Oscillators have become an indispensable technology in the modern world. They are the core component that makes RF engineering possible, which in turn is what enables everything from cell phones to Wi-Fi to GPS. The modern, interconnected economy and life as we understand and experience it every day would grind to a halt if crystal oscillators were not abundant, well designed, and reasonably affordable. But what determines oscillator pricing?
The 3 Ps of Oscillator Pricing
As a general rule, cost drivers in any field of engineering can be split into three different categories that can be referred to as the “3 Ps”:
This refers to the physical dimensions and characteristics of a given component or device that is designed, developed and deployed for an engineering application. Things like size, weight, material composition, availability of select materials, etc. would be considered physical cost drivers.
The term applies to the unique requirements and restrictions of the program or project. Examples could be schedules and deadlines, delivery dates, transportation requirements, and order quantity and frequency of orders placed.
By the way, here's a great list of top productivity tools to keep you and your team on schedule to help manage such deadlines.
Finally, performance may arguably be the most significant driver of cost in engineering. Generally speaking, a system or component with a higher level of performance is going to cost more to design, build and implement. This is especially true for projects that need a high level of customization or additional research and development for the product to meet performance requirements.
Whether you are designing a laptop, a stealth fighter, a 5G network or an advanced radar system, these will be the 3 categories of cost drivers that impact your project. RF engineering is no different, and these cost drivers are also at work when determining oscillator pricing. Let’s examine the way each of these categories applies to oscillators in more detail.
There are some fundamental questions any project or commodity manager needs to ask themselves before placing an order. We’re focusing on crystal oscillators here, but the same principles apply to any product.
How many units do we need? What type of oscillators do we need? What are the most important performance benchmarks for this project? Is our primary concern reducing phase noise, or keeping power use to a minimum? These are all questions that must be answered to really understand what goes into oscillator pricing and to keep your projects from going over budget without sacrificing quality.
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It all Begins with Design…
Obviously, an oscillator by itself serves no purpose; it is always going to be integrated into a larger design for each application. It only makes sense then that one of the most significant cost drivers for oscillator pricing is the degree of work that must be put in at the design stage. If the new design requires special materials that cost more than traditional ones, that will affect oscillator pricing as well.
Of course, that new design will also need to be tested and put through effective design reviews to ensure that it meets quality standards and performs as desired. Simply put, the more R&D a project requires, the more costs may increase.
If the application can make use of an oscillator design that is ready to go right off the shelf, costs will be lower than if it needs to be modified to meet very specific standards or performance metrics (signal stability, phase noise, etc.) or if a new design must be made for that order. One way for RF engineering firms to reduce costs for their clients is to simply design and offer a wide range of high-quality, low-cost products in the first place.
We take pride in designing the best oscillators money can buy. Whether you want a turnkey RF solution that’s ready to use or a customized design that is tailored to your needs, we’ve seen it all and done it all. After nearly a century in the industry, we have an intimate understanding of the factors that drive oscillator pricing, and how to give our customers the maximum ROI. Explore our selection of world-class, low phase noise oscillators today, and see what our 85 years of design experience can do for you.