The Entrepreneur Forum | Financial Freedom | Starting a Business | Motivation | Money | Success

The Entrepreneur's Forum for learning how to build wealth and financial freedom the Fastlane way!

Say "NO" to mediocre living rife with jobs, ascetic frugality, and suffocating savings rituals— learn how to build a Fastlane business that pays both freedom and lifestyle affluence. Join our forum with more than 70,000 entrepreneurs who are making it happen.
Join for FREE Today
Get the books
Remove ads? Join Fastlane INSIDERS
(Registration removes this block)

Manufacturer Recommendations for Electronics

doster.zach

Silver Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Rat-Race Escape!
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Speedway Pass
Oct 14, 2021
474
871
Missouri
I believe this is the right category to ask this question / discuss this topic.

I'm currently prototyping a product using Arduino and looking for recommendations on next steps.

I've researched some things online but I figure this is one question I would like to see if anyone here had some insight.

Skip this if you know what Arduino is:

If you aren't familiar with Arduino, it's essentially a barebones electronics board made to interface with other modular components such as motors, bluetooth modules, and clocks on the most basic electric level. It is essentially an easy way to do fast prototyping for people who don’t know anything about electronics / hardware but would like to build a proof of concept for their ideas.

Continued:
I plan on using Arduino components for my first few beta testers as I continue to iterate and improve the product so that it provides as much value as possible. At scale this will start to cause problems with pricing and quality.

At a certain point, I’ll need to go to a manufacturer and convert the designs into “production” level.

Does anyone here have experience / recommendations on good manufacturers for electronics?
 
Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum: Subscribe to Fastlane Insiders.

MJ DeMarco

I followed the science; all I found was money.
Staff member
FASTLANE INSIDER
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
Read Rat-Race Escape!
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
Jul 23, 2007
35,646
142,246
Utah
If you aren't familiar with Arduino

I'm not but it sounds really cool -- didn't even know this existed.

As of now, a lot of electronic stuff is done overseas in China, Taiwan, and Korea. With how things are going ("supply chain") I'm not sure I would start my search there, but you may have no choice. Wish I could be more helpful...
 

doster.zach

Silver Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Rat-Race Escape!
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Speedway Pass
Oct 14, 2021
474
871
Missouri
I'm not sure I would start my search there, but you may have no choice.
I'm probably about 2 months out from even getting some beta prototypes to friends / family for feedback. So hopefully (probably) by that point where I would start talks about buying serious amounts of inventory a lot of these issues could start to be fixed.

If I have to manufacture by hand to keep up with any demand, that will be a good problem to have.

Thanks for the response!
 

mdot

Always Improve.
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Rat-Race Escape!
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Speedway Pass
Dec 24, 2020
246
446
Ontario, Canada
I think you are looking for "contract designers" or "contract manufacturers". They can range in the services they offer - some will design the whole product for you, some will build and ship a whole product of your design, some will just build the PCBs and maybe assemble them.

You can also hire an electronics consultant to design your circuitry, and use a contract manufacturer to actually build the units.

I can't speak to any specific contract manufacturers. When I make custom PCBs on my own, I send them to JLCPCB or PCBWay for manufacturing. Both offer assembly services as well. For my first prototype I usually buy a PCB and build my first prototypes by hand and use that one for initial development and fixing circuit issues. Then I run a small batch afterwards with assembly services.

If you have a prototype built with Arduino and Sparkfun/Adafruit modules, you can pretty easily make the next step to small run production on your own. Arduino boards and modules are pretty heavily marked up - it's not uncommon for a $15 module to consist of $2 in parts and a $2 PCB. The schematics for almost all arduino boards and modules are freely available. Use them as a reference to make your own PCB, with a tool such as with KiCAD.

You can continue to use the Arduino framework for custom PCBs! Use something like PlatformIO, which has a ton of Arduino support for various chips, including ATMegas and ESP32s if you are into those. The trickiest part is getting the code on the MCU - most of them accept UART programming, so you can skip the FTDI or auxillary ATMega chip on the Uno and program it with a USB-to-UART programmer through the RX and TX pins instead.

I wrote a list of the tools I use for hardware dev here if you are interested. I'm also documenting a hardware design on my progress thread. Happy to help if you have any questions. Good luck!
 
Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum: Subscribe to Fastlane Insiders.

doster.zach

Silver Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Rat-Race Escape!
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Speedway Pass
Oct 14, 2021
474
871
Missouri
JLCPCB or PCBWay for manufacturing

Thank you! Kinda what I was looking for, there's not exactly a yelp for PCB Manufacturers.
Arduino boards and modules are pretty heavily marked up - it's not uncommon for a $15 module to consist of $2 in parts and a $2 PCB.

