How to manufacture a product?

We are often asked to give an overview of the production process and what to expect. So here it is. Creating a connected product is an incredibly rewarding process and outcome, but it is a very complicated thing to do! Many complex parts need to work together: design, engineering (electronic and mechanical), software dev (mobile and backend), dealing with suppliers, quality control, legal aspects with regulations, shipping and import duties, and of course both a client and a user/customer to please.

I will try my best to give you an overview of what to expect for each of the parts to making a hardware connected product and also showing why it will not cost under 50 CAD (37,50 USD) to produce with projection. Pushing it, we could hopefully go under 100 CAD (75 USD). The below prices are in USD as this is how most of suppliers communicate their prices.

The key parts to the Flight Light are:

  1. Plastics & Detailing

  2. Electronics & Firmware

  3. Mobile Apps & Backend

  4. Assembly

  5. Packaging

  6. Regulations & Compliance

  7. Shipping & Importing

Plastics & Detailing

For better or worse, most consumer electronics are made of plastic. This means we need to do injection moulding, hot plastic is melted into a mould of the product. Moulds (tooling) are a big investment, the cost/unit goes down significantly if you're producing in the thousands of units (a few euros in plastic per unit). Moulds are complex to design for and are themselves expensive, can easily cost 10-15k USD.

Once the product comes out of the mould, it's just the colour of the plastic we choose. We can employ tactics in the design to create separate parts so that we don't need to be painted too much. But most likely, you will need do some painting, stamping or stickering. Either way, you will need to account for a few euros more per unit.

Let's say that for the plastic parts including detailing (for base + torch) we're around 7-12 USD per unit

Electronics & Firmware

The Wesjet Flight Light is a really complex product actually. It's a projector, it's a computer, it's connected to the internet, it lives by having live data from APIs, and it's a nightlight that needs to glow and look good. Also, not to forget the torch part, which is technically a separate circuit.

Just the fact that we need a projector, means that there's the need of a computing module (10-15 USD), projector (20-30 USD), graphical module to control the projector (10-15 USD), other components like lenses, LED's, power supply, then the PCB and assembly of all (10 - 15 USD). So quickly it adds up, we're looking at around 50 to 75 USD / unit for the electronics.

Mobile apps & Backend

That's a lot of development, two platforms (Android + iOS) and also the whole backend infrastructure for dealing with messages, API's, users, etc. Just having access to an API for all airlines and flights might be a pricey monthly fee. This needs to be researched, but good to think about.

Packaging

There's a huge range of quality and complexity and quality here, accounting for between 1 USD for a simple custom cardboard box with styrofoam all the way to 5 USD for a heavy weight cardboard and nice foam. All needs to be designed for the product, not a huge deal compared to the rest but still not to be neglected.

Assembly

At this point, various factories have made the different parts. So it needs to all be shipped to one location, electronics added to the plastic, closed up, quality checked, placed into the packaging with any manual and leaflet that might be needed. Finally all placed into master cartons (a bunch of units in cartons, which are then combined onto pallets for shipping).

A few dollars...

Regulations & Compliance

This is basically a computer plugged into the mains, has a lithium battery (for the torch), with wifi and Bluetooth and because it's not purely a nightlight, but has got a play element for kids, it will likely be considered also a toy. This means that the regulations around that will be pretty heavy/strict. It's no problem, but it's a bunch of work, tests, and costs. Probably over 5k or so and can take months.

If you wanted to sell in Canada, USA, and Europe, here are some examples of what you'd need:

  • FCC certification is necessary for all electronic products sold in the United States that uses wifi or Bluetooth.

  • UL / CSA is necessary for all electrical products sold in the United States or Canada that plug into an AC outlet. For the power supply itself, we would probably use a supplier that already has the right certifications in place to help but the product as a whole is still needing to go through all this.

  • CE for EU

  • RoHS for ensuring that the product is lead-free. Only needed for EU and California.

  • Lithium Battery Certifications, these are for most rechargeable batteries as they can have some safety concerns. It's possible to circumvent this by using existing batteries that already have the certification, but this may create some constraints in the shape of the torch element.

And this is just for the main commercial regions (US, CA, EU), if only selling in Canada then we can focus on just that. But if you're wanting worldwide, then it can quickly become a lot!

Shipping

Finally the shipping can take between 6 weeks via sea-freight, to 1 week by air. Obviously it's a big price difference between each. Let's say around 3 USD/unit for air and under 1 USD/unit for sea-freight.

Import duties

This depends on which country you're importing to. To EU for a consumer electronic product, we usually pay 4,7%.

Development

Of course this is all for just the costs of production, but there's also development. The good thing is that a lot of the design and thinking would have been done but realistically there will be a lot still to be done to make sure that it's suitable for production and scale.

Timing

The good thing here, is that much of the design and the thinking will be done already. So we can focus on converting all that to something suitable/feasible/realistic for mass-manufacturing. We think this process will take about 4-6 months (if no big design changes), including finding factories and the back and forth for setting up the tooling and the overall production. The production itself would be about 2 months. And shipping 1 week to 2 months. So all in all, realistic 6-9 months to get it to Westjet's warehouses.

Aiming for production cost of below 50 CAD - not using projection

We understand that for you and Westjet, the projector is the key part of the product. This has some heavy implications cost-wise (development and production), and I think that we should consider the flip side of creating a simpler product.

Imagine the Flight Light as a beautiful bedside companion that is used every night as a night light that shines through the base, when the child wants, she can lift up the torch element and have a fun little plane to create a illuminate her way and create a shadow play. When the parent is in flight, the base changes colour or pulses (it is connected to the flight itself as per the current concept). All and all, the feeling of the product is extremely similar, but the simplicity has its own beauty. It could also appeal to the masses as it's less complex and easier to understand, and therefore sell more units.

This would mean we could probably make the product under 50 CAD and its development much cheaper.

To sum up, we hope this doesn't throw you off the idea of production, but rather gives you a realistic view of developing a product. Would be amazing to go all the way to production, the Flight Light has a lot of potential!

Andrew Spitz