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Part 8: Selling & Conclusion

A project log for High Voltage Nixie Power Supply

A modern DC/DC converter design capable of delivering current in excess of 40mA at 170V

TonyTony 03/30/2019 at 12:536 Comments

It's time to count!

Between all prototypes, components, assembly and packaging material, I have spent about US$2854 in this project. Pocket change if I were a corporation, but a hefty sum for an individual! The breakdown is as following:

Original Prototype (JLCPCB)$17.90
More prototype experiments (JLCPCB)$18.63
Components for Prototypes (Mouser)$146.98
Assembly Prototype (PCBWay)$286
Production Run (PCBWay)$2335
Packaging Material (local supplier)$50
Grand Total$2854.51
Packaging Material at the ready: padded envelopes, boxes & registered mail forms

Selling

The power supply is available for sale at two different places: eBay and Tindie.

Tindie comes with about 9% fees, while eBay is at 10%. In addition to that, the actual cost of shipping is SGD7.20 for an international registered mail, or about US$5.40. The real shipping cost is "hidden" in the product cost simply because I believe people are put off by shipping fees -myself included.

With all these considerations, you can calculate that there's about $6.5 profit per board; under the assumption that my time is free, that there are no defective boards, and that there will be no refunds or lost packages.

At the current rate of 4 boards per week, it would take 34 weeks (9 months) just to get my money back. At this breaking-even point I would have sold 137 power supplies.

The Tindie page for the power supply

Conclusion of the Nixie Power Supply Project

My morning routine has changed a bit. Nowadays, before checking in at the office, I do a quick detour by the post office to send a power supply somewhere across the world. It is truly an amazing experience to see that people are spending their hard earned money in a product that you designed from start to finish. This is really gratifying and I am thankful for this.

In reality though, considering how involved this process is, it is absolutely not worth it if you're trying to make some money out of it. The volume of sales you'd have to achieve before getting some returns would have to be at least an order of magnitude higher than what it currently is. You really have to experience it yourself to realize how razor thin the margins on electronics are.

It is, however, a very good experience. I never intended to make money with the project, just fund my hobby at best. On this front, the objective will be attained eventually. I will probably re-iterate the experience, but on a more affordable product that doesn't require exotic components. As of today, I am already working on a nixie tube driver that will be released in April 2019.

Discussions

Meek The Geek wrote 04/04/2019 at 18:23 point

I bookmarked this as an example of people getting products to market.  Thank you.

P.S, and I acknowledge that this may sound like a poor use of your time but

      a) The coilcraft coil cost a lot due to shipping to china

       b) It was only one component and I assume that it did not have really tiny solder pads.

Would it have been a better option to have the PCB fab produce all of the boards populated with all of the components EXCEPT for the coilcraft coil, and then solder that on yourself when you send out the power supplies?

It is not a viable option if 1000 people place an order within a week, but if 200 people are making their orders over a year, then that averages only one power supply every 36 hours.

Is that a completely wrong idea (too much hassle, or introduces too many quality control issues, you do not have the space to store both the coils and the power supplies), or would it have some merit?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Tony wrote 04/05/2019 at 00:06 point

Sure in hindsight it would make a lot more sense to order a reel from Mouser and solder it yourself. That would save quite a bit of money and trouble. This is low volume enough that 200 units is not an issue.

Heck I regularly do pick and place of hundreds of part by hand, so...

So yes I would absolutely consider this as a viable option!

  Are you sure? yes | no

trax wrote 04/04/2019 at 10:02 point

Thanks for sharing your experience. This truly is just like imagined it was going to be, that's why I don't mass-produce nor sell my projects. If you want to make money out of your projects, they better be something exotic and pricey :-)

  Are you sure? yes | no

Ken Yap wrote 03/31/2019 at 00:19 point

Thanks for that interesting breakdown. I guess the production cost includes those pesky transformers you discussed in Part 7? That part also answered the question in my mind about multiple units per board: 2x2 with V scores.

I'm glad I regard money spent on my hobby as entertainment.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Tony wrote 03/31/2019 at 00:42 point

You're welcome! Yes the production run does include the transformers. Out of $2335, the cost of PCB & assembly is only $494. The remainder is the cost of all components.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Ted Yapo wrote 03/30/2019 at 16:08 point

Thanks for sharing! Very interesting breakdown.

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