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RE: comment on SteppIR was Re: [TowerTalk] New antenna system

To: Steve Katz <>, "'Jerry Keller'" <>,"(Reflector) TowerTalk" <>
Subject: RE: comment on SteppIR was Re: [TowerTalk] New antenna system
From: Jim Lux <>
Date: Tue, 09 Nov 2004 15:03:48 -0800
List-post: <>
At 11:00 AM 11/9/2004 -0800, Steve Katz wrote:
Hello Jim,

I'll try to steer away from PCs and back towards antennas to keep the thread
in line with the reflector intent.

The Low Voltage Directive compliance testing for consumer electronic
products doesn't cost much; depends who you use as NRTL, how busy they are,
how much prep work you, as the equipment manufacturer, have already done and
other variables.  But I have it done all the time, usually for about $3K.
If FM sells 200 SteppIRs a year for an average of  $700 each, compliance
cost is 2.1% of sales.  Kind of high, but not atypical for a small company.
If they (or anybody) amortize an annual compliance budget of $10K over
products sold, the customers will likely pay it all without knowing they're
paying it.  Part of business.

I agree with you about good engineering practice.  Design for compliance,
whether you get certified or not, and you're usually better off.  Frankly,
the "cost of designing for compliance" is usually "nothing."  It's a matter
of knowing what to do.

I pointed out the product safety stuff only to re-focus what people should
have been annoyed about, instead of simply accepting: If a customer shorts
the user interface cable between two parts of an appliance that are normally
tethered in service -- whether out of stupidity, negligence or accident --
it shouldn't require that parts be replaced.  It's nice to have great
Customer Service and replace stuff that breaks, but it's cheaper and better
to make it simply not break...especially when the cost of doing so is
approximately nothing.


I fully agree. I think the overall idea is that people wind up "making a product" without realizing that they are "making a product" with all the overhead that this should entail. A few kilobucks is a very reasonable amount, although I suspect that it would be a big single shot of NRE for a lot of products. I think a lot of ham products from small mfrs have the majority of their NRE covered by sweat equity (board layout, mechanical design, etc.). If you look at all the products, for instance, advertised in the back of QST, a lot of them have low capital dollars invested in the first unit. There aren't many high tooling cost or high startup cost manufacturing steps like "pick and place" or injection molding.

If you were a would-be equipment designer selling into the ham market, for the vast majority of products, you could start small with a limited cash investment. $100 to get the first batch of PC boards made. A few $100 for parts. A few hundred $ to get some sheet metal bent or front panel labels made. Those expenses could be spread out over several months. That's sort of a different matter for NRTL compliance testing at several kilobucks at a shot (and I'll bet the first time through, for a novice, would be substantially more expensive, either in time or in money). I used to work for a small company that designed and sold highly specialized products as an additional line connected with their primary service business in a fairly narrow market, and that's exactly how they got started. Eventually, of course, their products became the primary revenue generator, and, as their products moved into wider markets, they had to learn the whole compliance thing. (I think it was getting the CE mark for sales into Europe that was the first hurdle.)

Sure, if you're a business, and you have a decent business model, then you could get a loan for the capital you need. Or you could finance your business on your credit card, like entry-level film makers do. Of course, that requires a certain level of commitment and faith in that "first leap off the dock into the water". However, I think a lot of ham equipment sellers don't think of themselves as being in a business (or, at least, they don't start out that way!), and so, sort of wind up as businessmen by accident.

As far as designing for reliability and immunity to screwups goes... well, that often presumes that you set out to design the widget as a product from the get-go. In the "business model" I described above, that never really occurred. Instead, you see more of an "evolving product", where successive versions of the widget are sold with improvements to fix problems discovered in the previous versions. In the software world, it's the "don't spend so much time designing, get it out the door, and we'll fix it in the next release, if we're lucky enough to sell any of them" model.

Now that I think about it, the basic engineering practice you describe is what differentiates a "product designer/engineer" from a "circuit designer/engineer".


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