From Project To Kit: Bringing It All Together

This is the fourth article in a series examining the process of turning an electronic project into a marketable kit.We’ve looked at learning about the environment in which your kit will compete, how to turn a one-off project into a costed and repeatable unit, and how to write instructions for your kits that will make your customers come back for more. In this article we will draw all the threads together as we think about packing kits for sale before bringing them to market.

If you had made it this far in your journey from project to kit, you would now have a box of electronic components, a pile of printed instructions, and a box of plastic bags, thin card boxes, or whatever other retail packaging you have chosen for your kit. You are ready to start stuffing kits.

It’s All In The Presentation

Label all your hard-to-identify components, your customers will appreciate it.
Label all your hard-to-identify components, your customers will appreciate it.

Your priorities when stuffing a kit are to ensure that your customer receives all the components they should, they can easily identify each component, and that the whole kit is attractively presented such that it invites them to buy or build it when they first see it. This starts before you have packed any components, you must carefully prepare each component into units of the required number and label them if they are otherwise not easy to identify. Pre-cut any components supplied on tape, and write the part number or value on the tape if it is not easily readable. You may even have to package up some difficult-to-identify components in individual labeled bags if they can not have their values written on them, though this incurs an extra expense of little bags and stickers. Some manufacturers will insist on using black tape on which an indelible pen doesn’t show up!

Take care cutting tapes of components, it is sometimes easy to damage their pins. Always cut the tape from the bottom rather than the side with the peelable film, and if necessary carefully bend the tape slightly to open up the gap between components for your scissors.

If you start by deciding how many kits you want to stuff in a sitting, list all the kit components and prepare that number of each of them in the way we’ve described. Then take the required number of packages or bags, and work through each component on the list, stuffing all the bags with one component before starting again moving onto the next. In time you will have a pile of stuffed kits ready to receive their instructions and labeling.

The next step will be to fold your instruction leaflet and pack it in the kit. Take a moment to consider how it can be most attractively presented. For example with a kit packaged in a click-seal plastic bag it makes sense to fold the leaflet such that the colour photo of a completed kit is visible from the front. And when you place it in the bag make sure that the PCB is visible top-outwards in front of it. A customer looking at your kit wants to immediately see what they are likely to create with it.

LED-flasher-kit-labelYou can now seal the bag or box, the kit is packed. It only remains to give it a label that has all the pertinent information and is attractive to the customer. You will probably want to put your logo or web address on the label as well as any small print required, alongside the most important feature — the kit description. We’ve put a warning about small parts and curious children, you may also want to put any reglatory or compliance information here. For example in Europe you might have a CE mark and a WEEE logo. Once you have your design sorted you can run it up in your favourite label designing software – we used gLabels – and print as many as you like on sheets of sticky labels. We strongly suggest buying good quality branded labels, the extra money is well worth it when you consider that they will have much more reliable glue, and the extra cost per individual kit will be marginal. Pick a label size which fills a decent space and is easy to read on your packaging without being too big, we used 70mm x 37mm laser labels of which 24 can be had on a single sheet.

Your First Finished Product

if Hackaday made electronic kits, they might look a little like this.
If Hackaday made electronic kits, they might look a little like this.

It’s an exciting moment when you apply a label to your first fully packed kit and see for the first time what your customers will see: a finished product. You aren’t quite done though, because there is still the small matter of quality control. Take a kit or two from your batch at random, and count all their contents off against your list of what they should contain. This should help you ensure you are packing the kits correctly. Finally, give a completed kit to a friend who has never seen it before, and tell them to build it as a final piece of quality control. They are simulating your customer in every way, if they have no problems then neither should anyone who buys the kit.

Once you’ve built your batch of kits, you will now have the stock you will send out to your customers. Imagine yourself as a customer, if you order a kit you will expect it to arrive in pristine condition. You should therefore now take care of this stock of kits to ensure that it does not come to any harm, its packaging is as crisp and new when you send it out as when you packed it, and it has not attracted any dust while in storage. We would suggest having a separate plastic box for the stock of each kit in your range, and protecting the kits from dust with a lid, or by storing them inside a larger plastic bag.

As we’ve worked through this series of articles, we’ve tried to give you a flavour of the process of bringing an electronic kit from a personal project to the masses. We’ve looked at learning about the market for your kit, we’ve discussed turning a project into a product before writing the best instructions possible and now stuffing your first kits ready for sale. In the next article in the series we’ll talk about how you might sell your products, the different choices open to you for online shops, marketplaces, and crowdfunding.

Swedish Senior Rolls in Style with Hybrid Hoverboard Walker

You don’t have to know a word Swedish to understand that 86-year old [Lasse Thörn] is the coolaste modernaste pensionären in Gränna. All you have to do is see him rolling on his walker-assisted hoverboard and you’ve got the whole story.

Still, not knowing any Swedish and the spotty nature of Google translations makes it hard to discern the details of this build. Did [Lasse] build the folding aluminum bracket that connects the battery-powered hoverboard to his walker himself? We guess that he did, since another story says that he built a pedal boat back in the 1950s because he thought it sounded cool. He also says that he gets a lot of attention when he’s out on his contraption, and that other seniors have asked him to build one. [Lasse] says he’s too old to start a business; we don’t think he’s giving himself enough credit, but if he’s willing to leave the field of affordable personal mobility open to the rest of us, we say go for it.

We’ve seen lots of hoverboard builds lately, and lots of hate in the comments about the use of that term. Seems like the false advertising vibe grates on folks, but face it: “rolling wheelie board” is kind of awkward, and until technology catches up with the laws of physics, it’s the best we’re going to do.

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Coil Gun for Newbies: Learning Electromagnetic Propulsion

There’s something attractive about coil guns, especially big ones. It’s probably the danger; between the charge stored in banks of capacitors and the flying projectiles, big coil guns can be lethal to experiment with. But there is a lot to be learned from how coil guns work, especially if you build this 3D-printed entry-level coil gun.

For the coil gun newbie, [Great Scott] does a fantastic job of explaining the basics. Pulsing the coil at just the right time will suck a ferromagnetic projectile into the coil core and let momentum fling it out, and multiple coils used correclty improve performance.

His gun is a simple pistol design with two coils, optical sensors to tell when the projectile is centered in each coil, and an Arduino to coordinate everything. The results are not spectacular — he uses only a modest amount of current — but the gun still works. [Great Scott] points out how a capacitor bank could be used to increase the current, but for the sake of keeping it simple he leaves that as an exercise for the builder.

Many coil gun and rail gun builds have made it to our pages over the years, including his ridiculously powerful gun that uses a capacitor bank so large it needs its own car. We like this build for its simplicity, its approachability, and the excellent explanation of its function.

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