We're No Longer the $300 Pick and Place / 3D Printer

A project log for FirePick Delta, the Open Source MicroFactory

An affordable electronics manufacturing system for hobbyists, students, & small businesses. Inspired by RepRap. Powered by OpenPnP/FirePick.

Neil JansenNeil Jansen 03/13/2015 at 02:466 Comments

There's been a lot of cool stuff going on in our project, even though I haven't updated this page a much in the last six months or so. Here' s a quick summary:


Established in December 2014, I started Tin Whiskers Technology, LLC in order to provide a platform to sell kits and finished units to various people around the world. I realized early on that my business skills were lacking, so I brought on Felix Banuchi as a co-founder. Between his MBA and startup experience, and my technical leadership, we're hoping that we can avoid the common pitfalls that open-source companies have made recently (some bad for the community, like Makerbot going closed source, and some bad for the companies like Arduino LLC vs. Arduino SRL)

The name Tin Whiskers is sort of a dual-meaning. Most veteran electrical engineers and other folks in the world of electronics manufacturing know about tin whisker growth all too well. It's the metallurgical phenomenon where little metallic tendrils seem to grow out of a flat metallic surface. This problem has worsened since the switch to lead-free solders and other repercussions of RoHS. On the other hand, tin whiskers also means something to the lay person, it brings up images of cats, hipster beards, and robots... Which seems very fitting for such a cool company.


This week, we've begun selling pre-orders to our initial group of beta testers. We're doing 50 units for the first run, followed by possibly more after that. The idea is to get hardware in the hands of as many developers as we can, so that we can get immediate feedback on a common hardware platform. This is much better than a DIY approach where everyone ends up with different machines. Obviously, hardware incompatibilities, lighting conditions, feeder types, machine accuracy and precision, differences between DIY machines vary greatly... And that added complexity makes software development a real nightmare.. that is, unless we can get identical kits in the hands of our testers. We set out to do that in late December, and now in March, a few months later, we're to that point, albeit a few months behind where we wanted to be.


In order to make this happen, we've had to do a lot of parts sourcing, cost estimation, BOM analysis, design-for-manufacturing changes, etc. I quickly realized that my original estimate of $300 was off by quite a bit. Those that have been following this project for a while, remember that this project was initially titled "the $300 Pick and Place / 3D printer". I REALLY did want to make a machine this cheap, and that number was based on what I wanted the final price to be.. Our BOM cost has hovered from $300-700 depending on options... I figured that assuming I got some wholesale accounts, and get some sourcing lined up, that I could get the price down to 1/2 of that, sell for a bit of a markup, and still meet the $300 goal. Well, after Felix joined the team, I quickly realized that's not the way things work. Once our company was formed and we actually tried to secure these wholesale and vendor accounts, we've not gotten a single 50% price break. That simply won't happen unless we're selling 5000+ units. That might actually happen someday, if I get my wish. We also have to make enough markup as to not go out of business quickly. We're not getting rich by any means -- We'd get better markups manufacturing women's perfume or costume jewelry... Or social media web-apps, e.g. the next AirBnb or Instagram.. Hardware companies are very capital intensive, ours is no different. We've got a lot of money tied up in this, with not much to show for it at this point, other than a lot of hope, and some excited and eager beta testers.

In the meantime, FirePick Delta will not cost $300. I take full responsibility for anyone that's disappointed in the price difference, by the way. We're even still hesitant to throw a price out there because we're still trying to find that fine line where supply and demand meet... We'll have to get a bit more data on that. Because the beta kits are being produced in quantities of 50, don't expect the full kits to be under $1000 for now.. But if you look at other kits out there, it's still not that bad of a deal, and we're just getting started.

Considering that a full-blown SMT line will still cost you $50k up to $2 million USD, we think that our price is very reasonable :) My old boss referred to his Samsung pick and place machine has his Ferrari. And he wasn't kidding. He could have sold it and all the feeders, and bought a Ferrari off of the show room floor.


nico_michiels wrote 12/19/2016 at 20:01 point


Is it still possible to buy one of the beta kits ? :)

Some have more recent information?

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Justin wrote 03/23/2015 at 00:52 point

Since the Beta kit is now available when can we expect the latest files to be checked in?

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Neil Jansen wrote 03/23/2015 at 15:21 point

If we want to keep our customers happy, they will be out before they receive their kits in mid to late April.

  Hopefully, even sooner than that.

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Kert wrote 03/15/2015 at 07:09 point

A 300$ price point was a good goal, however, ending up in the 600$+ range is not particularly shocking considering the capabilities and goals of the machine. Hopefully once everything is running smoothly and some volume picks up for the company it would be possible to do a "light" kit under 500$ but even that is not something to hold ones breath over when you guys have to do it as a company and put a price tag to your time. Even when counting your time as "free" a 300$ pricepoint goal was probably a bit optimistic. 

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Jarrett wrote 03/13/2015 at 17:14 point

Not being able to hit a $300 price point should be a surprise to no one.

Good luck with the startup, though, it's a good thing you figured that out before the kickstarter (if that is something you will consider in the future)

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suicidal.banana wrote 03/13/2015 at 16:32 point

Great stuff! contemplating buying one (the full diy kit) or trying to get my employer to buy one, but that will prolly mean i miss out on the first batch. (because this decision takes some time) however, i truly hope plans pan out as they are, well, planned, because this is what we need, 3d printers are fancy and all, but if we ever want to get close to 'replicators', we need your product to do well (and i honestly dont see why it wouldnt, the price difference alone should mean you've sold all 50 units by now, the coolness factor means you will sell 1000's more)

Keep up the great work! you guys are making the future :)

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