I’ve heard almost every criticism in the book, when I tell people that Edtric Corp. is making a “Made in The USA” Arduino® UNO R3 clone in partnership with Cascade Systems Technology. You can find the USAduino® on our edtrication website. Let us visit three of my favorite criticisms along with my interpretation of them.
“Why would you want to make an Arduino in The USA?”
Are you crazy? Have you lost your mind?
“Its not like the original Arduino® is made in China. It is Italian for crying out loud!”
You are going to piss the Italians off and you should probably just let Asia do that. Its too late for the revitalization of American manufacturing. We simply cannot compete with anyone. We do not make anything in America anymore especially not low cost electronics.
“You cannot compete with the Asia Arduino® clones after all they are half price and often come with a USB cable.”
You are a terrible businessman that does not seem to understand that price is the only thing that matters. There is no way on earth people are going to purchase an Arduino® just because it is Made in The USA when the Asia version sells for half the price and includes the cable for crying out loud.
In this article I will break all the rules of internet writing and blogging so if you do not have the attention span to read through long winded rants, here is my short answer to:
For those of you more interested in philosophical discussions and debate here are some of my longer winded thoughts on the matter:
If you have not heard Arduino® in its simplest form is an affordable popular ecosystem that consists of a friendly user community (more or less friendly), hardware, and software that makes learning electronics and programming accessible to anyone interested and willing regardless of age, sex, race, religion, or national origin.
I will be the first to confess that, until recently, I never really appreciated the power of the Arduino® ecosystem. My initial disapproval stemmed from a bit of engineering snobbiness if you will. We engineers often forget how painful it is to learn the things that we do therefore we are often guilty of dismissing the beauty found in simplicity. Simplicity is what makes the Arduino® ecosystem beautiful. So why make one in the USA?
Sometimes engineers obsess over persistent and acclaimed unsolvable problems. I often wish my obsessions were over problems like “How round is a circle?” or the “Navier Stokes Equations” because these kinds of problem earn you more engineering friends and less other types of friends. As sad as it may sound if you are working on these kinds of problems you are actually popular in the engineering squares but lucky for me I do not have to concern myself with such peer pressures. You see, my mind has long been occupied with less popular engineering concerns, such as “Revitalization of American Manufacturing.” I think the idea that so many of us are ignoring such issues in favor of chasing ideal answers in a pragmatic world is what makes this problem so intriguing to me.
So what does Arduino® have to do with all this?
For starters, unless you have been training for that one way mission to Mars over the past nine years; Arduino® has the attention of the world. Since its inception, its fans have raved about its ecosystem as if an instant cure for all global educational ailments has been discovered. When I started tinkering around in the Arduino® sandbox I was initially unimpressed because most engineers are always looking for problems to solve even when none may exist. We tend to have a knack for ripping things apart even before turning them on but then something strange happened. My apprehension for how far removed the casual Arduino® user had been put from the complexity and technical details had eventually subdued and a small sliver of light made its way into my mind, as if it were a stream of water patiently shaping cracks into stone. You see the initial point that I had missed was that the Arduino® ecosystem was designed with everyone in mind. I mean everyone.
The Arduino® ecosystem is open source. Put in simple terms, this means that the masterminds behind Arduino® wanted you to have full access to the design details for both the hardware and the software, but at the same time they did not want to overwhelm new guests. Ignoring the fact that they do not like it when you go off and clone their products despite its “open sourceness,” I was quickly intrigued by the number of Arduino® derived products and projects that the community was creating. I became inspired by the work of artists that abandoned their paint brush and easel for a soldering iron and a bread board. I smiled at the fashion designer creating the turn signal cycling jacket. It was all so beautiful, so simple, and almost instantly all of my old fashioned engineering thoughts are now being complemented by what I am learning from the arts. I found that the arts can afford you the opportunity to make a statement without always having to make something original or beautiful. That is exactly what I wanted to do.
Making an Arduino® clone in The USA was not about competition with Asia nor the Italians. The Italians had already developed something elegant and expressive but they did so with world wide collaborators such as Tom Igoe and the many others who will remain unknown unless purposely sought out. Asia was fast to flood the market with low cost clones and accessories so there is no race there. They always win on price for the moment and resistance would have been futile.
On the other side of these competition-based market forces lay purpose and creativity driven by the strong user base and community and I was searching for what it was I wanted to express. John Nash pacing back and forth on the Princeton campus in search of his truly original idea comes to mind for some reason.
I eventually saw an opportunity to use a popular form of open source art to express engineering and manufacturing possibilities. I saw opportunity to show rather than tell the world that “we can Make it in The USA.” There are pains in product development and manufacturing that consumers never get to see and a lot of behind the scene politics that are not really for the faint of heart. We cloned the Arduino® UNO R3 fully compliant with its open source terms. This compliance gave us opportunity to communicate our respect to the open source movement and to the Arduino® creators despite the fact that most clone manufacturers do not. Despite our respect for the open source term, the nice folks at Arduino did not want to hear from us.
Sure maybe it has “a bit of crazy in it” and as far as me “being a bad businessman” I will let our customers be the judge. We get these boards made at $21.50, our cost, which does not include shipping, logistics, or actual engineering hours put into the product. All components are sourced from US distributors which means we pay high retail price for them. We sell it for $30, not because its going to make us rich, but because it expresses the statement that we want it to and because it represents the values we want to live up to.
Our contract manufacturing partner Cascade Systems Technology was the only one willing to stick their neck out on the line to help us express the point and for that we sincerely thank them! If you ever want to manufacture products in the USA, you should talk to CST.