Manufacturing

RV Hall of Fame and Museum

View all photos
1954 Spartan Mobile Home PunkToad/CC BY SA 2.0
RV/MH Hall of Fame PunkToad/CC BY SA 2.0
Mae West’s RV PunkToad/CC BY SA 2.0
1958 Airstream PunkToad/CC BY SA 2.0

Taking home on the road has long been a popular pastime, and ever since the invention of the automobile Americans have been manufacturing recreational vehicles to do so, formerly called “house cars.” Some of the most important and interesting campers and motorhomes in the history of the industry are on display at this museum in Elkhart, Indiana, the “RV capital of the world.”

Studebaker National Museum
South Bend, Indiana

The RV/MH Heritage Foundation established an RV museum in Elkhart County, where more than 80 percent of RVs are manufactured. (It all started with a man who built a trailer so he could take his family on…

Maker Pro News: Etsy Reorganizes, Chinese Manufacturers Turn to Local Entrepreneurs, and More

You’re reading our weekly Maker Pro Newsletter, which focuses on the impact of makers in business and technology. Our coverage includes hardware startups, new products, incubators, and innovators, along with technology and market trends. Subscribe today and never miss a post.

“If you don’t have competitors…you’re either a crazy genius or you’re just crazy.” – SirenCare CEO Ran Ma

Investors to Etsy: You Can Do Better

Creative marketplace Etsy (@Etsy) is a quiet titan of the maker pro space that harbors a deep, valuable community of artisans and craftspeople — but as unrest among the company’s investors reaches a boiling point, the company may be forced to make fundamental changes in its day-to-day business.

Dissatisfied stakeholders penned a letter to the Etsy board that outlined their grievances. Since the company’s IPO, according to the letter, the company’s stock has fallen some 30 percent. On the bright side, they estimated that with new management and a renewed focus on user experience, the company could double its worth.

Thankfully, the company’s brass seem to be listening. In response to the investor concerns, the company quickly announced that it would oust CEO Chad Dickerson (@chaddickerson) in favor of eBay veteran Josh Silverman (@jgsilverman) and lay off eight percent of its staff. Big changes to the site itself are reportedly afoot — and the question may ultimately become whether the company can find success without compromising its DIY values.

Countdown to Maker Faire Bay Area

It is just two weeks until Maker Faire Bay Area (@makerfaire) on May 19–21. Do not miss our Maker Pro stage in Redwood Hall, where we are assembling an all-star lineup of entrepreneurs from every industry you read about in this newsletter.

One area we want to highlight this year: the dynamic world of maker pros who work with food and kitchenware. On the Make: blog, contributor Goli Mohammadi (@snowgoli) published a roundup of the foodtech founders you will be able to meet at the Faire, from the Future Food initiative to DIY chocolatiers and even a handful of startups selling cricket…

Fragmentation Isn’t Android’s Fault, It’s the Manufacturers’

It’s 2017, and I still see people criticizing Android for “fragmentation”. This gives Android in general a bad name, and I want to make the facts clear: this isn’t Google or Android’s fault. It’s the fault of your manufacturer.

While this has been a talked about issue for some time, a recent piece from Boy Genius Report got me thinking about it—infuriatingly titled “No iPhone user can even imagine dealing with what Android users have to tolerate”. I want to set the record straight: this type of thinking isn’t just unfair to Android, it’s flat out wrong.

What Is Fragmentation?

Basically, when people talk about fragmentation, they’re referring to the spread of Android versions that are still running on devices “in the wild,” because the adoption rate of new version of Android is much slower than that of iOS. It makes sense, really—there are a handful of iPhones, but hundreds of different Android phones, from a variety of manufacturers, and they don’t all update to the latest version at the same time.

May 2017 Android Distribution numbers

So, when we talk about Android “fragmentation” as a downside compared to iOS, it suggests that there’s an issue with Android, software development, or the update schedule in general. Articles like the one from Boy Genius Report imply that the issue comes from Google, which isn’t the case. Ever since Google purchased Android, the company has been responsible for pushing updates to the platform. And while it was definitely hit and miss in its infancy, we’ve seen Google take a much more structured approach to OS updates for Android in recent years. In fact, it’s almost clockwork now.

