not intend to produce.

This guy has spec'd out an idea but doesn't have the expertise to build it. He still intends to build it, but needs to outsource that part. Care to elaborate how he is comparable to a patent troll?

Re:Try Express PCB (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27357659)

Even better, how about we stop encouraging/helping wild-eyed "smartasses" who have these great ideas that are "probably better off in /. responses" but who are wholly incapable of actually giving good advice.

Re:Try Express PCB (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357795)

Even better. partner with someone that is competent in electronics.

Honestly, if the guy thinks he can do it on his own he is completely nuts.

Either get a few million in operating capitol and hire an EE ($68,000.00 to start) and the associated staff, or find one that will partner with you for 50% of the money to be made.

Re:Try Express PCB (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357971) experience with Chinese contractors is that they focus on making things as cheaply as possible, to a fault. You will hear stories about contract manufacturers in China who will take a design and remove components until it fails functional testing

Or they'll use counterfeit semiconductors that'll blow under minimum load, resulting in lots of angry customers who have to send their expensive toys in for service...

Re:Try Express PCB (3, Informative)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358217)

Nominally if you are operating a consumer electronics business you empower your hardware engineers to never allow a foreign factory to substitute parts in your product.

Your design includes the schematics, the gerbers AND the BOM, when you do your product testing you test ALL THREE. You provide your factory with what they need to manufacture (gerbers+parts) and force them to ask you for substitutions or deviations.

You always do a first article inspection, you always test the output of the factory before you go to market, and you never let them have a choice.

Unless you're in very high volume production, the amount of management you will need here in the US to maintain this, is insane. If you're doing high end, high margin products, you may as well use a US based manufacturer. They can be evil as well, but at least they speak english and are no more than a few timezones away.

I advocate keeping the hardware design in-house with your software. You can successfully outsource the mfg, you probably want to contract out the layout (drafting), but you want at least one hardware engineer who understands how to design and test PCBs on staff. A lot of them (me included) also know how to do device drivers, bootloaders, and programmable logic that you may need, and ought to be able to handle the signal processing discussions which will arise (CCDs aren't foolproof).

Re:Try Express PCB (2, Interesting)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357085)

AC speaks the truth. Do not seek any manufacturing in China unless you're planning on high volume production.

If you're still in prototyping phase, you have no reason to try. You will just end up frustrated.

Re:Try Express PCB (2, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357377)

Do not go the China route. You will only wind up banging your head against the wall unless you speak fluent Chinese.

And if your design is worth anything, you'll start seeing it on eBay, at dollar stores, in mail order catalogs, As Seen On TV... You'll wonder where those orders are, because none will be coming to you... Theft by Chinese blackmarketers.

Re:Try Express PCB (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27358251) They can covert most legacy stuff to USB.

Where are you? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27356713)

Depends on where you are - I recommend working with someone local. This is the kind of project where you would want to work very closely with the manufacturer. If you happen to be in Colorado - I highly recommend Premier Manufacturing ( They're really good at working with specific customers.

Re:Where are you? (4, Insightful)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 5 years ago | (#27356851)

Depends on where you are - I recommend working with someone local. This is the kind of project where you would want to work very closely with the manufacturer.

I second this sentiment. A 3 hr flight to your supplier just puts a big wall betwen you and them. I don't know the scale of operations you are looking into, but you may want to do a few site visits/surveys to make sure that they are up to snuff.

Parts control is important. Just because a component comes from the same supplier, doesn't mean that it was manufactured in the same plant. I learned the hard way that some plants produce on the high side of their tolerances, and some plants produce on the low side of their tolerances. And some plants just don't meet their tolerances.

A refund on a $50 component isn't comforting when all of a sudden your latest units start failing infant mortality tests.

Re:Where are you? (3, Interesting)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357711)

And some plants just don't meet their tolerances.

A refund on a $50 component isn't comforting when all of a sudden your latest units start failing infant mortality tests.

Actually, now that someone posted a comment about some of the Chinese factories... I think this is exactly what happened with our components.

These components were manufactured to a tolerance, and sold in lots of 50-100k. I have no doubt that as production continued, the factory stripped out what it could from the components in terms of structural support gradually. They kept removing it while it continued to work, and we kept using the components over the course of 20 years.

Now, 20 years later, the components that worked for us so long ago, have now been stripped down to eggshell thickness. We began a new production that required some specific qualification tests. Quite literally we ended up with the Rattle in our Shake, Rattle, and Roll tests. The component had snapped off during vibration tests.

Pulling out the microscopes, we found that the newer components used less glue at their adhesion points than the previous components, or components manufactured in the company's flagship plant. The glue was just enough so that the components would survive safety qualification tests, but when exposed to HALT, they were the first things to go.

Good luck with IP if working with the Chinese (4, Insightful)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 5 years ago | (#27356739)

In my direct experience, they are highly-skilled in copying/ripping off and even building on/improving on original ideas. Note: This is for stuff which is often already trademarked, registered and patented.

So, I'd suggest getting some VC/angel financing and professional help, and patent your idea to hell and back in major markets before doing anything else. OK, they'll take a huge chunk of the eventual gain, but 50% of something is a lot better than 100% of nothing.

Re:Good luck with IP if working with the Chinese (4, Insightful)

Samschnooks (1415697) | more than 5 years ago | (#27356853)

So, I'd suggest getting some VC/angel financing and professional help, and patent your idea to hell and back in major markets before doing anything else. OK, they'll take a huge chunk of the eventual gain, but 50% of something is a lot better than 100% of nothing.

