Upgrading a golfing project to be sold commercially.

Hello!

I'm a 17 year old student. Last year, for my electronics GCSE, I created a golf practice putter machine that would count the successful putts and automatically return the ball.

I've some links of how it works here:

I've won several awards for this piece of work and I've often been asked if the design is patented and if the product will be on sale. After some brief consultation, I've decided to go down this route and work towards a design patent of the ball return system and a commercially manufacturable version.

This is where my experience and money (or rather, lack of both) come into play.

This is a picture of my current board mounted in the device. (apologies for the bad quality) As you can see there's an Arduino Nano mounted on a custom PCB with terminals running to a 7seg display, 2 motors and a servo.

My question is this: I need to create a runtime board for the eventual commercial version, because obviously I can't economically keep buying Arduino Nanos to mount onto each board. I need to use the Arduino schematic to strip it down and keep the components I need - then add my own custom components, and get this board manufactured - trouble is I have no idea how. EAGLE is also not commercially available unless I shell out a large amount of money for a software license.

Is there an easy(ish) way to do this and preferably with having to make as little available as possible?

Thank you for your time

Ben

Try Fritzing.org

GOOD LUCK!

svalls:
Try Fritzing.org

GOOD LUCK!

Hey :slight_smile:

I actually used Fritzing to design the PCB that I used. I still have no idea how to use the libraries and whatnot to create the runtime board.

Eagle is free for small PCBs. Yours seems to be small enough.

BlueBill:
Eagle is free for small PCBs. Yours seems to be small enough.

Is it? I was under the impression you couldn't use the free version for commercial use.

Hi Ben!

You may want to check out http://fritzing.org/

You can design projects in here, and send off to get a board made up once you've set you files up.

A couple things..

First, I couldn't get the 'send PCB' link to work when I messed about it a while ago.
Although it may work for you?

I tend to use Proteus, but that also costs quite a bit!
Searching for 'free PCB design software' should bring up a few results.
Make sure they have capability to footprint SMD and that you can design your own, or you may be stuck with using DIP and through hole components..

If you are going at this to make money, it may be worth investing the money in pro software in the long run, or, get your project protected, and then look for someone to back you finacially, then you can buy what ever you need!

Another option would be to learn to etch boards yourself, search for "PCB etching, toner transfer method".
This would be useful to test your boards out before you send them off to manufacture.

You may want to consider where you've placed your display, what if a ball hits it, or it gets damaged in transit. (Just a suggestion.).

Watch out for licencing pitfalls, eg the safety of yor product if you wish to release it commercially and if there are any other products that have protection on your design that you may need to adjust or change.

Best bet would be to see a consultant and talk to them about your idea (make sure you get them to sign a confidentiality agreement!).

Also, think packaging, website, branding, promotion, marketing.
All essential in a good business plan..

Hope this is of help, and all the best of luck with your product!

There is also Kicad -> http://www.kicad-pcb.org which is open source.

clivemist:
Hi Ben!

You may want to check out http://fritzing.org/

You can design projects in here, and send off to get a board made up once you’ve set you files up.

A couple things…

First, I couldn’t get the ‘send PCB’ link to work when I messed about it a while ago.
Although it may work for you?

I tend to use Proteus, but that also costs quite a bit!
Searching for ‘free PCB design software’ should bring up a few results.
Make sure they have capability to footprint SMD and that you can design your own, or you may be stuck with using DIP and through hole components…

If you are going at this to make money, it may be worth investing the money in pro software in the long run, or, get your project protected, and then look for someone to back you finacially, then you can buy what ever you need!

Another option would be to learn to etch boards yourself, search for “PCB etching, toner transfer method”.
This would be useful to test your boards out before you send them off to manufacture.

You may want to consider where you’ve placed your display, what if a ball hits it, or it gets damaged in transit. (Just a suggestion.).

Watch out for licencing pitfalls, eg the safety of yor product if you wish to release it commercially and if there are any other products that have protection on your design that you may need to adjust or change.

Best bet would be to see a consultant and talk to them about your idea (make sure you get them to sign a confidentiality agreement!).

Also, think packaging, website, branding, promotion, marketing.
All essential in a good business plan…

Hope this is of help, and all the best of luck with your product!

Hey Clive, thanks! :slight_smile:

I’ll have a look at that software now.

I’m trying to gather investment from friends, but I’m looking at around £600-£700 in total :L (that’s a lot of money for someone my age)

The display placement isn’t final (this is an early prototype, after all) and there’ll probably be some kind of cover over it. All that will be covered later on as the product starts to get closer to it’s final form.

Thanks for the help! :smiley:

No problem!

Don't forget to thank the other people that also replied..

Let us all know how you get on, get out there and make it happen!

What a pity there is`nt a KickStarter UK!

Theres always Dragons Den (UK) :slight_smile:

Good Luck!

Lakes:
What a pity there is`nt a KickStarter UK!

Theres always Dragons Den (UK) :slight_smile:

Good Luck!

There is actually a Kickstarter UK, but I want to avoid crowdfunding if possible. As for Dragon's Den, well, you get laughed out of the room if you don't have some way of protecting your idea, and until I get a patent I don't have much ground to stand on.

