America has been extremely worried about the loss of manufacturing to China. Seduced by subsidies, cheap labor, lax regulations, and a rigged currency, American industry has made a beeline to China. New technologies will likely cause the same hollowing out of China’s manufacturing industry over the next two decades that the U.S experienced over the past twenty years. That’s right. America is destined to once again gain its supremacy in manufacturing, and it will soon be China’s turn to worry.
China’s largest hi-tech product manufacturer Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group, made waves last August when it announced plans to install one million robots within three years to do the work that its workers presently do. These robots will perform repetitive, mechanical tasks to produce the circuit boards that go in many of the world’s most popular consumer gadgets. But even these robots and circuit boards will soon be obsolete.
..What happens when you combine AI, robotics, and digital manufacturing? A manufacturing revolution, that will enable U.S. entrepreneurs to “set up shop” locally, and create a wide variety of products. As Kinko’s is for 2D digital printing on paper, we will have shared public manufacturing facilities like TechShop where you can print your 3D products. How is China going to compete with that?
Evil Mad Science LLC is looking for several part time minions to help us with a wide variety of tasks that we perform, including kitting, shipping, sanding, lasering, basic soldering, testing electrical assemblies, bookkeeping, reception, accepting orders, and basic customer service.
My friend and former college professor Yury Gitman posted up this time lapse video of him and his business partner Joel Murphy making and packing up 800 pulse sensor kits. Nice!
The Pulse Sensor Kit is a kit. It does contain an assembled PCB Pulse Sensor, but it also has a collection of other supplies that you need to get the most out of the Pulse Sensor: a Velcro strap (to wrap the sensor around your finger with), an ear clip, and vinyl dots (to make the sensor more comfortable and reliable when contacting direct skin). It doesn’t sound like a lot, but using these helps you get good long-term readings. Unless you are a seamstress or jewelry designer, these parts are not exactly effortless to source. We tested a lot of Velcro straps and ear clips before selecting the ones that finally made it in our kit.
Adafruit is one of hundreds of growing ventures in the U.S. that belong to the so-called maker movement. These companies sell kits and support online communities of DIY types who make everything from toys to robots to 3D printers, and their moment seems to have arrived: Maker Faire, the movement’s Woodstock, attracted perhaps 20,000 hard-core devotees five years ago. At last year’s events in Detroit and New York, hundreds of thousands of people flocked to presentations sponsored by the likes of PepsiCo (PEP), Ford (F), and Microsoft (MSFT). And electronics giants Microchip Technology (MCHP) and Texas Instruments (TXN), hoping to profit from the maker zeitgeist, last year began offering their own kits. The maker movement is “as significant as the shift from agriculture to the early industrial era,” says Jeremy Rifkin, a Wharton economist.
Make it yourself. Do it yourself. Kitmakers from around the world want to provide the off-the-shelf and made-to-order parts you need to make your own creations, products, and inventions. The Reinventing Edison lightbulb kit (photo to right) is one such example (link below by Harris Educational, if you want to get one).
Kitmaking and do-it-yourself is exploding as a trend and one that the landmark publication, Make magazine, is daily charting the waters. Just about everyone who considers themselves a maker, inventor, artisan has heard of Make. They have grown tremendously since their founding in 2005 not because they talk about makers, but because they ARE makers. You can’t share the passion if you don’t have it yourself. Make exudes passion and the Ultimate Kit Guide that they put out late last year is an example of that caring and in-touch-with-makers spirit that they live and breathe.
Beginning today, we are rolling out direct checkout for US-based sellers. This is a new and optional way for shop owners to accept and manage credit card payments from buyers directly on Etsy. Direct checkout is currently enabled for a limited number of shops, including the EtsyStore. Direct checkout, in addition to simplifying payment, lays the groundwork for many more payment and checkout improvements, including Etsy-wide gift cards and enhanced international payment options.
Direct checkout will allow buyers around the world to use a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card during checkout from individual shops — online, on mobile, or on Etsy for iPhone — without being redirected from Etsy. There will be one single line of communication around a direct checkout order, sent through an Etsy email, with all shop information and contact information easily accessible.
Big news for the maker/crafter biz owners who use ETSY.
The picture above is the entirety of Coobro Labs. Coobro Labs is run out of my 800 sq. ft. condo in Minneapolis, MN. This is where we kit and ship the Coobro Geo, and work on future open source hardware kits. The reason for sharing this with you is to hopefully encourage those of you out there who think you need a lot of room, and a lot of expensive equipment to start your own KitBiz. Let me break down the things that we find useful, and things we couldn’t live without.
An impulse sealer – This is a must have piece of equipment that we picked up brand new off of ebay for about $50. This tool takes rolls of anti-static tubing (see item #2) and heat seals the ends to create bags on-the-fly. You can buy impulse sealers with or without a built in cutter. The cutter isn’t really necessary, as it is just as easy to cut the bags with a scissors.
