Tips and Free Stuff
Why use repackaged components?
Known working models.
Each component has its quirks. Some of the microcontrollers have special setup requirements. This requires that your pins must be placed in the correct configuration else your circuit board will be useless or heavily modified. Some high frequency components like RF (e.g. GPS and ISM band ICs) require correct track lengths and ground planes. Even if you connect everything according to the datasheet and you add a few millimeters of track, have a split ground plane etc.. the entire circuit will not function.
By using a repackaged component you know you can just apply power and you are on your way. All the high frequency issues, I/O allocations and potential problems have been sorted out by the time you use the module.
Quick time to market.
As said on the home page you can easily spend between 5 and 15 working days to get all the components and PCBs ready before you can switch it on for the first time. Also, sometimes it is better to know that something is not going to work rather than stringing your client along for weeks or months before you finally find out the project is a "no-go". But there is usually no other way than to get some sort of model out in the field.
Client interest usually reaches a peak when they meet you for the first time and fizzles away as time goes on. It is a sad fact. Just like your newest DVD player catches your interest for just a few days so does your client with you. You can excite the person with promises but when you fail to deliver, or equally worse, you are waiting for parts and nothing happens for weeks you can be sure that you new multi million empire is turning to dust. The way to keep the client's attention is to continuously demonstrate capability. When you design something from scratch the schematic of PCB layout will impress only for so long. Bottom line: The client wants to see the LEDs flashing, he wants to see his name on the screen and he wants to hear the grinding of the gears when he pushes the green button.
With repackaged components you can do that, not only for the client but for yourself. Even if you order modules and start from scratch you will be up and running in less than 10 working days. If you have some modules on the shelf you can probably show something within 2 days or less. And the nice thing is that you have schematics and you know that you can get each and every part from us to recreate the product using your own CAD software.
Maybe you don't have this big client. Maybe you are just Mr. DIY playing at home. Why waste your money on developing something that will never see the light of day? We all brag and unfortunately, in the world of electronics, I have seen many brag while they are holding only a component and datasheet in the hand. Who are the DIYers? So far the most I have seen are school kids, tech/university students and married men. You can laugh but I have seen many men stop their pursuit of their newest gadget because mom or the wife has cut the budget due to the wasting of money. You brag, you don't produce, you look like an idiot and people don't believe you anymore. With repackaged components you can build a monster of a circuit, have it actually functional and be the Einstein of your village (as apposed to being the village idiot).
Cheaper than development kits.
Development kits are expensive. That is a simple fact. Silicon chip manufacturers want to sell chips not kits. They target people and companies that will place an order for thousands of ICs (after they got their development kit to work). They don't produce these things to go into production (i.e. your production).
I have been told another truth by a successful business man. People don't respect something that is cheap or free. Many of these development kit suppliers know that. If you get it for a low price it will sit in the shelf till the technology is obsolete. Getting somebody to pay between R1000 and R5000, per kit, forces them to use it. Once they used it the person will usually find some place for it and in the end it results in IC sales.
Where does this place the DIYer? Nowhere. If you have to pay R1000+ just to check out the features of one component and then still need to go through the entire CAD and manufacturing process (with other tricky components as well) then I know most people won't (and don't).
Repackaged components are way cheaper that development kits, but you can still do most of the things a development kit does. Many times it requires a separate power supply or two but you can still apply power, the required data converters and you are on your way.
Why is it cheaper? The final module's price is mainly composed of the component cost, PCB and assembly cost and our profit margin. With a development kit you are paying for all the other people in between and stuff you don't need (and the pushed up price for you to actually use it and then buy more chips).
The repackaged components are priced to make it useful as a production component and not just for development.
Easier to work with.
If you had all the fancy CAD software, precision soldering equipment, stereo microscope, etc..., then yes, by all means go and design your newest electronic wonders from scratch. There are many applications that require that. There is just no way you are going to design a 64 bit, 66MHz PCI design with repacked components (well not yet :-). But for all the other common electronic tasks the question is: "Why not?"
Why is it easier? Firstly the pins are spaced 100mils/2.54 to fit standard Veroboard. You can even order the board with a special turned pin (very expensive, must warn you) header that plugs directly into spring loaded breadboard. You don't have to battle with 0.5mm spacing, ultra thin soldering tips or anything that requires Superman vision.
But Veroboard doesn't look professional when the circuit is complete! Yes, I know, but you will get to a functional model much quicker.
Another advantage is that most of the fine work has already been done for you. In most cases you can layout your board on single sided PCB. Check out the tutorials.
Access to normally difficult to obtain technology.
Being able to buy certain components and actually having the ability to use it depends on your skills and bank account. As the components are getting smaller and more complex the divide increases.
The ratio of cost between doing it yourself and buying an off the shelf unit can be 3 to 10 times or more. Take GSM as example. An external modem can cost you between R1500 and R2000, requires a 12V PSU, large external antenna and requires you to convert the PC level RS232 to 5V/3.3V TTL levels. Oh, and then you still need to add a CPU when you want to design for a mobile application. With repackaged components you might pay around R500 to R600 for a modem, R100 for a CPU, sub R100 for the PSUs and be able to use a tiny patch antenna. But as the component prices drop your price will drop as well, as we only add a margin to the repackaged component (and not multiples).
This means that, as we produce modules, you will have different technologies, like fast microcontrollers, GSM, GPS, high efficiency power supplies, accelerometers, USB interfaces, power switchers, FPGAs and many more available at your fingertips. These will provide you with active solutions be it you are a grade 8 pupil or PhD electronics whiz.
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