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> rent out a scalable 14nm chip fab from AWS

I was pondering the viability of almost exactly this. Could one invest in a hardware pipeline that efficiently combines e.g. 3D printing with FPGAs to create the consumer-electronics equivalent of Lulu.com's just-in-time small-batch book printing + drop-shipping.

Or, in other words: you can do pretty much anything with the sensors in a modern smartphone. All most manufacturers probably need is smartphone boards (with maybe some options of extra sensors) in custom cases with fancy buttons and displays, maybe custom remotes, and a cute little 4-colour double-walled box. That describes everything from Nest to Roku to some drone controllers.




You're probably better off using something like Samsung's Artik (https://www.artik.io/) that is basically cellphone-grade integration using existing high-density components.


There's a risk/flaw/gap with that plan. Modern consumer electronics depend on humongous volume discounts- 10x or even 100x- on parts, plus tremendous economies of scale on design & assembly.

JIT small-batch assembly seems roughly analogous to other low-volume electronics, which are obscenely expensive. For example, specialty bench equipment like spectrometers can cost as much as a house.. There are many factors at play there, but you can bet one of them is very low volumes.

This is why, at least so far, the kind of play you describe is accomplished with large batches of a generalizable platform that can be sold into many different devices.


Wattage tried something similar but just recently shut down: https://medium.com/inside-wattage/well-we-failed-77e795e16ec...


At Plethora, we're building the mechanical pieces of this - starting with full-auto, on-demand CNC milling as fast as LuLu or similar, then adding more capabilities.

Happy to make some free parts for anyone's ideas on here!

http://plethora.com

nick@plethora.com


Compare emachineshop.com. They have been doing that for years, and have a site with useful information instead of just pretty pictures.


Ha - yea, we're not the first machine shop, but we're doing something really new in regards to: instant pricing/feedback (inside your CAD), speed, and much more to come


Compare emachineshop.com. They have been doing that for years, and have a site with actual information instead of just pretty pictures.


(sorry about the duplicate - HN had a database timeout.)




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