The entrepreneur doesn't start getting anything until the VC have hit their return goals. So it's quite possible that the company is sold, or what have you, for a few million and you still end up with nothing.

In short, if you're going the VC way, be sure to read and understand the agreement and get legal advice!

Re:Good luck with IP if working with the Chinese (5, Informative)

nebby (11637) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357069)

This generally isn't true. A VC will get preferred stock and as such in a liquidation event they will be able to recover their money before anyone else can. (So if you take on 1M in funding, sell the company for 500K, you're right, you get nothing and they lose 500K). I'm guessing this is what you're thinking of.

If you sell the company for 2M and they put in 1M, they get their 1M back and the rest of the pie can be sliced up in different ways depending on the term sheet. (Google participating preferred stock cap)

Re:Good luck with IP if working with the Chinese (1)

qoncept (599709) | more than 5 years ago | (#27356905)

In my experience the Chinese are a lot better at copying something and making it a whole lot worse. For examples, see cordless drills, end tables, keyboards, silverware, toy cars, hinges, blue jeans and Great Wall trucks.

Re:Good luck with IP if working with the Chinese (5, Interesting)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357153)

Some truth in that, but if your market has already been hugely cannibalised, (before you even get to it) then it's small comfort to say, "look, my product is better".

Also, I was in China recently with the boss of a major multinational which develops and sells complex electromechanical industrial products. He showed me two products; one made in their 'state of the art' factory in Europe, the other a Chinese copy. He asked me to spot the difference. I could not.

His reply; "It's easy. Hook 'em up and the Chinese one works". Ouch.

Re:Good luck with IP if working with the Chinese (0)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 5 years ago | (#27356937)

Well, I would skip the VC/Angel angle, and just get a few built using the ideas discussed here and then PATENT THE LIVING FUCK OUT OF IT. USA, Canada, EU, Japan, etc. Then sell it to a company that does "camera related USB" devices for (pinky finger at corner of mouth) MILLIONS OF DOLLARS.

Then buy a farm near a river in Tennessee and start your own religion. That's where one person can make stupid amounts of money.


Re:Good luck with IP if working with the Chinese (0, Troll)

tiananmen tank man (979067) | more than 5 years ago | (#27356981)

The person that posed this question to slashdot knows this because he said he is looking into patenting his idea. Yet he is wanting to copy/modifiy someone else's design and is hopping the Chinese contact will just give him the source for the design. wow, some kind of hypacrite he is.

Re:Good luck with IP if working with the Chinese (2, Insightful) (463190) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357089)

In my direct experience, they are highly-skilled in copying/ripping off and even building on/improving on original ideas. Note: This is for stuff which is often already trademarked, registered and patented.

OTOH, it sounds like he's not looking for some revolutionary hardware design, indeed he might modify an existing design.

In my experience manufacturing in China, I have not had any problems with knockoffs (although that has happened in the USA!). However, my products have always had their special sauce in the software/firmware. Software is protected by copyright and even if someone in China clones your product, they will not be able to sell it in the US or Europe.

It's much easier to defend yourself with copyright law than with patents. On that note, file a provisional patent - just write up how it works in your own words, and get a lawyer to file it for you. Personally I would not go any further than that. This evidences when you had the idea, and even though it's much less than an actual, issued patent, having it on file can go a long way in the future if you need to fend of a patent on validity grounds.

So, I'd suggest getting some VC/angel financing and professional help, and patent your idea to hell and back in major markets before doing anything else. OK, they'll take a huge chunk of the eventual gain, but 50% of something is a lot better than 100% of nothing.

Especially in this economy, I would not be out trying to raise money. And in general, you need to be very careful about slicing up your cap chart right off the bat. Get as far as you can on your software work and build a solid proof of concept first. Hopefully you can fund that yourself or moonlight it. By then you'll have a better idea what you'll need to get off the ground.

Re:Good luck with IP if working with the Chinese (2, Informative)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357651)

It's much easier to defend yourself with copyright law than with patents.

Also, patents last only 20 years, while copyright is unconstitutionally (despite what SCOTUS says) forever for all practical purposes. Plus, patents require lawyers and cost thousands of dollars, while registering a copyright is cheap; the ones I registered in the 1980s were only $20 each (they've probably gone up).

If you have to defend it, you're going to need a lawyer in any case.

Parent is Half-Right (1)

mpapet (761907) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357669)

In my direct experience, they are highly-skilled in copying/ripping off and even building on/improving on original ideas.

I can second this experience having worked for an OEM.

The comments about financing work for some, but not for most. VC will *at least* want to see some finished product moving. Even then you can easily end up with nothing to show for your efforts partnering with VC.

Finally, if the device is so special, license it out as soon as possible. Why? Because if you are at all successful your idea will be copied and sold at a steep discount. And no, you won't be able to afford the litigation.

Find some partners (5, Insightful)

u38cg (607297) | more than 5 years ago | (#27356741)

If you're serious about producing something that has the potential to be mass market, I suggest you bring some partners on board. For product development, find an electronic engineer that can cope with the hardware side; and also someone that can speak marketese and has experience in accessing the kind of markets you're talking about.

It's nice and all to think you can be the next Richard Branson by doing it all yourself, but in reality very few businesses go from zero to IPO with a single guy pulling all the strings.

Re:Find some partners (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27357087)


I disagree with your post almost in its entirety.

