Today Eagle is the most popular electronic design automation(EDA) application for PCB design. It is widely used by companies like Adafruit, Sparkfun and Arduino. Most of the modules and kits are designed using Eagle. The best thing about these companies is that they release the Eagle files as a support to the open source hardware community for modification, redesign, sharing and manufacturing. So, using those free Eagle files, you can start up your own business.
You might have seen or used Chinese clone of Arduino and other several modules which closely resemble the original one. All those clone versions of any kit and modules are manufactured from the Eagle files provided by the companies like Sparkfun and Adafruit.
Before going into steps for starting up your own electronic kits business, we assume that you are electronics literate and you know basic soldering and schematic design skills. For this article, we would like to stick to an example of a DIY Arduino kit so that the tutorial would more clear for everyone.
- Choose a product: Decide what you want to make. Is it SMD or through hole circuit board ? Do you have SMD soldering or basic soldering skill ? If you are confident in soldering, then, choose a design file first. You can get hundreds of design file links on this website. LINK.
- Download Eagle: Download Freeware version of Eagle and install it on your computer. The freeware version is enough for Arduino based circuit boards and modules. You can modify the design file and add some features of erase the name of the board and rename it.
- Download Sparkfun Eagle Libraries and install all of them. Watch this video to install the library.
- Download the design file. You can view the schematic here. For this tutorial, we would recommend, RED board from Sparkfun(this product has retired). We chose this board because we are going to show how we modified this board to make DIY Arduino board.
- Modify the schematic and board file: Extract and open the *.sch file on your installed Eagle. On the schematic file, you can move the components or change the look of the circuit and make hundreds of modifications. Please note that to make any changes, you need to know the basics of Eagle. You can learn Eagle online on youtube. In my case, we added a screw terminal and used a different 3.3V regulator chip because the chip we had previously didn’t match with the chip used by Sparkfun. So, we had to remove the component from the schematic and find another one from a library. We also printed the name of our website: www.buildcircuit.com. If you do not want to modify but just want to extract the gerber, watch this video. If you do not know how to extract the gerber files, you can simply ask the manufacturer if they can extract it for you. Most of the companies will extract the gerber for you.
- Check gerber on circuitpeople.com: After you have downloaded the gerber, zip it and you can check it using circuitpeople.com. Please make sure that all the files are in one folder and the folder is zipped before uploading on circuitpeople.com.
- Order your board: After checking, you can order your PCB from one of these companies.
- Buy the parts: After you receive the boards, you can buy components, assemble the parts and check if it works. Most of the time, it works because it is exactly the same file that is used by the original makers.
- Assemble the board: Take pictures of your assembly and make a good documentation about how to use and what does the product do. Check this tutorial how I have written a tutorial about the assembly of the kit.
- Calculate retail price: Calculate the retail price for your product. You can get ideas about pricing your products online. We usually put 3 times the manufacturing cost. It can be more or less. You can decide on that yourself.
- Open an online store: Open an online store using freewebstore. We recommend freewebstore because it is the easiest and the simplest open store platform. The fee is not high and it is good for people who have less than 15 products to sell at the beginning. You can add more products later as your business grows. You can set up your store in less than an hour. www.buildcircuit.net is one example which was started with freewebstore and it is still running on the same platform.
- Open a paypal account: Open a Paypal account and allow your customers to pay you using Paypal.
- Sell on Ebay: You can also sell it on Ebay because you do not have spend money on advertising. There are already billions of people visiting Ebay. You can easily target them.
This is our product. We made this board in 2014 and we are still selling it worldwide.