Rolls of anti-static tubing – These are 500 foot rolls of anti-static tubing picked up from uline.com. The reason for buying the rolls of anti-static tubing versus simply buying pre-made bags is that you can adjust the size of the bag to whatever length you want, and they are cheap at $25-30 per roll.
Laser printer – Below our workbench, we have a used Kyocera EP C170N laser printer that we picked up off of Craigslist for less than $50. While it isn’t mandatory, laser printers are much more cost effective, and the ink won’t be affected by moisture. We use the laser printer mainly to print out shipping labels.
High quality soldering iron – Having a decent soldering iron is what I feel is the most important tool I own. The difference between a quality soldering iron and a cheap hardware store model is huge. I used to find soldering frustrating and stressful, now I find it enjoyable and relaxing. We have an Aoyue model 2900 soldering iron, but Adafruit’s Hakko FX-888 is a great choice.
Fume extractor – A fume extractor is one of my most recent additions, and I can’t believe it took me so long to get one. There are a lot of toxins in solder, and breathing them in is very dangerous. I used to simply solder in a well ventilated area, and hold my breath until the smoke cleared. This is about as stupid as closing your eyes to avoid the arc flash while welding without a mask. I own the Weller WSA350 model and it works really well.
Hot air reflow station – Once I started to get into soldering surface mounted components, this is the first tool I bought. Before I made my own reflow soldering oven, I used this tool to solder surface mounted components. While you certainly can use a good soldering iron to solder surface mounted components, this tool will save you a lot of headache. We have the Aoyue 852A++ model, which can be had for around $150.
Reflow oven controller – We use the Rocket Scream Electronics Reflow Oven Controller ($40) Arduino shield. We have done some testing with our reflow oven by simply cranking the oven temperature up until the solder reflows, then shutting the oven off and letting the board cool in the oven with the door closed. This seems to work just as good as using a reflow oven controller that follows a specific reflow curve.
Toaster oven – This is a toaster oven that we bought in a Woot-Off for about $30. It is really nice because it has a ‘Stay On’ feature, and it’s a convection oven, so there are no hot spots. If you don’t plan on working with surface mounted components, you don’t need to worry about the last three items.
All-in-one printer – I have owned this HP PSC 1510 inkjet printer for a few years now and it has worked really well for me. The important thing here is that it has a built in scanner. You will need a scanner to be able to scan your signed purchase orders for component suppliers. A scanner basically replaces a fax machine.
Component storage – I have a nice collection of Sparkfun shipping boxes that I have saved and used for component storage. Simply slap a label on the top or front of the box to remember what is inside. These also work great for project boxes. You can also see other items we have used for component storage such as mint tins.
More component storage – When you are just starting out, this is really all you need. We store all of the components needed to build up Coobro Geo kits in this small parts organizer from our local hardware store. Through hole components, even in quantities of 1000+, take up very little room. Eventually, as we release more kits, we will need to upgrade, but this system works well for the time being.
Ikea hacked workbench – My workbench is really just a bunch of components I picked up from Ikea. The shelving is just Ikea CD storage boxes stacked in between some Ikea birch shelves. The CD storage boxes work great for tool, parts, wire, and other large component storage.
As you can see, there really isn’t a whole lot to Coobro Labs. There are obviously some items missing from the picture, such as shipping supplies, but this really is the majority of the Coobro Labs kit making business. If you have a great idea for an open source electronics kit that you think others would also be interested in, there really isn’t anything standing in your way.
Over the holidays, when the Adafruit shipping staff was away, I shipped hundreds and hundreds of packages of open source electronics. I put on headphones, and did my rounds through the factory and storage shelves. It was a good chance for me to reflect on how much I like the postal service (and the companies that are built around it like Endicia and Stamps.com). For a reasonable price, they can get almost anything anywhere. Sure, there are problems once in awhile, but for the volume and price, it’s pretty incredible. We have a daily pick up and delivery here in NYC; the postal staff is like part of my team. A few weeks ago, the postal service had a petition trying to get support so Saturday service wouldn’t shut down — things are getting grim.
You’ve probably seen the recent headlines: the postal service has reported massive loses in the billions. As I spent the days and nights shipping, I thought it would be interesting to consider how we could transform and evolve the postal system. I think makers, hackers, and entrepreneurs have unique ways of looking at things, and I’d like to share some of the ideas I had. Most of all, I’d like your input. Together we could start some conversations on how we could utilize this national logistical treasure. Which brings us to this week’s Soapbox: “How Makers, Hackers, and Entrepreneurs Can Save the U.S. Postal Service.”
Geekdom is a “collaborative” space based in San Antonio, Texas. It’s a twist on the traditional co-working or colocation model, in that we have a strong emphasis on organic group collaboration between our members. We intentionally office people in different fields together to encourage them to get different points of view when working on problems. Additionally, we recognize and encourage the inquisitiveness of our members, and are trying to create a space where they can explore varying interests, ranging from robotics and Arduino hacking, to photography and music. We also open our space to students ranging from middle school to college that are interested in learning and exploring in the tech world, which is where you guys come in.
