Custom orders – redux

I recently received a custom order request asking whether or not I could re-do my voltage ‘controlled’ bandpass filter as a 1U tile – the answer was ‘yes’ but with some fairly significant strings attached. Specifically, that it would be expensive – in this case somewhere north of £150 ($200)

Here’s why …

Time is, as they say, money.

At the time of writing I am currently unemployed, having been made redundant at the end of December, so the sale of synthesiser modules is another way of paying my mortgage, making sure I keep food on the table and a roof over my head. Y’know, important stuff (I’ve only got 4 years left on my mortgage, I’m not going to fuck it up now). Whilst I like to think that my stuff is decent quality as well as cheap, this doesn’t mean that I’m willing to work for free.

The filter is an interesting case – whilst I had a suitable circuit available, albeit for the Eurorack module, in order to fulfil the order I’d have had to do the following:

  • Redesign everything so that it would fit on a suitable 1U friendly board – in this particular case I suspect that stacked boards would have been necessary. This entails faffing around with EAGLE and/or KiCAD in order to get everything to fit in a form that the fab house won’t reject. At very least this is a solid half-day’s work (4hrs). Even with surface-mount components, trying to shoehorn everything onto a board that may be a little over an inch square is hard.
  • Assuming a panel is required, that would need to be designed and prepared for manufacture too – figure on a couple of hours for that.
  • Once boards have been fabbed there’s building and testing – again, that’s a good couple of hours work.

That’s a full working day (8hrs) before the cost of parts and fabbing is taken into consideration – I usually charge £15/hr (or part thereof) for work such as this (and believe me, some folks will charge a hell of a lot more) so at a bare minimum you’re looking around £120 before the cost of parts is taken into consideration. Granted, you’re going to get three modules out of it, but it’s a lot to swallow – however, what you’re getting is a bespoke item so the costs will reflect that and I absolutely respect this guy’s decision not to proceed with the order.

Now, had the request been for, say, a Eurorack version of the filter with a modified layout then that would have been a hell of a lot cheaper – probably an extra £25-30 on top of the cost of the module to account for fettling the board layout, fabbing the boards and getting panels cut.

So, whilst tiles are eminently doable, just because they’re small doesn’t mean that they’re going to be cheap – I’m perfectly amenable to doing tile versions of my modules providing that the person doing the requesting is mindful of the fact that there’s quite a bit of work involved – rejigging board layouts is a massive time sink, for example. The only type of job that I won’t take on is for 2HP modules – I’m fully aware that these are a Thing at the moment, but a lot of my designs just aren’t conducive to cramming behind a 10mm wide panel and the amount of work involved in doing board layouts etc. pushes the price up significantly (there is one exception to this dictum in the pipeline, however …)

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