Workshop Video #25: Get your open hardware manufactured

We look at the four common ways open hardware is commonly manufactured, and show the package of files we send to get our stuff made.

This is the ‘studio’ version of our ‘Get your stuff made‘ presentation from OHS2011 New York, MM07 Tokyo, Homecamp4 London, 2012 mini Maker Faire Shenzhen China, and 2012 Bay Area Maker Faire California.

Grab the presentation in Power Point, Open Office, and PDF formats below. Check out the main points below the break.

How does open hardware get made?

  • Licensing
  • Fulfillment
  • Contract manufacturing
  • DIY assembly

What do I need to get my stuff made?

  • Design files (Gerbers/Eagle/etc.)
  • Prototype
  • Partlist/BOM
  • Programming files and software
  • Test plan
  • Copy

Join the Conversation


  1. Could you give an indication about how much it costs to let a product like the Bus Pirate manufactured (only the service costs without materials)?

    1. We have a long history with Seeed, and I know they do different things with different project. Our fulfillment costs are incorporated in the quote, so I don’t actually know the breakdown.

  2. Great video! On the Fulfillment side do you pay Seed a flat rate or a percentage of the sale? If percentage what is the ball park range 10%, 20% 50% etc?

    You mentioned that a typical Licensing scheme would result in the designer getting roughly 10% of the sale for community support. I was just curious how much more profit is involved with Fulfillment considered the risk is much more shouldered by the designer. I am in the process of designing a couple open source hardware pieces of test gear and this topic really peaks my interest.


    1. I think Seeed takes 30% of the list price for propagate as I recall. Plus you have the overhead of manufacture/setup fee (I think on the automatic quote that is 500 dollars so 5 dollars a board for small boards anyway).

    2. I think there are a variety of things Seeed does. Our setup is different and fulfillment is included in the per-unit cost, so I don’t have the breakdown. You might check on the Little-Wire project in the forum. They have been through the most recent process for people using Seeed as a fulfillment house. I think there is a big variation depending on the difficulty of sourcing parts, and the appeal of the project to people at Seeed.

      For us it depends on volume. If we only sell a few then it is still slightly better than royalties. If we do big batches (500, 1000), it is much, much better than a royalty.

  3. To the other readers asking about seeed, you can go to and look under ‘propagate’. All their terms are documented there.

    Ian, great video. You specifically mention people who have purchased their own pick and place machines and ended up making a business out of building other people’s boards. Can you put me in contact with them ? Tnx..

    1. I’m sorry, I don’t have cards or any info off hand. You might try contacting rsdio on the forum, he has provided a similar anecdote. If you are just looking for assembly, there are a ton of places in the US that will give you a quick quote.

  4. I’m glad I’m still in this. New designs are coming, I’m not dead. I just sent one out for PCB run today…

    News when I get it back and soldered.

  5. Awesome video.

    re: ~10:20,
    The bus pirate definitely appeals to my emotions, especially when I think about all the hours of work it has saved me ;)

    1. Thanks Dan :) I used this quote as an inside joke on the new sales pages we worked on this week :) I did revisit the emotional appeal thing this week too, and I dismissed it too quickly. Here’s my emotional appeal sales letter. It’s not too useful because we don’t send long sales letters out, but still I think it qualifies:

      It’s the middle of the night. You compile and program test code for what must be the 1000th time. Digging through the datasheets again, you wonder if the problem is in your code, a broken microcontroller… who knows? There’s a million possibilities, and you’ve already tried everything twice. Imagine if you could take the frustration out of learning about a new chip.

      Type a few intuitive commands into the Bus Pirate’s simple console interface. The Bus Pirate translates the commands into the correct signals, sends them to the chip, and the reply appears on the screen. No more worry about incorrect code and peripheral configuration, just pure development fun.

      1. The bus pirate is my swashbuckling best friend when chips aren’t acking and I’m feeling down.

        I’ll stop – but it is that good ;)

  6. Sorry for the late replies, I didn’t get any new comment notifications on this one for some reason.

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