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Old 12-12-2010, 03:22 PM   #21
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I've got a little CNC lathe in my garage. The thought of blowing out a couple thousand of these is tempting, but I'm sure someone would be knocking at my door.





edit:
Not a customer.





Damn! Missed all the name calling.

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Old 12-12-2010, 04:38 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rico567 View Post
Well.....there IS a reason for these to be the price they are, and it's already been covered in this thread. (So, I suppose this post is redundant, so delete if you wish) It's supply and demand. Products that are in limited demand will perhaps have only one, or a limited number of suppliers, and will be priced accordingly.

The only "should" where supply & demand are concerned was covered by (I believe) Armand Hammer, the late chair of Occidental Petroleum:

"The price of any item in the market is exactly what it will fetch."
It's not that simple. There are several ways to manipulate supply and demand. Like when the supplier has a monopoly or a patent.
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Old 12-12-2010, 04:56 PM   #23
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Looking at the abstract from my previous post has me thinking that the Crankandstein system is in conflict with Liquid Bread's patent.

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Old 12-12-2010, 05:10 PM   #24
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Even without the patent/monopoly, if multiple companies were making the carbonator cap, would it really be less expensive? Exactly what's the demand on it for more companies to make it worth making? (Perhaps Crankandstein can answer that better). If a place is only cranking out a few hundred at a time, then the limited production drives up costs too.
Other items with the equivalent amount of plastic may be cheaper because of the continuous run and constant demand. I think of rubbermaid containers of all sizes, or combs or kids toys. Even given the equal raw material cost, the scale that they create just spreads the other production costs out over each product.
Hmm, I can't recall the names and examples of these other costs for some reason, been a while since my packaging and auditing studies.
Overhead. That was the term. Both manufacturing and nonmanufacturing overhead on making the product. You know, how a solid 1000 dollars for rent, heat, mold transitions, etc while creating only 100 items means that each item is 10 dollars additional to the material costs. If they make 1000 items and that overhead is still the same or slightly larger (lets say 2000 for increases sake) then it's only 2 dollars in addition to the material costs. Problem is if the demand is high enough for that large number of items. Storage tends to cost quite a bit.

It's also like beer. The amount of time it takes to make a single gallon of beer vs a 5 gallon beer isn't largely different. Sure you may have a bit more boil time, but that's really not a whole lot of additional time. The primary and optional secondary are still going to take the same amount of time and material costs scale exactly (price per pound etc), but for the sake of your time, isn't it better to make 5 gallons of good beer than a single gallon 5 times? Luckily, demand will always be high for beer.

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Old 12-12-2010, 05:25 PM   #25
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The carbonator caps are a bit pricey, but they are also quite durable and do the job very well. I have a couple of them that I've been using for years without problems. I find that I don't really need more than two.

I think you could very easily find a way to get around the patent issue. There seem to be a lot of very similar products made by a lot of different companies and I haven't heard much about any patent lawsuits. The "Chugger" pumps come to mind immediately. How do they avoid infringing on the March patent? The pump heads are nearly identical in every detail from what I see in the pics. You could probably just make some minor changes and avoid a patent infringement lawsuit, but some real legal counsel would probably be a good idea before trying to sell something like that.

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Old 12-12-2010, 05:38 PM   #26
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Well, the dude from March said the other day that their patents have LONG expired.

I do think it's a stretch to say that the Carbonator Caps are a monopoly in any way, since it's a product that's easy to DIY and it's something that's entirely optional. Microsoft got into trouble with the DOJ and the EU because it was believed that you NEEDED to buy Microsoft products - no one possibly thinks that Carbonator Caps are a required purchase. They may be the only ones who sell it just because there's no other competitor who thinks it's worth getting into the market.

Being declared a monopoly requires (or at least, SHOULD require; the regulators don't always seem to view it this way) that there's no viable alternative. I'd argue that the presence of 2.5-gallon soda kegs is a viable alternative. I'd argue that the presence of seltzer bottles that use CO2 charges is a viable alternative. I'd argue that the presence of counterpressure bottle fillers is a viable alternative.

If you want a sparkling beverage in a portable container, there are plenty of ways to achieve that outside of a Carbonator Cap. No monopoly.