But here we are, still acting like Android has an update issue, when that’s just not the case. The primary argument against Android when it comes to updates is the comparison to Apple and the iPhone. “But nearly 80 percent of iPhones are running the latest version of iOS!” I hear people say. But that’s not an argument at all—unless it’s done fairly. Allow me to explain.

iOS Distribution numbers as of Feb 20th 2017.

Comparing Apples to Apples

Basically, Apple produces the iPhone, as well as iOS. It sends updates directly to the iPhone. Apple is solely responsible for updating its own hardware using its own software. It doesn’t work the same way for Android. If you really want a fair comparison, it’s Google hardware/software versus Apple hardware/software. In other words, it’s Pixel/Nexus versus iPhone.

That’s the only real comparison that can be used fairly—it’s an apples to apples comparison, for lack of a better analogy. Google’s official stance on Nexus and Pixel updates is pretty straightforward: these phones get Android version updates for “at least 2 years from when the device first became available on the Google Store” and security updates “for at least 3 years from when the device first became available on the Google Store, or at least 18 months from when the Google Store last sold the device, whichever is longer.“ That’s straight from Google’s mouth.

Google Pixel update periods.

That means under the current rules, three generations of Nexus/Pixel devices are being supported by Google: the Nexus 6, 6P, and 5x, as well as the Pixel and Pixel XL. And yes, the Android ecosystem is bigger than that, but those devices are really just alternative options: Google has just as many phone options as Apple does, and they’re all kept up to date.

By contrast, Apple is actually less transparent with its update timelines and commitments. Five generations of Apple iPhones are running the latest software (iOS 10): iPhone 5, 5C, 5S, 6, 6 Plus, 6S, 6S Plus, SE, 7, and 7 Plus. The writing is on the wall for the iPhone 5, but at the time of writing it’s still being supported so I’m listing it here and…

3 Costs to Consider When Mass Manufacturing a Hardware Product

Developing a new electronic product that can be sold in volume is not simple or cheap. Underestimating all of the costs involved is one of the most critical mistakes made by those wanting to bring a new hardware product to market.

If you want to create a new hardware product, development costs will be your first major financial obstacle (assuming you do not immediately patent your product). Roughly 60-80% of the development cost will consist of engineering fees. The remaining 20-40% comprises the prototyping expenses. Development costs for most hardware products can be broken down into three categories: the electronics, the enclosure, and the retail package.

The Electronics

For most hardware products, the electronics are the most complicated and costly piece to develop.

For most new products the electronics will be the most expensive piece to develop.

Hire an Independent Engineer

Since engineering fees are usually the largest chunk of the development costs, your best strategy to minimize the required capital is to reduce the amount of engineering required. If you are experienced with designing electronics then you can save yourself a lot of money. If you are not, you may want to consider bringing on a co-founder with the necessary experience. However, for most startups, the best option is to hire an independent engineer to design the electronics.

One suggestion to lower both your development cost and risk is to hire a second independent engineer to review the work of your primary engineer. This strategy will reduce the likelihood of any design errors, which ultimately means fewer prototype iterations and lower engineering fees.

At Predictable Designs, not only do we offer design review services, but we also always have other engineers review our designs before prototyping. It is just a smart step that will not cost you that much extra, and may save you thousands of dollars.

Getting design reviews also makes it more realistic to hire lower cost Asian engineers to develop your product. Normally this is not recommended unless you have the necessary skills and experience to judge their work. However, if you had the necessary design skills to review their work, you would likely just develop the product yourself. So in most cases the best option is to hire another independent engineer that you have already established some trust with to review the work. This trick can potentially cut your development costs in half or more.

Tip: Find a manufacturer willing to help you offset some of the development costs. Many factories have an engineering department that may have extra time available. If you can find a factory that is not at manufacturing capacity, they will be more likely to help you. That being said, from my experience you need to have at least a first level prototype and/or…