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A dozen cheap junk-box parts... Assembled, they go for $500.00

Discussion in 'Electronic Basics' started by Herbert West, Oct 26, 2003.

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  1. Herbert West

    Herbert West Guest

    This is mainly a rant, but it's completely true.

    Square Wave Generator (Adjustable pitch approx. 50-400Hz)
    Skill level to construct: Beginner
    Parts list:

    C1, C2 3.3uf / 25v tantalum capacitor
    C3 6.8uF / 25v electrolytic cap
    Q1, Q2 MPS6534 PNP gen.purpose amplifier transistor
    R1 680 Ohm 5% 1/8 watt carbon film
    R2 220 Ohm 5% 1/8 watt carbon film
    R3 18 K 5% 1/8 watt carbon film
    R4 1.5 K 5% 1/8 watt carbon film
    R5 5 K mini-potentiometer
    R6 10 K mini-potentiometer
    J1 1/8" mini phone jack
    J2, J3 9v battery connector
    T1 Mini audio matching transformer: HiZ C.T. - LoZ
    2.5" x 4" green epoxy/fiberglass PC board

    2.5" x 4" stamped aluminum case. Looks like an "Altoids"
    candy mint tin box, just a little bit bigger.

    Would you believe that If I built this and sold it, it would be worth
    $400.00 - $500.00 ?!!? No kidding! I discovered this recently when
    my Cooper-Rand "Artificial Larynx" died. I had to price a new one and
    my insurance comany was balking at preauthorizing purchase of the unit
    (I lost my larnyx to cancer several years ago and I'm forced to use
    one of these devices to generate the basic vibrations for my speech).

    It's a butt-ugly cheap looking piece of 60's design marketted by
    Luminaud, Inc. It's got far fewer parts than a cheap 5-buck 60's
    transistor radios, housed in a tin-can case I'd be embarrassed to let
    a 10 year-old put his first electronic project in. And yes, I believe
    that Altoids sells their "curiously strong mints" in a higher quality
    case for $1.95 <grin> Sell it as a "Speech Prosthesis" however, and
    these dozen common, cheap parts in a tin-can are worth a vastly
    greater sum than their weight in precious metals.

    I was quoted between $400.00 - $550.00 for a new unit. One dealer
    offered to sell me a used one for $325.00. Two offered to repair my
    faulty unit at fixed rates of $100.00 and $149.95 respectively.

    Rather than maxing out my credit card, filling out the forms and
    hoping that my HMO would reimburse me, I fixed mine for in 10 minutes
    for less than a dime.

    All I did was replace both transistors with a couple 2N3906 I had
    lying around. Not quite the same spec, but since I paired them up,
    they worked. I suppose I could even order all the parts to build a
    new one one from Mouser or Jameco for less than $5.00 *retail*

    Maybe I should use a slightly different design to get around patent
    infringement and sell them myself for less than half what these crooks
    are soaking the medical insurance companies and HMO's for. I'd still
    be making a bundle. Naw... Wouldn't work. I don't have the money
    up-front to bribe the FDA or whatever US federal agency that has to
    "approve" them for medical use. Oh well..
  2. On Sun, 26 Oct 2003 12:41:13 GMT, the renowned Herbert West


    All of this kind of stuff is priced very, very high. Take a look at
    the cost of stuff for the visually impaired sometime. It must be a
    combination of the limited market and the government and insurance
    company subsidies.

    Best regards,
    Spehro Pefhany
  3. No only when subsidies are given, my brother sells beepers which
    I made for him:

    And believe it or not, it isn't even profitable, it just covers the
    costs and a beer perhaps.
  4. Ouch Frank, that really seems expensive. I know it's low volume (10
    units), but could you give us some kind of breakdown of the costs. I
    would understand if you charged him $1000.00 to do the design and write
    code for the chip (assuming it's some kind of micro) and it's costing
    ~$65.00/unit for the case, board, parts, and assembly. Or is there some
    hidden "medical device" cost involved?

  5. Probably nowhere near as bad as the stuff NASA buys.

    There have been numerous expose's on TV about the abuses of the
    medical industry. Right now there's a series on ABC about the U.S.
    health care system. They said that the number of bean counters far
    outnumber the Doctors, nurses, etc. I pass by St. Joseph Hospital
    when I go to work. They've got several high rise buildings full of
    support services. This 'organization' used to be run by a bunch of
    nuns. Now it's a huge money machine.