I'd also say that the market for these caps is pretty damn limited. They're selling basically only to homebrewers, who also keg, who also would like to carbonate other beverages. And, people who want one generally buy... well, one. They can't be moving THAT many units every year.

So, ignoring the patent issues for the time being, the costs of creating the injection mold, getting them made up, getting the packaging, and getting them distributed (to homebrew shops that already sell the same basic thing)... cripes, there are easier ways to make a buck than that.

As to the ones from Crankandstein, they look like they would work OK, but they also look like they would work for a little while and fail. Seem to be made with used soda caps, not new material. Carbonator Caps (the "real" ones) seem like they'd last a good long time. There's value there.

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Old 12-12-2010, 05:43 PM   #27
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It think it would be nice for someone to post the actual cost it would take to make and sell something exactly like a carbonator cap. Since I work at a mold producing company, who also manufactures plastic injection parts, I could have someone estimate this. I doubt anyone there would want to take the time to do it though.

There isn't really much cost involved in the actual making of the parts. If the mold is designed and built properly, there is NOTHING special about the plastic piece itself. A mold change could take less than .5 hours at our shop and we do it all manually. If this was built to run on one of our small PCM presses and the cycle time was 45 seconds (fairly conservative estimate) then an 8 hour shift could produce about 600 (factoring in any downtime). It would take much less than 1 whole person to run the press.

This mold could also have more than 1 cavity, which would conservatively produce 2,000 a day. I imagine a press of that size could run a 2-cavity. A slightly larger press could easily run a 4-cavity mold. 2400 per shift, or nearly 7,700 per day. And that is a very conservative estimate. A person could tend several machines if the mold was built to automatically shear the sprue from the part, which in this instance would be the ONLY way to do it. So the operator simply sorts for shorts or flash.

As far as the assembly, I have no idea. I don't have one to examine, but I suspect the addditional materials would cost the company a few pennies per part and the assembly cannot be that difficult or time-consuming even if done by hand.

The main cost is in the design time and the build of the mold and the demand for the produce. Supply is not a problem since the part is obviously so easy to produce with common material.

After really thinking about it, I'd say you are really mostly paying for the convenience. After seeing that link to the alternative product, I'd say they have a solution to the convenience too. I'd MUCH rather buy the 4 caps and adapter than a single carbonator cap PERIOD.

But for the price for any of them, it's not worth the effort to chuck a piece of metal into the lathe to build one by hand.

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Old 12-12-2010, 05:48 PM   #28
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@ the bird,

I must agree with you entirely on this. The carbonator caps are expensive, but they are more or less a one time purchase kind of thing. I might feel differently if I wanted to buy a dozen of them. I'm getting good mileage out of the two that I have and it looks like they will survive for many more years. They will probably get lost or stolen before I wear them out.

I have a friend in the manufacturing business and he has often said that most patents for similar small items like this look very nice framed and hanging on the wall of his office, but the reality is that it's seldom worth the time and expense to go to battle over possible infringements or to even bother getting a patent in the first place.

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Old 12-12-2010, 06:03 PM   #29
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When you buy a product, you're buying its end utility. It has nothing to do with the cost to produce it. That cost only comes into the equation when you're trying to figure out what the lowest price you can charge in light of stiff competition.

Even if the total cost is 20 cents each on a run of 10,000 units, you charge what the market will bear. Then supplier #2 comes along and offers it for $3 less and back and forth you go.

I guess another way to say it is the potential buyer is always deciding between price and value. The potential seller is the one that worries about cost and margin. This is way I'm always confused when people are appalled when a large company's profit report comes out as if there should be some kind of limit.

If I told you that it costs me $35 to sell a $40 sight glass, would you buy it any quicker than if my cost was actually $25?

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Old 12-12-2010, 06:04 PM   #30
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I'm actually quite surprised that someone has not wrangled a Chinese manufacturer to crank out some knock-offs for pennies per unit. Could probably sell a bunch of them on Ebay at $5.00 each at least.

There is one thing I think we have overlooked and that is product liability. The carbonator caps could potentially fail catastrophically (ie explode under pressure) and cause a personal injury. An expensive lawsuit would be sure to follow. Liability insurance would be a necessity and it would surely bump up the cost more than a little for such a limited production item.

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