After a good reception and a lot of mails asking for it, I am studying the possibility of manufacturing personalized cards like mine.
However, I am not sure if this project is economically reasonable. There are a lot of problems to deal with.
In first place, the setup cost are high. VERY HIGH!
When you order a PCB production, the manufacturer has to setup the machines and create the masks with the PCB drawing. This process is expensive, around 180$. After that, the production cost of each PCB is cheap, around 1$.
The same happens with the assembling (soldering the electronic parts). The setup cost is even higher! 250$ approximately.
For a small batch of PCBs, the setup will be the most part of the final PCB cost. But, when a large batch is produced, the setup costs are “diluted” and represent only a fraction of the final cost. ECONOMY OF SCALE!!!
In our case, each personalized PCB card requires a different setup, so a there is fixed cost of around 450$ for each personalization… THAT IS ABSOLUTELY INFEASIBLE! No one is going to pay that for a bunch of business card!
But… most of the setup process is exactly the same for all the personalized business card. They only differ in the silkscreen mask (the contact info printed on the board). So… I am negotiating right now with some manufacturers, trying to reach to any kind of agreement to pay only the silkscreen mask for each personalization.
Other problem is the hole in the PCB that I made to accomodate the microcontroller. The assembling machines have problems soldering it, so probably a manual assembling is required. TOO EXPENSIVE!
Removing that hole and soldering the microcontroller on the PCB is not an option. It will make the card to thick! (4.4mm!)
An finally, we have the problem of the electronic parts price.
When I did my business card some months ago, I paid using euros. The euro-dollar exchange rate was very good then, so the electronic parts and the PCBs were relative cheap (for an European).
Now that the exchange rate is more equilibrated, the price for the parts (and the estimated final price for all the card) in euros is not very reasonable paying… I don’t want even to imagine paying in dollars! Only the electronic parts are 5$!.
The solution to all these problems is a mass production. A production of 10,000 unit would allow me to negotiate with the manufacturers and providers from a better position.
Unfortunately, 10,000 units is far away from the reality. 1,000 could me a more credible number.
With those numbers, I expect a final price around 8-9$ per unit. I will contact with more manufacturers/providers to try to get a better price…
The problem that I don’t know how to solve is how to automatize the personalization of the PCB layout. For each personalization I have to modify the PCB layout, and that is one hour of engineering (plus the work of sending the personalized PCB to the manufacturer, explaining everything, coordinating the shipping, etc)! I don’t mind to personalize two or three PCBs, but… I really do mind to personalize dozens!
The good news are that I am thinking in some changes.
I am considering to replace the PIC 24FJ64GB002 for a PIC 18F25J50. Less CPU power, but the dollar saved with the change will be used to put a 2MB SPI flash memory.
I will post news with more details about the negotiations, but the high estimated price per unit is making me think twice about going forward with the project.
As an alternative for those who wants a cool card, but do not want to spend a lot of money and do not need “fancy functions”, I am thinking offering PCB cards without any specific circuit electronic on it (no electronic parts). They will be much, much, much cheaper because there are no components and no assembling costs.
If you are interested in some business card, send me an email at “card (AT) t4f.org”.
[Edited:] Not any more! I am not making more business card at the moment.