Are Assembly kits a ripoff?
I guess it was inevitable. Almost from the beginning, I have been providing kits to complete the breakout boards I offer. They are fairly popular, about 90% of my customers buy them. Even though they are a pain to make, I want people to have a very high probability of getting the board running in their machine. But just recently, I was accused of "ripping people off" with the kits. I tried to understand why this individual thought that but wasn't able to get a clear answer other than the parts are cheap to get elsewhere.
Part of the dilemma of pricing assembly kits is that the individual parts can, indeed, be very inexpensive, especially when purchased in bulk. However, shipping them to me can be expensive and the time to assemble a kit is not trivial. The evaluation of quality of the parts adds cost and time - several batches of parts were rejected due to poor quality or just plain wrong parts delivered. I once had a batch of connectors that had a number of incorrect ones mixed in. That was not fun to straighten out. Maintaining stocks of various parts can be time consuming. There is also a small premium for ensuring that all the parts are known to work correctly with the board. In some cases it is about precise fit (the 2x3 header in the Ethernet kit for the T41U5XBB is a prime example). With all that, I try to keep kits cheaper than the total cost of ordering from 3 or more places, including shipping. When a kit is ordered with the board, there is zero incremental shipping cost. I do recognize that some people want to order their own parts and I am happy for them to do so. The Bill Of Materials for each assembly kit is available in the User Manuals so anyone can go and order the parts themselves. However, I believe that a significant percentage of board only sales never wind up going into a working CNC machine. I truly want every board I sell to be used in a CNC machine.
So, with all that, I think I will keep pricing the assembly kits the same way. But, I would love to hear from people either way. What do you think about this?
I'm Phil Barrett, a long time CNC enthusiast. I run a small company, Brookwood Design, that makes several breakout boards for grblHAL and love to help people get the most out of their CNC machines.