    @@[email protected]@[email protected]@@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@,@@[email protected]@[email protected],@@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@
    ###Got a Question about ELECTRONICS? Check HERE First:###
    My email address is whitelisted. *All* email sent to it
    goes directly to the trash unless you add NOSPAM in the
    Subject: line with other stuff. alondra101 <at>
    Don't be ripped off by the big book dealers. Go to the URL
    that will give you a choice and save you money(up to half). You'll be glad you did!
    Just when you thought you had all this figured out, the gov't
    changed it:
    @@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@@[email protected]@[email protected]@@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@@
  6. Likely the commercial vendors of "medical equipment" are paying
    BTW: What is a "Tamed Card" and who is "Tommy Wonder"?
    Does this "beeper" do something more than just beep?
  7. Isn't there some sort of transducer involved here?
    Is the transducer a commercial product or custom made for
    artifical-layrnx use? That may be a significant part of the cost.
  8. John Todd

    John Todd Guest

    What kind of transducer do these things use? Is it included?
  9. How long does it take to discuss what is wanted, to find a suitable
    plastic case, a button, a battery clip, components, design an circuit
    with auto-power off, to write a piece of software that does bi-bi-bi-beep
    four times, to do a pcb layout that fits exactly, to have them produced,
    to order the parts, and to assemble them, and to make a 2nd revision of
    software to tune the speed of the series of beep ?
  10. Try Google. The beeper only makes a series of short beeps. Like
    an alarm that goes off.
  11. dB

    dB Guest

    Yes Herbert, it's an absolute disgrace.

    Same thing with hearing aids.

    I made one for my Mother for the cost of a few beers.
  12. DarkMatter

    DarkMatter Guest

    That would likely be a piezoelectric wafer type transducer.
  13. That's weird. Liability has an enormous impact on some items, but I don't
    see how that would apply to an artificial larynx. Perhaps it's a small
    market which invites little competition.

    Other products, however, never reach the market because of liability
    concerns. A close friend told me of a SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)
    warning system that had potential but was still-born due to the liability
    issue. As he put it, if the system saved 99 infants but then failed to save
    1, the company would likely be sued out of existance.

    Another issue is FDA (or similar) approval. Another friend developed a
    unique algorithm for predicting the onset of a heart attack for cardiac
    patients but never did get to the market place. It can be a long and
    arduous process which will bankrupt indviduals and small companies.

    Many electronic designers and smaller companies shy away from certain
    markets because of litigation and/or government approvals. Of course,
    that's both a good thing and a bad thing. Just my thoughts.
  14. Garrett Mace

    Garrett Mace Guest

    And that's a shame. Personally, if I were to design something that had the
    potential to save lives, I would consider it my responsibility to make it
    available. If it saved one life and failed to save another (both lives would
    have been lost anyway), I would feel that was adequate compensation for any
    lawsuit levied against me by gold-digging relatives.

    But then, engineers are usually trying to help the world in some way. Not
    like insurance and investment beancounters, who consider the life of someone
    they don't know to be insignificant compared to a 3% bonus on their next

    Who says they aren't liable? If a person died, and the relatives discovered
    that a company was developing a device that could have prevented the death,
    yet for financial reasons was forced to halt development...whose fault it is
  15. Robert Baer

    Robert Baer Guest

    An answer to the liability problem is thus:
    Company XYZ makes device under contract for company A1 which sells it
    under its own brand name.
    Company A1 is basically a sales arm and most of the profits go to
    company XYZ as part of the pricing structure.
    Big ass BA1 sues A1 due to failure of on in a million for gigabucks,
    and A1 files bankruptcy and willingly folds.
    Same people in A1 create A2 and run the same model until BA2 comes
    along, etc & etc.
    XYZ can front the money for A1, A2,,,,An forever due to holding most
    of the profits, and BA1, BA2,,,BAn go cut fish on a few paltry thousand
    that An is worth.
    In short, set up a corporate structure that teaches these b*stards to
    eat their own sh*.
    Approval for minor crap as mentioned?
    Forget it..advertise in selected national magazines and on the net -
    direct sales....
  16. In Watson A.Name - Watt Sun typed:
    My friend's uncle had a heart attack Saturday, and triple bypass surgery
    Sunday. He should be fine. In the same family there was another old
    guy who had the same condition and treatment, but waited months for the
    surgery. He was in England, and he died.

    Their largest inefficiency by far is avoiding lawsuits, but that problem
    originates in a different industry.
  17. Tim Auton

    Tim Auton Guest

    Thank you for your survey of a statistically significant sample of
    cardiac patients in the UK and US. I expect to see it published in The
    Lancet in the near future. You didn't mention that you are a cardiac
    surgeon and that you had access to their notes, but I think we can
    take that as read.

  18. Perhaps you should also survey the mecidal providers just
    south of the Canadian border to see how much of their practice
    consists of patients unwilling to be THAT "patient".
  19. -------------
    "THAT" patient is the one who got immediate surgery and was actually
    only conscious for the last few days of his life, because he died
    despite the "success" of the surgery! The efficacy of bypass surgery
    is highly questionable.

  20. I read in that R. Steve Walz <>
    Sir Ranulf Fiennes is asking some tough questions about it at present.
    Seven marathons in seven days, four months after a double bypass.
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