Thats good to hear, I haven't even begun to calculate what mystery price point will be but this gives me some more optimism.
You can continue to use the Arduino framework for custom PCBs! Use something like PlatformIO, which has a ton of Arduino support for various chips, including ATMegas and ESP32s if you are into those. The trickiest part is getting the code on the MCU - most of them accept UART programming, so you can skip the FTDI or auxillary ATMega chip on the Uno and program it with a USB-to-UART programmer through the RX and TX pins instead.

I wrote a list of the tools I use for hardware dev here if you are interested. I'm also documenting a hardware design on my progress thread. Happy to help if you have any questions. Good luck!
Thats awesome that you are into this stuff as well. I'm rocking a MEGA2560 right now ()

I come from software so its been hard getting up and running but between physics classes and online stuff I've been able to keep up.

Maybe I should start an INSIDERS thread with more specifics with the electronics progression. Would be cool to share.
 

mdot

Always Improve.
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Rat-Race Escape!
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Speedway Pass
Dec 24, 2020
246
446
Ontario, Canada
I haven't even begun to calculate what mystery price point will be but this gives me some more optimism.
Use Digikey or Mouser for parametric search of parts and you'll see all the prices. Bulk quantities mean cheaper unit costs too!

I forgot to also recommend the books Prototype to Product by Alan Cohen, and Designing Electronics That Work by Hunter Scott.
 

Walter Hay

Legendary Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
Speedway Pass
Sep 13, 2014
3,271
12,918
World citizen
Look for Electronic Contract Manufacturing Suppliers in Thomasnet.com. You will find many in Canada and the USA.

Walter

 
Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum: Subscribe to Fastlane Insiders.

doster.zach

Silver Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Rat-Race Escape!
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Speedway Pass
Oct 14, 2021
474
871
Missouri
Look for Electronic Contract Manufacturing Suppliers in Thomasnet.com. You will find many in Canada and the USA.

Walter


Thanks! I'll take a look and do some more research and update with anything I decide or if I have any new questions.
 

TrillAmbition

Contributor
Jun 11, 2020
29
26
Texas
I believe this is the right category to ask this question / discuss this topic.

I'm currently prototyping a product using Arduino and looking for recommendations on next steps.

I've researched some things online but I figure this is one question I would like to see if anyone here had some insight.

Skip this if you know what Arduino is:

If you aren't familiar with Arduino, it's essentially a barebones electronics board made to interface with other modular components such as motors, bluetooth modules, and clocks on the most basic electric level. It is essentially an easy way to do fast prototyping for people who don’t know anything about electronics / hardware but would like to build a proof of concept for their ideas.

Continued:
I plan on using Arduino components for my first few beta testers as I continue to iterate and improve the product so that it provides as much value as possible. At scale this will start to cause problems with pricing and quality.

At a certain point, I’ll need to go to a manufacturer and convert the designs into “production” level.

Does anyone here have experience / recommendations on good manufacturers for electronics?
I recently had some custom circuit boards designed for me and currently going though the manufacturing process
These are the two that I took a look at

If you want quick turnaround from the US

but they are a lot mroe expensive.

I went with pcbway and send them my gerber files. They then can pretty cheaply make the circuit boards. I had my engineer give me a parts list which right now is a pain in the a$$ due to supply chain being messed up. I had to change my parts list like 3 different times and costs are super variable per components.

You can go the route of having them assemble and having them source the parts (which I did for ease of use)



I have a project in the future that will use a microcontroller (prob esp32) and I will make a prototype first then when it works have an engineeer make me a custom baord for it on upwork. Then I just go through the pcbway or jlcpcb route.

My current project is a smaller gift gadget that helps me get my feet wet and get my store/shipping center working before the bigger projects. I am learning as I go but feel free to reach out and ask me questions so you can learn from me.
 

TrillAmbition

Contributor
Jun 11, 2020
29
26
Texas
I recently had some custom circuit boards designed for me and currently going though the manufacturing process
These are the two that I took a look at

If you want quick turnaround from the US

but they are a lot mroe expensive.

I went with pcbway and send them my gerber files. They then can pretty cheaply make the circuit boards. I had my engineer give me a parts list which right now is a pain in the a$$ due to supply chain being messed up. I had to change my parts list like 3 different times and costs are super variable per components.

You can go the route of having them assemble and having them source the parts (which I did for ease of use)



I have a project in the future that will use a microcontroller (prob esp32) and I will make a prototype first then when it works have an engineeer make me a custom baord for it on upwork. Then I just go through the pcbway or jlcpcb route.

