For the overwhelming majority of makers, the creation of a one-off device designed to solve a need - even if that need is simply entertainment - is enough to keep them happy. For others it can lead to something bigger, as with Matt Kachur's ViVi project which went from breadboarded prototype to commercially viable design in just six months - albeit five years after the original was put together.
For anyone interested in making the leap from breadboard to boxed product, it's always good to hear from someone who's been there and done that. James Lewis' Baldengineer site - which has previously posted a glowing review of our ARDX Starter Kit for Arduino - has this week played host to electronics design engineer John Teel to offer just that: a generalised overview of taking an Arduino prototype to production.
John breaks the process down into six overall steps: designing a microcontroller circuit which allows you to do away with the relatively bulky and expensive Arduino prototyping board at the heart of your design; designing a schematic for any shield or add-on circuit you're using alongside the Arduino; turning both designs into a printed circuit board; ordering prototype boards populated with components for testing; converting your Arduino sketch into a firmware for your dedicated microcontroller circuit; then going through the process as many times as required to create a polished product.
While John's guide is certainly enough to get you started, it does finish at the manufacturable prototype stage. Those following along will find that when the six steps are over there are numerous more to follow: finding a manufacturing partner who can handle the scale you require; compliance testing of the finished design, a requirement for electronic items to be sold commercially in most countries; packaging and documentation design; and finding a route to retail. As an overview of the road to a commercially-viable design, though, John's advice is priceless - and from a maker who has been down the road many times before.
Dreaming of bringing a new hardware product to market? Perhaps you think your product will make the world a better place, or maybe you just dream of making millions of dollars. Developing a prototype based on an Arduino (Genuino outside the USA), or other development kit, is a great first step. But there is still much work to do if you want to make your product into something that can be manufactured in volume and sold to the masses.