There are plenty of great electrical engineers who didn't get involved in the profession they became famous for until later in life -- the most blatant example being Grandma Moses, who started making circuit boards after most of her generation was dead...long dead. Some people choose their young adult jobs because they need to make a living, or circumstance forces them, or because they simply never had exposure to something they later discover or it was the wrong type of exposure. There are so many reasons why someone can have a passion for something and not pursue it until later in life.

Even if I grant you that 10,000 hours is the right number, 10,000 hours is about 5 years of a full-time job. I will say that lines up pretty closely with my personal experience, as I switched to a CS major with two and a half years left (from math, from studio art) and felt extremely solid after my first three years on the job.



Re:Find some partners (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27357111)

An 'electronic' engineer huh? I better check with the IEEE to see if they have any members like that ;)

Re:Find some partners (1)

u38cg (607297) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358187)

Hi, and welcome to the *World* Wide Web. Here in the UK, electronic and electrical engineering are seperately taught and studied fields. I am aware that this is different to how things are done in some parts of the world; on the other other hand, Sir, may I suggest that you are aware of very little at all.

Re:Find some partners (1)

Rorschach1 (174480) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358199)

Depends a lot on the exact value of 'mass market' and the sales potential. Really, a lot of this can be done with contract labor. Once the design is done, there are plenty of places out there (many of them reputable outfits that aren't likely to swipe your IP, even) that can handle component sourcing, injection molding, assembly, and even fulfillment.

Marketing should absolutely not be neglected. Us nerds tend to underestimate (or simply find distasteful) the amount of marketing and promotion that needs to be done to make a product successful.

In this case, I think building a working prototype needs to be the first step, and then you've got something more than just big ideas if you do go looking for partners or VC.

And I have to point out that not everyone WANTS an IPO. The best thing about owning my own company is that I don't have to answer to anyone except my customers. Investors are the last thing I want right now. Yeah, I'll probably never become a billionaire with a privately held company, but I could be happy enough as a millionaire. I have simple tastes; I just want a nice house somewhere, an airstrip, and a T-38 Talon with a Robotech paint job.

Try gEDA and do it yourself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27356749)

Why not just download the open-source suite, gEDA and build the board yourself. Then, you can send the gerber files to any manufacturing site you wish.

Re:Try gEDA and do it yourself (2, Informative)

mkiwi (585287) | more than 5 years ago | (#27356857)

He has no hardware design experience, he needs someone else to design and layout the circuit. gEDA will not work for him.

That said, gEDA is ok for many things, but it lacks in features compared to the free Mentor Graphics PADS version that is probably good enough for his needs. It is also way too hard to create custom schematic symbols in gEDA. FOSS is way behind when it comes to this, unfortunately- I wish it were different.

Going to China saves you the patenting hassle... (4, Insightful)

dg2fer (1114433) | more than 5 years ago | (#27356779)

Think twice. If you request a vendor modifying his product, and it's easy enough he can do it right away -- how do you think you can ensure he won't run his product line to make more devices than you have requested?

By contract perhaps? Go and sue a chinese vendor in China, then...

First, build a prototype yourself so you know it will work. Or find someone at your location with the appropriate knowledge. Short distances speed up development. The one will then very probably be able to design a custom PCB out of the prototype. And the appropriate software (e.g. Eagle) isn't expensive.

But if you shouldn't know how to build the prototype yourself, I wonder how you know your invention will work at all...

However, good luck.

There are many (2, Informative)

AgeingProgrrammer (1517111) | more than 5 years ago | (#27356791)

many many sources for this - look in trade journals such as EDN and Electronic Design and Embedded Systems Design.

To a lesser degree, some wisdom can be gleaned from Circuit Cellar Ink.

I have some (limited) experience with Asian contract mfrs, and would not recommend this for a startup.


Keep costs down (1)

AbbeyRoad (198852) | more than 5 years ago | (#27356805)

My advise is to learn to do as much as you can yourself.

Try not to rely on other companies or people for
consulting or design (expensive) until you are
sure you have hard data proving your design will
make money.

Most people think a startup is a risky project to
make lots of money. This is a wrong and dangerous
point of view.

A startup should be seen as a project to prove
the viability of a new business. You can tick
it as a success when that viability has been
established definitively as "yes" or "no",
while at the same time spending as little capital
a possible in the process.

Doing as much as possible yourself means less
chance waisting capital.

Re:Keep costs down (1)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357995)

I wished my capital would waist a bit more ;)

But you are right, the disadvantage is the time spent to pick up something new. Time is money, you could pay someone who already has invested that time in electronics and use his expertize with your vision; you cannot master everything, or not fast enough to get that idea out. (it's something which frustrates me as well as I like to understand and be able to do anything from the ground up. It's just not economical and isn't efficient.)

It's fairly easy to use something as PICAXE [] to quickly prototype something, get an existing design, study some specs and perform your modifications on existing components.

B&B Electronics (1)

joelmax (1445613) | more than 5 years ago | (#27356809)

You may want to check out B&B Electronics. A few years ago, they were dealing with custom boards, not sure if they still do now, but you can check em out at [] (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27356823)

You can find somebody very capable on Ask for references from previous customers.