What your stuff is doing in a vending machine: So Dirk Elmendorf, one of our founding partners here at Geekdom, bought a vending machine and bunch of your kits recently. We took your kits, and put them in said vending machine. Now, those kits are for sale at $1 each, instead of their original MSRP. (The real snacks are in the cabinet across from the machine, totally free of charge.)
The theory here is this: any of our professional members can obviously afford to buy a kit from you guys, so that’s not really the point. On the other hand, the middle and high students that come through here often can’t, or at least are discouraged by the price (or the the necessity of having a parent’s credit card). Here, if they have a buck, they’re welcome to give electronics a shot. We have a Maker space here with all the tools required, and members experienced in electronics who can give them free lessons in the skills they need.
We just got this thing set up, but if we get some pictures of our students working on your kits I’ll be sure to send them your way! I’ve also attached the pictures we took today of the vending machine so you can show off.
Thanks for making awesome stuff folks, keep it up!
Adafruit’s inventory, shipping and production systems are moving to touch based interfaces. For many device types we have at least one of each for all the testing we need to for our products like the Mintyboost, because of this we have been testing some new web applications we are developing for touch screen devices to increase our efficiency and make things easier for our staff. Here’s Tom, he’s entering in the specific locations easily with an iPad of some of our products.
When an invoice prints out, it not only has the item, photo and unique ID, it has the specific location in the Adafruit factory. We’ll be experimenting with QR codes and RFID later but some of the recent improvements lets us ship 10 to 15% faster, and we usually ship same day for many orders now. The new improvements helped us grow from 200 items to over 600 items in a matter of months, at the current rate we’ll have over 2,000 items by the end of 2012, but that’s just a projection – we only like to stock things that has the Ladyada seal of approval (she has tested them), that are best quality and have value for our customers.
For five decades, wood has reigned as the material of choice for the humble shipping pallet, used for moving everything from Wheaties to washing machines. Now, Swedish retailer Ikea is replacing wooden pallets with a paper variant that’s lighter, thinner, and—the company says—cheaper to use. “We don’t know if the paper pallet will be the ultimate solution, but it’s better than wood,” says Jeanette Skjelmose, sustainability chief at Ikea’s supply-chain unit.
Ikea, which uses 10 million pallets to ship goods from suppliers to its 287 stores in 26 countries, will ditch wood worldwide by January, cutting transport costs by 10 percent. The new corrugated cardboard design can support loads of 750 kilograms (1,650 pounds), the same as timber, Skjelmose says. At two inches high, the paper pallets are one-third the height of wooden ones, and they’re 90 percent lighter, at 5.5 pounds. The svelte profile means Ikea can cram more goods into each shipment. The pallets, assembled onsite by most of Ikea’s 1,200 global suppliers, will be used only once before being recycled.
Recently, we looked at our data to see if we could extract some insights that might really help FreshBooks customers get paid faster. Our question: how does the wording of the “terms” section of an invoice impact the number of days it takes you to get paid and the percent of invoices you actually collect on.
In the graph above we’ve mapped two key things gleaned from the data of our paying FreshBooks users. In the bar graph, we’ve looked at how long it takes to get paid based on various wordings used in the Terms field on an invoice (e.g. “Please pay within 21 days” or “Payment terms: net 30. Interest accrued at 1.5% per month thereafter”). On this chart of days to pay vs. terms used, the shorter the bar, the better.
The second thing we’ve charted is the percentage of invoices actually paid vs. terms used (the data points in the top section of the graph). On this scale, higher is better. Another way of thinking about this is: the wider the gap between the bar and the data point above it, the better the wording (in general, although there are a handful of exceptions).
Interesting for the kit makers/sellers out there to consider!
About 60% of the people stopped when we had 24 jams on display, and then at the times when we had 6 different flavors of jam out on display only 40% of the people actually stopped, so more people were clearly attracted to the larger varieties of options, but then when it came down to buying, so the second thing we looked at is in what case were people more likely to buy a jar of jam.
What we found was that of the people who stopped when there were 24 different flavors of jam out on display only 3% of them actually bought a jar of jam, whereas of the people who stopped when there were 6 different flavors of jam 30% of them actually bought a jar of jam. So, if you do the math, people were actually 6 times more likely to buy a jar of jam if they had encountered 6 than if they encountered 24, so what we learned from this study was that while people were more attracted to having more options, that’s what sort of got them in the door or got them to think about jam, when it came to choosing time they were actually less likely to make a choice if they had more to choose from than if they had fewer to choose from.
We try really hard to only have the best of a product, or item, or only specific tiers that are not confusing. With electronics you can stock everything, but a lot of it isn’t that useful or good. It’s something we think about a lot for every product at Adafruit. During our weekly LIVE video chats, one of the most popular segments is when we talk about why designed something in certain way or why we selected a specific product to stock.