One of the major problems manufacturers tend to bump into is the fact that single board computers can be incredibly expensive to create in any quantity.
This problem comes from the very nature of the SBC. It is, well, a single board. When you’re crafting a new PDA or a walkie talkie or what have you, you need a certain set of components inside the device, and you can’t easily get that with a motherboard and swappable components, as that can eat up even more time and money, and, of course, you’re probably not going to get everything you need to fit into the device with a motherboard system in the first place.
Embedded controllers and microcontroller microprocessors really are the way to go when you need to make a lot of small electronic devices. But, it being a single board, that means that you have to have the component custom made to your needs. For people in charge of embedded systems projects, getting a good deal on some SBC parts really can be quite a headache.
Generally, the only way you can ever get a good deal with most single board computer companies is to order way, way more units than you are ever going to need! The more the factory can mass produce, the cheaper they will be per unit. Unfortunately, if you only need X amount of SBCs’, you’re probably only going to lose money by ordering Xmillion instead.
Well one good way of lowering production costs is to work very closely with your manufacturer. Look, it’s a competitive market. Your guy at the single board computer company is going to want to earn your business, and if that means helping you perfect the design into something cheap and easy to make, then so be it. Besides which, you get the bonus of an extra brain on the job trying to design the best SBC unit possible for your products.
And of course, it might be a good idea to look through a service like Acromag to find a good company that can offer low prices on sturdy, reliable industry packs for orders of any size. There are SBC companies out there who make it their prime selling point to put out great products for less than the competitor, but you might have to look around a bit to find these guys.
Whatever it is you wind up doing, don’t give in to the temptation to skip the hassle and just settle on the first brand name SBC maker you find in the phone book. You don’t have any obligation to go with a popular name or a high price tag just to get the best quality… However, you do have an obligation to your customers (and to yourself) to give your buyer a great quality product at a lower price than they’re likely to find elsewhere. This means shopping around, redesigning and refining your plans until they’re just about perfect, and trying your best to design the perfect SBC for your products the first time out.