As I've often said before... (5, Informative)

KlaymenDK (713149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27356849) []
A printed circuit board manufacturer providing all your custom printed circuit board []
Electronic design and PCB sub-contract assembly []
PCB manufacturing; verified a la carte on demand specifications ...also... []
Machine shop to create custom parts, products and prototypes []
TAP Plastics specialize in fiberglass resins and fabrics for fiberglass repair, plastic containers, and custom fabrication

(non-affiliation yadda yadda goes here)

Re:As I've often said before... (4, Informative)

End Program (963207) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357073)

Protocase is great if you need a custom chassis or even sheet metal panels. []

Stay Local (4, Informative)

timias1 (1063832) | more than 5 years ago | (#27356855)

There is a cottage industry of small engineering firms that could suit your needs in the US (assuming your in the US). Generally they are run by senior engineers who have done many projects of similar size to what you're sort of talking about. Generally the firms in China do not do their own design work, and unless you speak Chinese, the language barriers will be an extra challenge to overcome, not to mention the difference in time zones. Also don't forget you will have to gain certain regulatory approvals depending on the nature of your product, and I doubt anyone in China has much background designing the product around these requirements. Personally I think it is best to stick with a local company, or at least one in the same country as you.

Re:Stay Local (4, Funny)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 5 years ago | (#27356939)

But think of all the free publicity he'll get when his Chinese-produced product gets condemned for leaking toxic everything into the environment, the workers all turn out to be slaves, etc., etc., etc.

Lotsa good and horrible advice above (4, Insightful)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357131)

Lotsa good and horrible advice above.

If you're going to make a commercial product, and you want it to be manufacturable and have high yield and work reliably for more than a week, you need a lot of expert help.

You need an EE to design the circuit.

    Then you need a manufacturing EE to redesign the circuit so it does not use any rare or known unreliable or hard to surface mount or single sourced parts.

  Then you need a quality engineer who will redesign things so the hot voltage regulator is not right next to the electrolytic capacitors, and shuffle the pcb traces so they're less likely to short out from tin whiskers, and rearrange them for better ESD protection, and they will test it in an environmental chamber for performance over a wide temperature range.

  Then you'll need a standards EE who will make sure it meets EU and US standards for safety and toxicity and flammability and electromagnetic emissions.

Then you need someone on site at the manufacturing facility to do QA and make sure they don't divert your product into the black or grey market.

Then you need enough extra time and money to do the whole thing over again if the original design still turns out to be unmanufacturable or have poor yield or reliability.

Don't feel too bad, when Apple set up their own disk drive manufacturing facility, the yield even after extensive tweaking was only about 40%. And that's with huge amounts of money and lots of experienced engineers in the area.

You need a whole lot more than a PCB house.

Re:Lotsa good and horrible advice above (2, Informative)

SparkEE (954461) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357891)

There's no reason all those EEs you mention can't be the same person, unless you're hiring someone with less than a few years experience, or has worked only in a large company all his career. There are many small (1 or 2 people) design firms that have the expertise to see a design from concept to production.

Find a local design consultant, someone relatively senior in experience. Let that person worry about finding a PCB house for prototypes and small-scale production. If the product is successfull, and the small-scale run sells, then hire someone on full-time to manage the large-scale production.

Re:Lotsa good and horrible advice above (1)

ajlitt (19055) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357985)

From experience, I can tell you that you won't get anywhere with a hardware startup if you don't start prototyping until you've lined up resources to see your product through production. No investor is going to listen if you're asking for millions up front in material, engineering, and manufacturing costs, especially if you don't have a prototype or mock-up to show for it.

Bring in an engineer experienced in the technologies and market you're targeting (USB, embedded, PCB design, CE products). Give them a real stake in the company. Fuel out of YOUR pocket a small prototype run. Once you have something in-hand and with enough functionality to demonstrate your idea, seek an investor to fund everything the parent poster mentioned.

Expect that your first prototype will not be in the final form factor. This has two advantages: Larger components (and I mean TQFP, 603 discretes, etc) can be hand-soldered relatively easily in small quantities. Getting a company to do small batch assembly is expensive, and unless you have more than a few hundred components hand assembly isn't too time consuming. If you must use an IC that's BGA or hard to solder QFN, see if the board house can solder just that part. You can hand solder them if you're daring, but you probably don't want to risk your company on a "reflow skillet". Using a larger board gives room for debug headers and test points, which will give your engineer the ability to fix design bugs with some crafty soldering. Even with an oversized prototype board, budget for at least two respins of the board.

Re:Stay Local (1)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357431)

As someone who formerly worked in the US consumer product safety testing industry, I can say this is the least of his concerns.

Starting with hardware that's already been through electromagnetic compatibility testing would be a huge leg up in getting the project done. A USB based camera device wouldn't need any safety certifications to be sold in the US or Canada but FCC compliance testing does need to be done in the US. Sale in the EU may require a declaration of conformity that it complies with the low voltage and EM directives.

Also, many chinese manufacturers are quite familiar with the product testing and certification process since a lot of them export their products to the US, Canada and Europe where certifications are either de facto required or truly legally mandatory.

Captain Jack Taylor (1)

Captain Jack Taylor (976465) | more than 5 years ago | (#27356943) If you need actual DESIGN done, we're pros. Matteo's one of the best CEs in the US right now and Reason...well he's Reason Bradley and needs no introduction. :P Want it done right, price negotiable? Talk to us and we'll help you get what you need. :)

Get the product working First! (1)

odin84gk (1162545) | more than 5 years ago | (#27356961)

Mass production is great for getting the cost down, but it is a lot of work and requires a lot of money.

