Tinkerforge: open source electronic building-blocks

Bastian sez, "Tinkerforge offers open source electronic building blocks. There are sensing-, motor controlling- and wireless building blocks. You can select the modules you need for your project, plug them together and with only a few lines of code you can program your system. You can control it from your PC/Mac, tablet or smartphone."

Tinkerforge (Thanks, Bastian!)


  1. I like the concept, but the prices of most of the bricks and bricklets seem a bit high. I understand that they are on PCBs with connectors, but is it really 13 euro for two relays? 16 euro for a 16×2 LCD? Especially when a plain breakout board is 3 euro (quite reasonable) and the master brick (which is much better than an Arduino) is 30 euro, the prices just don’t seem comparable. Seems like they are selling the main system cheap so that they can gouge on peripherals.

    For comparison, you can buy a 16×2 LCD for $6 USD from BG Micro. Even with an I2C IC on the board, I can’t see how that costs 13 euro more than the breakout board. BG Micro also has a 5V, 2A regulated supply for $4 USD. I realize that’s not quite the same spec as the step-down power supply (3A), but that’s still over a $20 difference, and the power brick only does DC-DC. DC converters are cheap and easy to build.

  2. The prices are quite reasonable.  To use bare sensors, displays and motors is usually a remarkable amount of work, involving: real electronic engineering, circuit board fabrication, surface mount techniques that require expensive special equipment, prototyping, testing, software… then repeat that for every part of your system. Realistically you are talking about thousands of dollars and months to produce something like this as a hobbyist, and odds are it won’t be done as well – even more likely, it just won’t get done at all.

    If you think you can get the parts cheaper and build it yourself, why not do it? The hardware is open source.

    Comparable solutions  from industrial control companies (actually generally inferior in ease of use) cost much more  – so much more they often don’t post prices. And then you have to see if you can get devices from different vendors to work with each other and your software, which can often be a massive headache.

    The really nice thing about the Tinkerforge stuff is that it’s got pretty much everything you might need, easy and low development-risk but still customizable.

  3. @boingboing-819fefda81994b411a379b51918baa45:disqus : Olaf from Tinkerforge here, i just have to respond to your comment, because you are a little bit off.
    Lets loook at the 16×2 LCD Bricklet: The 16€ are incl. 19% German VAT (that you don’t pay if you order from the US) that makes 12,96€ as the real price. Now lets look at the cost:

    You say you can get the LCD 16×2 for 6$, this LCD does not include the pin headers and there is no way to solder these on in an automatic way, since the LCD and other parts are already soldered on . So they have to be hand soldered. If we assume you can solder one of those on every 3 minutes, that will cost you at least another 50 cent to do that (10€/hour).

    Then the LCD Bricklet itself: The size of the Bricklet is (compared to all of our other products) quite significant (if you like you can go to pcbcart and calculate a price for something like 100 panels a 10 LCD Bricklets, the price is quite signifcant!)

    Then we need to solder the parts on: We need a metal stencil for the SMT soldering (a good one costs about 500€) and the pick and place machine has to be programmed (lets say 100€). Since we are not making millions of pieces currently, you have to factor in those on-time costs. Then you have to pay for the machine hours of course.

    After that we need to solder on the THT parts with a wave-solder machine, there the parts have to be placed by hand and we have to pay for the machine hours too, of course.

    If you add all of that up you will be suprised how small the margin is. Also, we are still missing the costs for the parts on the Bricklet itself (connectors, I2C expander, EEPROM for the firmware).

    Of all of our products, the LCD 16×2 currently has one of the smallest markups percentage wise!

    Just to make this clear: We are huge fans of Arduino and co at Tinkerforge! We don’t see us as competition to Arduino. Arduino is programmed on the device in a C derivative and our stuff is controlled from a PC with a high level language. 
    Sometimes you want to solder and make your own hardware designs and sometimes you just want to automate something as fast and easy as possible.
    Those concepts can both coexist quite happily :-).

    But to say our stuff is too expensive if you compare it to bare boards and bare components is just not fair. Sorry for the rant.

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