Thanks anyway.

Good luck, there are a million bad putters out there who are always looking for the next gadget to help them.

Jimmy60:
Good luck, there are a million bad putters out there who are always looking for the next gadget to help them.

Thanks! :slight_smile:

Struggling to get this off the ground at the moment due to insufficient experience and lack of money, but I know I can do it given the resources.

Unfortunately, I only have £150 out of the £750 I need. :frowning:

Going to start to take a look at stripping down/making my own setup with the Atmega328 tomorrow. Anything I need to know before hand? Guidance, tips, tutorials, etc.

Thanks :slight_smile:

Easy part:
This thing most probably does not need an Arduino at all. Strip it down to a smaller (=cheaper) Atmel CPU (e.g. 168 or 88). Also get rid of the crystal. Only keep the minimum necessary parts (decoupling cap!!!). Protect everything against over voltage. Especially the power supply. Remove the bootloader, flash everything by the help of an ISP. Do not forget to pull up the reset pin in a suitable way (stick to application note AVR042 Hardware design considerations)

Intermediate part: take care of European electronic waste regulations. I have no clue how tough this is for UK, but in Germany this is a pain for small businesses.

Hard part:
find someone who will do the sales for you. If possible find someone who is willing to finance the project and sell it. For example I tried to sell my Blinkenlight shields through Rugged Circuits. I had to pay the boards in advance and sales were really disappointing (also the hit count on my page was really OK). Now I changed to Franzis, they finanzed the new boards and will sell them. I get a comparatively less money per piece from them compared to the previous sales model. Still they sold >4 times more boards in one month than I sold the year before. --> This will soon compensate my loss.

Lesson learned: if you are an engineer sales is harder than development. It is not sufficient to have a good product, you also need to sell it.

[quote author=Udo Klein link=topic=129751.msg976189#msg976189 date=1351547583]
Easy part:
This thing most probably does not need an Arduino at all. Strip it down to a smaller (=cheaper) Atmel CPU (e.g. 168 or 88). Also get rid of the crystal. Only keep the minimum necessary parts (decoupling cap!!!). Protect everything against over voltage. Especially the power supply. Remove the bootloader, flash everything by the help of an ISP. Do not forget to pull up the reset pin in a suitable way (stick to application note AVR042 Hardware design considerations)

Intermediate part: take care of European electronic waste regulations. I have no clue how tough this is for UK, but in Germany this is a pain for small businesses.

Hard part:
find someone who will do the sales for you. If possible find someone who is willing to finance the project and sell it. For example I tried to sell my Blinkenlight shields through Rugged Circuits. I had to pay the boards in advance and sales were really disappointing (also the hit count on my page was really OK). Now I changed to Franzis, they finanzed the new boards and will sell them. I get a comparatively less money per piece from them compared to the previous sales model. Still they sold >4 times more boards in one month than I sold the year before. --> This will soon compensate my loss.

Lesson learned: if you are an engineer sales is harder than development. It is not sufficient to have a good product, you also need to sell it.
[/quote]Being fairly new to this all I'm gonna have to research pretty much all you just said, so bear with me, but thanks :slight_smile:

Do I need to write a bootloader with this method? Do I use the arduino bootloader and burn the chip with a programmer?

No, if you use an ISP you never need a bootloader. Plus flashing through ISP is faster and more reliable. I recommend a AVR ISP MK II. The cost is negligible compared to the other costs you will encounter. Also you time is more worth than trying to figure out how to make an el cheapo programmer run as desired. Unless you need a field upgrade option for your customers bootloaders should be kept out of the equation. They complicate matters unnecessarily.

Also it is a very good idea to run with the default frequency of 1 MHz if possible. This way you can lower the supply voltage. You are not required to but you can. Thus the cpu will tolerate any drops in the supply voltage much better in case the batteries are going to run dead.

You might also want to research how to go for low power consumption. The standard example is probably this: http://interface.khm.de/index.php/lab/experiments/sleep_watchdog_battery/. A somewhat easier approach is here: http://code.google.com/p/narcoleptic/.

[quote author=Udo Klein link=topic=129751.msg976229#msg976229 date=1351549575]
No, if you use an ISP you never need a bootloader. Plus flashing through ISP is faster and more reliable. I recommend a AVR ISP MK II. The cost is negligible compared to the other costs you will encounter. Also you time is more worth than trying to figure out how to make an el cheapo programmer run as desired. Unless you need a field upgrade option for your customers bootloaders should be kept out of the equation. They complicate matters unnecessarily.

Also it is a very good idea to run with the default frequency of 1 MHz if possible. This way you can lower the supply voltage. You are not required to but you can. Thus the cpu will tolerate any drops in the supply voltage much better in case the batteries are going to run dead.

You might also want to research how to go for low power consumption. The standard example is probably this: http://interface.khm.de/index.php/lab/experiments/sleep_watchdog_battery/. A somewhat easier approach is here: http://code.google.com/p/narcoleptic/.
[/quote]starting to think I'm slightly out of my depth here :confused:

be interested to see how you calculated £750 needed?
PM me if you prefer :slight_smile:

You can go bootloaderless, just burn the program right in.