You should really get it working before you go down that road. If you want some hardware quickly and easily, go to a university and look for someone doing a senior project to design your electronics. This would only cost you $500 for parts. Otherwise, you should go about it in the same way you would look for a website designer.

If you want to do true mass-production, be prepared to raise well over $500,000 for all of the require overhead (Hard tooling for enclosures, test fixtures for automated testing, printing manuals, not to mention packing materials).

Don't worry about a patent or having China steal your IP. Everyone thinks their idea is revolutionary, and the China shops won't recognize a revolutionary product until it slaps them in the face. As far as patents go, any company that wants to rip you off can get around your patent very easily. Don't worry about the patent until you have a working product and you have the funding to mass-produce it.

Device qualification (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27356977)

The first hurdle is prototyping the device. If push comes to shove find a near-broke college student to do the hardware design for you, a better choice would be an outfit with experience such as Parallax, Systronix, or Digilent. But before you can go 'mass-market', you will need to test your device and not just to make sure it works. Does it meet all government requirements (FCC part 15)? Is it safe (UL certification)? Are there going to be any manufacturability issues (just because you made one does not mean someone can make 100,000 for you reliability and cheaply).

Get An NDA! (4, Informative)

CyberLord Seven (525173) | more than 5 years ago | (#27356999)

I assume the "patentable" parts of this are in the software since you have no hardware experience. Others are giving good advice on where to go for hardware experience. In particular I like the idea of a partner. If you live in the State of California I suggest you try to snag a copy of "Small Time Operator". It is published by Nolo Press in Berkeley and is full of smart business advice for those new to owning their own business in the State of California. Check out the sections on incorporation and partners carefully.

Something I don't think you will get from others is the suggestion that before you talk to anyone you get a copy of an excellent non-disclosure agreement (NDA).

With a good NDA you can talk freely about your project with little risk of the second party being able to talk to a third party without significant financial repercussions. I have worked in procurement* for the last sixteen years and I could talk for hours on the value of a good NDA. Try using Google for an example of a good NDA. They need not be complex, but they do need to spell out the repercussions if the second party talks about your idea with a third party. Get them to sign before you share any critical details.

*I hate that we stopped being purchasing and became procurement for one simple reason; one of the accepted definitions of someone who procures is pimp! I really don't think that is the impression a Fortune 500 company wants to make, but then they did not ask me. :)

Re:Get An NDA! (1)

b96miata (620163) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357191)

At least they didn't name the department Procurement and Importunation.

Good luck (5, Informative)

Rorschach1 (174480) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357003)

Good luck getting source code from Chinese companies. I've tried a few times, and even with a company that I already buy tens of thousands of dollars of equipment from, the answer has always been an emphatic 'no'.

In some cases, the problem may be that the source code isn't theirs. Take two way radios, for example. There are many, many different models on the market that all share the same basic firmware. Each of the companies licenses it from one design house, probably along with some of the hardware designs, too.

It's often hard to tell who's even a manufacturer and who's just a trading company, unless you go and personally tour the factory. Even then they can make it difficult to figure out who's who.

Where I HAVE had a measure of success is in buying partial products. For example, if you look on SparkFun Electronics' website, you'll see a weather sensor assembly. I bought those from a weather station manufacturer in China, and since their usual wireless interface wasn't FCC approved and wasn't needed for my application anyway, I negotiated a deal to buy the bare sensors at a significantly reduced price that still gives them enough extra profit margin to make it worth the hassle (the unneeded touch screen display is the expensive part), while still being far cheaper than designing and producing my own hardware. The reason they're at SparkFun now is that I'm way behind schedule on designing my own electronics package and I got tired of them taking up warehouse space, and sold part of the lot at wholesale.

The good news is that lots of Chinese companies are basically family-owned, and you CAN sometimes get through to the people who make the decisions, where with US companies you might not. But again, I've never had any success getting firmware source (even relatively simple stuff that I could recreate myself in a week) from any of them. Cable assemblies, housings, and so forth, sure. But not a single line of code.

If you're serious about making it happen, consider catching a flight to Hong Kong next month. The Hong Kong Electronics Fair, electronicAsia, and the China Sourcing Fair are all there at the same time around the 12-16th, and the massive Canton Fair (this will be my first year there) is right after that in Guangzhou, but that takes a little more planning.

Just showing up in person and leaving business cards (bring a few hundred, seriously) will get you much better responses later in email. They know you're serious enough to make the trip, at least. That was a benefit I hadn't foreseen my first trip. Also, allow a couple of days extra after the fairs for meetings with vendors if you do make some good contacts.

Also, one book I've found particularly useful in understanding the business culture in China is "The Essential Guide for Buying from China's Manufacturers" by James Lord, ISBN 1419628461. Wish I'd read that before my first trip there. (Tip: Beware the phrase "no problem". =])

If you do make it to Hong Kong, drop me a note and I'll meet you for a beer some time.

Re:Good luck (4, Funny)

cerberusss (660701) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357863)

Tip: Beware the phrase "no problem".

Also beware the phrase: "do you want a girl for tonight?"