My current project is a smaller gift gadget that helps me get my feet wet and get my store/shipping center working before the bigger projects. I am learning as I go but feel free to reach out and ask me questions so you can learn from me.
I forgot to add. Most of these are really tiny minimums

I can get some 5 pcbs for $5. Manufacturing the boards is cheap. Having them assemble it is slightly more (They solder all the components and can do from simple to complex) . But you don't need huge contracts and the turnaround is surprisingly fast.


There are economies of scale but don't have to go to the old school contract runs for good pricing.
 
Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum: Subscribe to Fastlane Insiders.

doster.zach

Silver Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Rat-Race Escape!
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Speedway Pass
Oct 14, 2021
474
871
Missouri
My current project is a smaller gift gadget that helps me get my feet wet and get my store/shipping center working before the bigger projects. I am learning as I go but feel free to reach out and ask me questions so you can learn from me.
Similar to what I'm doing, I think the product I'm building still has value, but if I'm wrong I'll be building a lot of a valuable experience along the way.
There are economies of scale but don't have to go to the old school contract runs for good pricing.
That's good to hear, I'm not afraid of doing a decent sized contract like 5,000-10,000 but if I need to go closer to 6 figures, that would be a problem.

Thanks for the recommendations, I'll be sure to check them out.
 

TrillAmbition

Contributor
Jun 11, 2020
29
26
Texas
Similar to what I'm doing, I think the product I'm building still has value, but if I'm wrong I'll be building a lot of a valuable experience along the way.

That's good to hear, I'm not afraid of doing a decent sized contract like 5,000-10,000 but if I need to go closer to 6 figures, that would be a problem.

Thanks for the recommendations, I'll be sure to check them out.
You for sure don't need a huge amount and can scale up as needed. I just did a test run of 10 printed and assembled with their parts. I should get it in a week or so (had issues with sourcing some parts)

If you find anything else let me know. I also could benefit from finding different producers
 

doster.zach

Silver Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Rat-Race Escape!
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Speedway Pass
Oct 14, 2021
474
871
Missouri
Neat tid-bit for anyone going into this as well.

There are three "levels" in a way. Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM), Original Design Manufacturing (ODM) and Contract Manufacturing (CM).

ODM is for white labeling products:
  • You create the brand and colors for the product.
  • You don't own any IP rights to the designs of the physical piece.
OEM is for creation of products from designs, a hybrid of sorts between OEM and CM.
  • You create the brand and colors for the product.
  • You have designed the product but need someone to make the molds / components for your product.
  • IP is variable depending on the contract, patents, and negotiation
CM is just using the company for assembly
  • You own the IP and designs
  • You send all the necessary components to the factory for assembly.
So ODM is less work (more than Alibaba haha) but less control, while OEM is more work but more control.

Maybe my choice isn't between ODM and OEM but OEM and CM?

Also it seems like a better choice to use USA for OEM because they are more likely to respect IP protections. Nothing stops a Chinese firm from just selling something to another firm and having any repercussions.
 
Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum: Subscribe to Fastlane Insiders.

TrillAmbition

Contributor
Jun 11, 2020
29
26
Texas
Also it seems like a better choice to use USA for OEM because they are more likely to respect IP protections. Nothing stops a Chinese firm from just selling something to another firm and having any repercussions.
I might disagree with the protection that offers. Yeah it stops them from having your ready to go files. But the reversing of electronics is trivia especially to companies who rely on it for their bread and butter. Most of the competitive edge against cheap knockoffs is that they use really really crappy parts and overall terrible build quality
 

doster.zach

Silver Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Rat-Race Escape!
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Speedway Pass
Oct 14, 2021
474
871
Missouri
I might disagree with the protection that offers. Yeah it stops them from having your ready to go files. But the reversing of electronics is trivia especially to companies who rely on it for their bread and butter. Most of the competitive edge against cheap knockoffs is that they use really really crappy parts and overall terrible build quality
Okay, well now I'm looking into PCB design. I have no experience but I might have a chat with some of these companies to see what it costs / how quick it is for them to make the PCB design for me.

It does however seem like a worthwhile skill to learn either and would give me more control and leverage when it comes down to it.
 

TrillAmbition

Contributor
Jun 11, 2020
29
26
Texas
Okay, well now I'm looking into PCB design. I have no experience but I might have a chat with some of these companies to see what it costs / how quick it is for them to make the PCB design for me.

It does however seem like a worthwhile skill to learn either and would give me more control and leverage when it comes down to it.
Btw if you want a quick engineering in a cheap way with no contract take a look at upwork. I got my design made for under $1k and he was super helpful at getting it done.

