Friday, August 12, 2016

Laser Burn and Holo...Price

I've not been feeling well all week. Took a half day off Monday, took all day Thursday. In addition to flu-like symptoms I've an unexplained collection of cuts on my right thumb that have not been healing the way I'm used to. So I'm trying to get through the next few days without a right thumb.

Took the holocron files to the laser last night. Illustrator and Inkscape now agree on scale (no more scale conversion step!) but still loses the layer names. And for some reason some layers just won't print. So I wasted a good hour of my reservation wrestling with the software.

So while I hoped I could leave without large sheets of acrylic in my hands to maneuver through BART, I was only able to cut one shell set and a single face of the diffusion layer.

Worse, the tight snap-fit I'd obtained after much file tweaking is gone now. May be a laser focus issue; that particular laser was not behaving well overall. At this point, tho, I'll assemble what I have as a prototype, put it out for orders, and test-and-tweak on the first production run. (I have enough half-built holos from my various test runs already...I'm going to assemble as many of them as I can to use as samples).

The Holocron project is nearing completion at last. Sure, there's been a lot of interruptions, and a lot of pauses while I try to come up with a way around a seeming impossible technical hurdle. But it is I think a good benchmark for just what I can achieve while working full time. The Imperial Highway project took three months of documentable work (and a month or two of planning before that, I can safely assume. The only other prop I did all year was the Caninja Throwing Star; that was a mere week or so of work but it took me about a month to get the opportunity to work on it.

Which also means pricing will probably have to be adjusted. If you count forty available work hours in each week at the day job, the opportunity cost is $10-13 for each hour of labor I spend on a prop. The standard is to multiply all easily-factored costs by three to reach the minimum profitability point (that is, include all materials costs, but don't try to factor in costs of tool maintenance, correspondence, bookkeeping, etc.)

I don't have good numbers on the Holocron yet. But I'm not going to build ten on spec just to get numbers. From what I do have, materials cost is about $20 each, and with 2-3 hours of labor involved in the lasering alone, "at cost" would be upwards of sixty bucks.

But what I'm going to do -- assuming I get enough orders for it to matter -- is price at cost or below for the kit (and mostly ignore the labor). Even then I can't get below $30 and still cover transport and materials, so I'll probably have to go $40-45. I made promises to the community, and I'm willing to take a small loss in order to fulfill them.

Fully assembled (which I'm disinclined to anyhow) I'd price at scale. Which means it would start at $200, and that's without even the lighting package. Assuming some people will just have to have it this way, this is where I'll make back some of the development cost.

The circuit board is a little harder to figure. Materials looks to be fifteen bucks or so (most of the parts are surface mount and nickels a part, but the lithium polymer battery is a large line item, as is fabrication of the PCB itself in small run numbers). Offering a kit option is attractive but doesn't make a lot of sense; the through-hole parts would take very little more time to solder than the time to sort them into little individual bags, and the surface-mount is not really kit-desirable.

And once the holocron is properly sorted, I can move on to the next project. Which isn't a prop. It's some serious apartment cleaning.

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