When I did my bachelor's thesis in Shanghai, I once drank a beer with one of the Western people I knew there. He worked in trade. He said that agreeing to said phrase will significantly alter your negotiation position in the morning. On the wrong side. :-)

Try a design firm to handle the EE. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27357023)

I would recommend a product design firm. like these guys:

As inspiration, you could look at Cobra as an example (they make GPS Naviagtion systems and radar detectors. The whole company is 2 guys who outsource everything).

shameless plug: (5, Informative)

bdcowell (146124) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357031)

I work at Plexus, a global Electronic Manufacturing Services company, in the engineering services division. We do hardware, PCB layout, software, mechanical, test, project management, etc. Whatever piece or pieces you are looking for, we can do. If you want to use us for manufacturing eventually, great. You pay for the development, so you own the IP and can take it wherever you want. We work with multi-billion dollar companies but also have worked with 1-man startups before. []

You might check out open source... (1)

kabocox (199019) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357037)

A while back, I came across some articles on open source hardware and how exciting/fast growing those projects are. The thing isn't that you have a patentable idea. It's can you stay ahead once anyone else sees your idea and makes their slightly different copy of it?

Apparently, the thing with the OSH is that they released their base design and have basically something like a forum to suggest/give improvements. Of all the various Chinese fabs that they ordered a few thousand from, each of the chinese folks once learning that they could reuse the base hardware ran with it and used it for other stuff as well. The original folks are still abit ahead with better features/support than the rest, but its all the competition and low prices that make it possible.

Where they've learned how to make money is on the support and custom R&D end. Its amazing some of the things and prices on some of their products. But the profit margins are much, much lower than what you'd want. There was something about a device attached to art work to track it and it being sold for a $150-200 per device to museums. Their open source hardware could do the same thing for like $5-10 for a couple. They had a few other examples that were similar.

Now obviously you want your business to be long term profitable and not to just hand our your ideas and such. I'd suggest that you do a quick search in the OPH and just double check if anyone else is already doing what you are planning and if so how much it's going to cost them. It's liable to cost you about the same to produce something similar. Plus you might consider how wide spread some of those various projects are. If it looks like your idea can bring in money for the next 5 years, by all means patent it and make as much as you can off it. If it looks like there are a couple of others about ready to do the same thing and are giving away the specs at cost, then you should seriously think about joining up, or using their hardware for portions of your project or releasing your specs. It depends on how great your competitive advantage actually is about what you decide to do though.

One thing to remember though even if there is a project doing something similar or you just decide to use their hardware in your stuff, it's that you are selling your stuff to your clients. Is this something that you can make a living off of "support" or assisting others in setting it up? If not seriously think about how you tend to bring in money in the future. One day some one will be competing against you. Now a days that could be far sooner than you realize.

Have it done for you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27357055)

1) Although some people recommend learning it yourself, I would advice from experience to find someone. There are lots of people that offer such a service for a fairly low price, locally and they will help you improve your design with their experience. I haven't tried it myself, but seems like a good place to find someone like that. Remember, copying a reference design is often not the smartest choice, since quite a few reference designs use uncommon parts with long leadtimes and high prices. Having someone help you, who has the experience can/will save you a lot of time, hassles and money. And get you access to parts (a lot of companies don't sell to individuals).

2) A second way to find an experienced designer is to just ask a local PCB manufacturer if they know someone who does a lot of this stuff and is working freelance or at a small firm.

Good luck!

If you're in Belgium.... (1)

Ptur (866963) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357061)

contact Dekimo ( - they do design and production on any level you want.
disclaimer - I work there :)

if you have some time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27357063)

You can use the free tool eagle from cadsoft (free for small designs, and works on linux) to design the pcb

You probably won't make the best pcb at first, but it would get you going, don't try to make the pcb yourself, if you've never done that it would take you a lot of time, cost a lot for the equipment and you won't get good results without at least a month practise.
Lot's of small companies can make the pcb for you cheap, find a company close to home, it much more fun than supporting the chinese copy factory

EZpcb (3, Informative)

arugulatarsus (1167251) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357075)

I've had nothing but success with EZPCB. They charged around 150$ for 36 boards... They design, routing and assembly services too.
The way I coordinated with them, because they are in china, is by MSN instant messenger when I was about to go to bed.
They are courteous, they make a good product, and are inexpensive.
expect a 2 week delay from order to reception.

Re:EZpcb (1)

arugulatarsus (1167251) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357103)

Double post. A selling point of EZpcb is impeccable English.

I'd think hard about your plan... (4, Insightful)

sirwired (27582) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357135)

You want to target the mass-market, yet your firm consists of only you? You need to think about how you are going to get mass-market retailers to actually sell the thing, how you are going to get press coverage to publicize it, where you are going to get funding for the production runs, etc.

There are certainly ways to go about this for software (i.e. a game developer producing a little gem for XBox Live), but because of manufacturing costs, this is harder to do for hardware.

I think your best hope is to get a crude hardware prototype with your software running on it, and let an actual mass-market company buy it off of you (or hire you.) The alternative would be to somehow get funding, but if you have no experience in the industry, you won't find anybody willing to hand you money.


Germans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27357143)

Try [] :)

Make a prototype! (1)

nietsch (112711) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357155)

This sounds like you did not really think it all trough, and overestimate your own potential. It is not hard nowadays to produce a electronic prototype of most thinks you can think of, with the help of MCU's from AVR. The Arduino community does it all the time, so why not you? If you can demonstrate such a prototype, you can convince other people that it might make a profit. If you don't, well maybe sucking (up to) VC's (off) might work.
By the way, if you are not able to do the hardware side, then I very much doubt that your idea is more then a software solution. If it is not, it is not patentable. Please don't waste societies resources then.

