Looks like this flight controller uses the same components, and it's just $34


Both have:

Atmel's ATMEGA2560

MPU6050 6 axis gyro
HMC5883L 3-axis digital magnetometer
MS5611-01BA01 Barometric pressure sensor

Can someone explain to me the price difference? Even the software was ported so you can have same version on both boards. Why should I pay $180 for APM 2.5?


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@loan Ghip: A simple question. When the time comes, who do you think is going to pay hardware engineers to design APM 3.0 boards and give free prototype versions to open source developers during the development cycle. HobbyKing?

I guess if you want to do that, good for you.

I just spent... I dunno how many hours, cutting and welding an aluminum box for an antenna tracker enclosure.  I could have bought one for about $150, but I figured I could make it cheaper.  Cost me about $30 in materials, but it must have been at least 5 hours now.  I should have just bought it.

Sometimes DIY makes sense.  Sometimes not.  It's for everybody to decide for themselves I guess.

You calculated only parts needed to create that board. You forgot to add time needed to develop it.

Switch hardware to software for a while:

"Why Photoshop is so expensive?" Come on! I could use notepad to paste the code (assuming I'll have the code). I could use free GCC to compile the code. I can write result to a CD. Summing up, CD costs <$1 so why Photoshop does not costs $1?

HK just makes a copy of such CD and sell it by CD costs. They do not need to add a time of development and QA to that price.

Welcome to the open hardware world.

Just take the time to source components, make a PCB, and then solder your own board. The time alone would make the cost greater than $170 for a one off board. In most cases time is more precious than money.

That said I do wonder how open hardware can survive with all the pressure from competition that does not put something back. But again, before open hardware, electronics had become such a commodity, designs would and are copied anyway!

"I wonder how open hardware companies can..."

Here, fixed it for you.

I meant what I said "I wonder how Open Hardware can survive". If the clones don't supplement future development, there will be nothing to clone or maybe it will just slow innovation as companies come and go more rapidly, none with a viable business model. I want open hardware to be a reality, since I would normally not have access to the details as a consumer without being an employee in such an tech area.

Bill.   The clones still allow software development (unless they are using proprietary ASM language and not allowing access to the source, after all the hardware is just sticking chips on a board (prefer someone else to do it and validate that it works before loading code), the magic happens when the software brings it all together.

The OpenSource phenomenon means that dedicated enthusiasts get stuff working. With or without corporate support.  A PseudoSocialist Closed system won't allow the development, and people will be back to etching their own boards and spending long nights soldering components. (Also if the Numbers aren't there, HK et al won't continue selling internationally.)

It will only take a few disasters with clones for the community to see if there is any value in the lower-cost alternatives.  If the clones are closed, then developers won't even touch them (unless it is to hack the code and open them up.)


"Electronics is just sticking chips on a board" I studied Microelectronics and Software Engineering and been in an industry that builds mobile device for sometime.I can tell you it's a lot more to it than that! The level of investment to make a board to just stick chips too is still major capital investment. Soldering by hand is unreliable and difficult for many and impossible for some designs. Hand soldered home made boards fail more often and need fixing more often. MeanTimeBeforeFailure is short. Cost is high due to the number of hours needed to make them and repair them.

What I'm meaning to highlight is the business model. Anybody who does Open anything realize the ideal is in freedom, not free beer. People still need to be paid somehow. The model here is we are paying a company to design and supply a board we can run the software on. 3DR are doing the board design, finding the latest chips for that design and creating it with all the risks involved in supplying hardware. When we buy from them we fund the R&D*. If we take a straight clone, and less money goes into the company involved. If the clones drop sales too low for 3DR they will be unable to innovate I.e. we get less interesting designs less often or maybe they just stop as they go bust. It's better if more than one company are in the space producing boards and contributing to the RnD or creating competing designs as this improves innovation, and make sure the product has more likelihood of continuing.

If the cloners put 3DR ( and the above applies to other companies like OpenPilot etc) out of business it means from a business perspective that less people are interested in taking that risk in future, so the outcome is probably more closed designs as cloners destroy the validity of the Open Hardware business model. As stated startup costs are much higher as are development costs, so each iteration of the board is costly to prove it works well.

3DR, OpenPilot etc... are more vulnerable to clones than say Arduino and Adafruit. Arduino gets much of it's money from it consulting business attached to the Arduino brand. Adafruit is a 'electronics rapid prototyping' distributor' so can be more nimble in a changing market. (I'd guess they do consultancy too)

Anyway, it's why i wonder how Open Hardware can create sustainable businesses and not be destroyed by negative disruptive sources. In these early days of 3DR or OpenPilot etc.. being loyal may just help create something that is sustainable. It really is a new area.

( Think I've used up my word quota for the week! ;-) )
(* would be good to know if 3DR also fund dev and tech writers etc. as this would be a useful community give back and improve the areas that get less focus in an open source environment )

"after all the hardware is just sticking chips on a board"..

Ohh man did you really mean that? That's wrong and problematic on so many levels that I don't know what to say. I suggest you try and just stick some chips on a board to see how that goes.. Sorry for the sharp tone, but if you knew the work and know-how involved in designing a nice commercial level board at the complexity level of APM, you just would not say that. Manufacturing a finished design on the other hand, can be as you said. But even just getting some Chinese factory to stick some chips on a board, usually requires a couple of test runs to get right.

It's not that hard to make a APM 2.5 by hand. It would cost you $5 per square inch to get a PCB here that is made at professional quality and then using hot surface or toaster oven you could get all SMD parts on it in one step. I calculated the parts cost is about $50-$60 if you buy one piece, if you get bigger quantities, the price goes down, of course. Dorkbotpdx even has a SMT class every now and then. 

Ioan Ghip, maybe a board is cheap to COPY, but who does the R&D and creates the eagle files for you in the first place?

Consider the time in your calculation.


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