Re: WTF? Greedy prick deserves all the fines he gets.
"I doubt I'd charge more than a couple of hundred for the design in the article, and could probably knock off the basic design in an afternoon, with a working prototype. How the hell could his prices be justified?"
Well, let's say that the whole thing was going on one PCB. That's a new PCB, an hour or so of work, send the file off to the PCB fab. Wait a week. Order the parts from the electronics store. £3 in parts, £9 in shipping. Design new case to hold new PCB with cutouts. Either send out for 3D printing or do it in house depending on capability and materials/tolerance/finish. Assemble and test new electronics, fit in new case, send to client for approval. Several samples?
From the article : "According to the court filing [PDF], Mills was hired to develop a battery-powered pump for an umbrella that incorporates a mist spraying system. After the client informed Mills that the device should support USB charging, Mills raised his initial estimate from $4,000 to $4,800. "
It really doesn't sound anywhere like the sort of work you're describing. One of the projects I built at the home I do some gardening work for is a pump system that ups the pressure from a few rainwater barrels to drive nearby irrigation. Battery powered, based around a cheap 18v battery. It took me a day to design and build including research time for what products were around and making a mount/connector for the battery. Admittedly this never got a proper case (just one of those electrical conduit boxes) and the circuitry is really simple (and contains a USB charger too btw - because it was easier to fit a $5 USB module with a LED voltage display than it was to make a charge level indicator (I was doing this as a "work now be lazy later"). Point is the stuff is simple and mostly already done.
Now I was probably spoilt when I did my apprenticeship, next door we had a small-scale shop that would make PCBs. And being a kid who was into the Dick Smith and other such kits I also learned to make my own boards before my age reached double digits.. And I also had good friends at various places that do bespoke plastic molds and even made/sold cheap and simple injection or vacuum molding kits - perhaps that is why to me charging $4,000 grand for something which is already done and is so simple he could whip the designs out in a day and the changes in an hour or less (should be much much less!).
Perhaps with NZ being quite small and such industries - well if you were to get a rep for ripping your customers off so much you might not be in business for long, and there's plenty of competition out there...
There's nothing in the article to say he was about to go on holiday. Nor is there anything to say the client was pressing for urgency. Since it was a quoted estimate, he'd not been ordering parts or boards, he hadn't even designed the board only given an estimate. Now if we were talking the cost including a limited production run then I might agree, but there's no indication that was asked (from the article, I've not read the other material).
I don't do this stuff for a living but I do it for fun and sometimes to supplement my income. My biggest paying job is something I can only say is linked to "building automation" for an organisation "with government ties" (ie some NDA encumbrances). The circuitry and software involved is much more complex than what would be involved here, and does work at high enough voltages to require certain standards to be met. Much more involved in time and effort. No way something like what the article mentioned is even remotely worth that much. I have done several other smaller projects including some that involve chucking water around - much much bigger quantities than this one.
As to what he was building, I can pick up most of the hardware on trademe and if TM has it Ali Express is probably flooded with it!
Maybe he only uses Fritzing, and feels he needs to charge outrageous amounts as compensation for using that bit of "software"?
--> Enjoy the new year :)