File a Provisional Patent Application (maybe) (2, Informative)

3D-nut (687652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357179)

You can get some short-term IP protection by filing a PPA. Filing fee was $100 last I knew (small entity). Go to and buy "Patent It Yourself" for about $30. Read, understand, and follow all safety instructions. Then you can talk to potential partners, investors, vendors, etc. more confidently.

Better go with local companies. (1)

colin1256 (232851) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357221)

If your device contains patentable ideas, I would really encourage you not to have someone in China or elsewhere out of country do it for you, otherwise any IP you may have in it may well be gone right away.

It is definitely the better idea to look up local electronics design and assembly companies and have them do the work for you. Not only are they going to be in the same timezone as you are and will generally turn out to be much more responsive with regards to modifications and problems than someone abroad.
Especially if you go with small businesses, your project is going to be much more relevant to them in turns of money in comparison to their total earnings, so you will be much more important to them than you would be to a large design and assembly company.

Just look up a few in the yellow pages, have a chat with them and go with the one(s) that you feel you are on the same "wavelength" on.

Also, you can sign Non Disclosure Agreements with them, which are much easier to enforce because only your local laws apply.

Avoid China (1)

Russell2566 (1205416) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357297)

I own a small business that was looking to get some manufacturing work done. While the Chinese were dirt cheap, in the end their version of what is ethical business practice and what are's was turned out to be vastly different.

You also get what you pay for. Look to a company in the US first for starting out. Once you have a proven design and concept, then consider moving elsewhere to build what you have. The extra money up front will give you a better product!

4PCB - highly recommended! (and American) (1)

skydude_20 (307538) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357317) [] great manufacturer located in Denver. They have great deals, willing to work with you at all levels of production (prototypes vs. actual production releases). If you are new to design they are very helpful and willing to test your designs before printing, to warn of any mistakes you may have.

Partners (1)

morgauxo (974071) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357341)

Someone suggested getting partners, at least an Electrical Engineer and a salesperson. I couldn't agree more. If you have a good idea and can handle the software side then great, thats your contribution to your new company but you need more. I would suggest finding an EE student at a local university with an interest in self-employment. As for sending your idea to China to get prototyped... take a look on Ebay for chinese iPhone clones. Do you really want to send your idea there? I realize that you probably dream of being the one and only #1 of your own company since you aren't already looking for partners but consider this... starting out your resources will be limitted. Cheap help will give you exactly what you pay for.. cheap product. That is, If they don't just run off with your idea. Good help will probably be out of reach for a while. Partners don't get paid in money. They are paid with a share in your company which at this point costs you nothing to give as it is only an idea. Ideas are a dime a dozen. It's the work and dedication of someone truly committed to making the idea real that will make or break you. New business take more commitment than babies to keep them alive it's only a partner who will have that kind of motivation. While you may think you lose out in the end by giving them a part of your company/idea you will also be gaining a part of the ideas, skills and work they put in which means you come out ahead. Your partners will be motivated to see you succede as their own success is tied to yours.

There are open source groups that do this (1)

Theovon (109752) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357363)

Check out the following groups:
The Open Hardware Foundation (
The Open Graphics Project (,

Their OGD1 board is in prototypes. They should be able to help you with design and refer you to board fabrication companies.

don't go to china, your IP *will* be stolen (2, Interesting)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357375)

its sad but true.

I almost went thru this myself. I'm a software guy but do a decent amount of hw design and building. I once designed a camera RF remote control (it was semi popular on the dpreview website where I posted the design) and I even started talking to a china business guy (I met on ebay as a seller for some of my raw parts) and we started to talk about what it would take to custom make the boards and the plastic boxes for it.

upfront tooling costs and all that would have been covered by me, not him. I'd have to take essentially all the risk.

and what would I get for it? my production run would be done but then, once done, they'd run 10x or 100x of their own from MY design! they'd screw me. I got that feeling loud and clear.

I didn't go any further. sad, isn't it? but I can't 'police' across the ocean and I do NOT want to spend my effort only to be robbed of my design so blatantely. I was told 'this is how it is' either deal with it or don't do it.

so I didn't do it.

if you can, do it locally. you have more control over things and the ethics, well, they may match yours a bit better.

(I also have learned a lot by hanging out on various DIY audio forums; there are a lot of folks who have experience with 'kit building', meaning they make/design their circuit and board (usually using Eagle) and then sell partial or full kits. its a good exercise to go thru and there's lot of info about it for people starting out, just check the web based audio forums or any other 'DIY' style forum).

Eagle isn't too bad and even a sw guy like me came up to speed on it in less than a week and had a board designed (on paper, at least; then I did the toner transfer method to get my first copper board made).

anyway, avoid china. unless you KNOW how to manage such a thing, most likely you will be taken to the cleaners ;(

Do it in your local country, or better yet, area (4, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357429)

back in 1994-95, I had an idea of converting tv signal to a video stream (ala sling media). Contacted a firm in Atlanta, and they were going to charge some 20K (guarenteed 3 boards, etc), but found a firm in HK that would do it for 5K. We opted to go with the 5K. Had issue after issue after issue with them. In the end, after spending 20K and still not having SQUAT from them, I called it quits. That is why Sling has a product and we did not. Otherwise, the unit would be different and it would have come from Colorado.