They have all sort of different engineers on there. There are many who work with arduino platform and create custom arduino hats etc. You can also get them to make firmware. Just make sure you set milestones and break the project into a well defined project
 
Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum: Subscribe to Fastlane Insiders.

doster.zach

Silver Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Rat-Race Escape!
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Speedway Pass
Oct 14, 2021
474
871
Missouri
Btw if you want a quick engineering in a cheap way with no contract take a look at upwork. I got my design made for under $1k and he was super helpful at getting it done.
Do you still have his email / contact?

I'd love to use a recommended contractor and then I could save 20%.
 

TrillAmbition

Contributor
Jun 11, 2020
29
26
Texas
Do you still have his email / contact?

I'd love to use a recommended contractor and then I could save 20%.
I've used Erik:

He is pretty busy and I can for sure send you a recomendation or whatever it is called on upowork if it helps you. He is a electrical engineer and can make surface mount circuit boards. I know he is a bit pricier per hour than a lot of the competition.


This other freelancer was on my shortlist but I didn't use him


I had saved a ton but honestly on the search for pcb and arduino you will see a lot of them. There were some that were arduino specific for building addon boards but I didn't save them.
 

doster.zach

Silver Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Rat-Race Escape!
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Speedway Pass
Oct 14, 2021
474
871
Missouri
He is pretty busy and I can for sure send you a recomendation or whatever it is called on upowork if it helps you. He is a electrical engineer and can make surface mount circuit boards. I know he is a bit pricier per hour than a lot of the competition.
A recommendation would be cool. If you could do a quick intro for me that would be awesome. I'm not afraid to pay pricier per hour for guaranteed success and for some help with insight on the thing.
 
Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum: Subscribe to Fastlane Insiders.

TrillAmbition

Contributor
Jun 11, 2020
29
26
Texas
A recommendation would be cool. If you could do a quick intro for me that would be awesome. I'm not afraid to pay pricier per hour for guaranteed success and for some help with insight on the thing.
Yeah i can do that for sure. Shoot me a DM and we can figure out the logistics when Im working tmrw afternoon
 

Rauschmi

Contributor
Read Rat-Race Escape!
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Dec 7, 2021
28
39
Oceanside, CA
Checkout digikey pcb builder. I recently ordered a run of 9 2"x2" pcbs for $40. Digikey has a nice little "RED" version that is limited to 2 layers, but is much cheaper than other pcb manufacturers.
For my pcb I just hand soldered the parts on, yes even the surface mount 0402 parts. For larger boards I use various local contract Manufacturers. (San Diego area)

Kicad is a great free schematic capture and pcb layout software.
 

doster.zach

Silver Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Rat-Race Escape!
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Speedway Pass
Oct 14, 2021
474
871
Missouri
Checkout digikey pcb builder. I recently ordered a run of 9 2"x2" pcbs for $40. Digikey has a nice little "RED" version that is limited to 2 layers, but is much cheaper than other pcb manufacturers.
For my pcb I just hand soldered the parts on, yes even the surface mount 0402 parts. For larger boards I use various local contract Manufacturers. (San Diego area)

Kicad is a great free schematic capture and pcb layout software.

Thanks! I'll check em out, I'm working on marketing and branding stuff now at the moment so it might be a while.
 
Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum: Subscribe to Fastlane Insiders.

doster.zach

Silver Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Rat-Race Escape!
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Speedway Pass
Oct 14, 2021
474
871
Missouri
For my pcb I just hand soldered the parts on, yes even the surface mount 0402 parts. For larger boards I use various local contract Manufacturers. (San Diego area)

Thats crazy, I thought you needed machines for that stuff! Where did you learn to do that?
 

Rauschmi

Contributor
Read Rat-Race Escape!
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Dec 7, 2021
28
39
Oceanside, CA
Thats crazy, I thought you needed machines for that stuff! Where did you learn to do that?
Just need to use 2 soldering irons with some fine tips. Then a steady hand and a magnifying scope. Some of the parts I hand solder require some of the spade tips which allow touching multiple pins at once. Or I use a heat gun.

I have been soldering for nearly 20 years. So I have had some practice.
 

Post New Topic

Please SEARCH before posting.
Please select the BEST category.

Post new topic

Guest post submissions offered HERE.

Must Read Books...

must read books
Download FREE and share!
Download
Explore books recommended by MJ DeMarco and other members of the Fastlane entrepreneurial community.
Fastlane Bookstore

New Topics

Fastlane Insiders

View the forum AD FREE.
Private, unindexed content
Detailed process/execution threads
Ideas needing execution, more!

Join Fastlane Insiders.

Top