Do yourself a favor and do it local. Once you have the product selling, if you still feel like you can increase the margins by getting it done overseas, then and only then do it. Just keep in mind that Asia does not have the same laws and know it. Basically they will nickle and dime you to death. And for the states, I suggest knowing EXACTLY upfront what you need done. Shop around. They all have specialties of items that are one offs. There are a number of chips out there that will allow you to try various ideas.

One last thing. If you get your company going, if I may suggest, keep your engineers local. If you go over to Asia, any ideas you have will likely end up in some other product before yours is out the door.

Cypress Microsystems may still provide... (1)

polyomninym (648843) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357457)

PSoC Express prototyping/design boards. Google that. Good luck on your quest.

We Did Something Similar (1)

limekiller4 (451497) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357461)

Not too long ago I worked for a company that would take OEM (Gilbarco, Tokheim, etc.) gasoline pump parts (pcbs, panels, buttons, etc.) and send them to Shenzhen, China, to be ripped apart, analyzed and remade. IMO the recreated parts were better than the original.

So rather than trying to convince OEMs to modify their designs for your purposes, buy one, send it to such a company and pay FAR less while getting exactly what you need with full control over the manufacturing process.

Check out... (1)

matt_kizerian (980321) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357463) [] . They do board design and prototyping, and can help you get set up with a manufacturer.

batchPCB (1)

Spiked_Three (626260) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357489) [] you might have to wait a week or 2 but cheap and just what you are looking for.

If you are still at the prototype stage (4, Informative)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357627)

Have you thought of approaching one of your local universities with a view to making a lot of the design a project for a gifted student (Cut him in on any royalties). It's the kind of thing most Uni's are crying out for. If it ends up winning any awards you are happy the Uni's happy and so is the student.

Just a thought

Re:If you are still at the prototype stage (1)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358153)

In my experience, "gifted students" have their own new product ideas; they don't need someone else's.

Re:If you are still at the prototype stage (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27358253)

That's actually a really good idea. There are a lot of electrical engineers graduating each year that need to choose a final project, either sponsored by a professor or by a company. With this year wrapping up, it is a perfect time to get on the list of projects for next year's students.

Technical Mandala (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27357713)

I used:

for our machine controller board on a time and materials basis. I recommend them highly. They handle relatively small quantity production for us, too.

Wired Article (1)

AutopsyReport (856852) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357731)

There is a Wired article [] that you might find informative. It chronicles a hardware startup. It won't help you with the specifics, but it will provide a heads-up for what you can expect dealing with a manufacturer from China, selling, etc.

ok look... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27357819)

I am said hardware guy, inventor (14 issued so far) and entrepreneur. My advice is:
1. You can easily know for sure whether your device is patentable with a reasonably simple keyword search of USPTO databases.
2. If it is truly NEW, count on $10k to $12k to draft, file, and convince the examiner. With this in mind is it still worth the effort? How about if giant competitor A challenges you in court?
3. The only way you can know #2 above is through market analysis. DO THIS FIRST!

If the answer to the market question is not a profound slam dunk yes, I suggest you market it as a hobbyist accessory for low cost to try and recoup your development costs.

There are literally millions of hardware / PCBoard layout / manufacturing guys out there. A simple google search will show this.

Save your money by doing your homework and taking a cold hard look at your work through a skeptic's eyes.

Best of luck. I've had some luck at this, but I still have a day job too.


File a provisional patent first (1)

Steve1952 (651150) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357871)

It's a good idea to at least file a provisional patent on your concept before you discuss it with vendors. Write up your ideas and sketches as completely as you can, and send it in to the USPTO with a check for $110 using form SB16, available at: []

Find an Electronic Contract Manufacturer (1)

realperseus (594176) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357941)

Pat, I'm going to assume that you have all the legal things under control and what you need now is someone to manufacture the device... Google "electronic contract manufacturers" [your city name]. Most of these places will have experience with what you want to accomplish hardware-wise and will sign non-disclosures, etc.. . Good luck!

I work in this field. (1)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 5 years ago | (#27357943)

Find a local electrical engineer who is willing to do consulting work and get that person to do the schematic and produce a working prototype. Many will also be capable of doing the pcb layout. You might end up buying the software for them. OrCAD is usable if it's a simple design. Altium/Protel is easier to use for larger projects.
Once you have a functioning layout, you can look at fab companies. At that point, it makes sense to go overseas, not before, because trying to get a decent hardware design done out-of-country is a nightmare. Even cross-country it's really hard: there are lots of tweaks required. Many fab companies can source the parts, do assembly, and test. Expect that to cost 3x as much as the board fabrication itself.
Then, you have a functional product, and you can start looking into what it's going to take to get it to a point where it can actually be sold: testing, quality, certification. Expect that to take as long and cost as much as the schematic/layout/fabrication/assembly part.
Marketing/advertising is at least as hard, but that part I don't know. For that matter, the marketing research, in the first place, that determines whether it's even worth doing, costs a bunch and takes a lot of time.

In conclusion (as they say) the software is about 15% of the project, and getting the other 85% funded and finished is all work that's as hard as the software, and that you're not good at, so you're probably going to have to purchase.

get a job (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27358065)

or figure this shit out for yourself

IP in China (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27358099)

My understanding is that China doesn't have any stringent IP laws like the West does. I'd be very careful about taking your "patentable" ideas to such a country, if it really is that valuable to you.

Re:IP in China (1)

holychicken (1307483) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358177)

This cannot be stressed enough. Maybe some companies in China are trustworthy, but chances are if you do a "swap" all you would be doing is giving them your idea for them to make cheaply.
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