This may seem like an odd question, but…
Why are the Lego Wheel Adapters (https://www.pololu.com/catalog/product/1001) so expensive? $1.475 apiece seems like an unreasonable asking price for bits of plastic and is prohibitive if you want to buy several of them (as I do). The parts are very similar to the Lego “Connector Peg/Cross Axle”, which sells for only 10 cents (go to http://shop.lego.com/PAB, type “peg” into the “Brick Name” field under “Advanced Search”, and press Enter; the result for the “Connector Peg/Cross Axle” will be at the bottom of the list). I count on Pololu to have competitive prices, and usually they do, but the price for the Wheel Adapters seems anomalous.
This may seem like an odd question, but…
To be clear, it’s a pittance regardless of whether it’s $2.95 or $1 or $2 or whathaveyou; I merely object to the principle of it.
I don’t think your question is odd, and it is based on an unfortunately common under-appreciation of all the amazingly cheap things we can get today. (Or maybe you’re giving us too much credit in comparing us to Lego.)
First off, reducing anything like this to “bits of plastic” is a disrespectful characterization that doesn’t make for a meaningful discussion. A good tool is more than just bits of metal, diamonds are more than just bits of carbon, the lenses in your glasses are more than just bits of plastic, and your clothes are more than just bits of cotton. While I’m not claiming these adapters are some pinnacle of engineering, they’re not just shards of scrap plastic we put through a wood chipper.
Second, I’m not sure exactly what principle you’re objecting to. If these cost us nothing to make, is there any price you wouldn’t object to? If someone else were selling an equivalent thing for ten cents, you’re certainly free to buy from them or to try to convince us to match or beat the price. However, as it stands, I don’t know of anyone else who has this kind of part, so we pick a price based on what we think the part offers relative to other gearmotor and wheel solutions. I’ve personally made my own adapters before (usually by modifying standard Lego parts), and it can easily take an hour or more to end up with a worse result than what we’re offering for a few bucks. If you have a better solution for a lower price, great, but that should be the crux of your objection instead of a comparison to a product that, while similar in many respects, is still fundamentally different in what it allows you to do. (We do want to offer the best value, so if you do know of a part with equivalent function for a lower price, please let us know.)
Finally, I don’t think you’re really considering the cost of developing and making these things. Developing an injection-molded part like this costs us thousands of dollars, and that’s not even counting the tens of thousands of dollars we have invested in software and equipment to make this sort of thing possible. That means we have to sell thousands of units, even at the $3/pair price, just to break even, and we’d have to sell hundreds of thousands just to break even if the price were around the 10 cents you think is reasonable. Lego has far more customers, and each one could easily use dozens or hundreds of the part, so they can expect to sell millions of units; that kind of volume is not realistic for us given that the occasional person who has a use for these rarely needs more than two. This product is not some cash cow for us, and we mostly offer it to support our customers to give them more wheel options for our gearmotors.
By the way, if you are interested in hundreds or thousands of these, we can definitely offer you a better price–though it will still be much more than 10 cents.
The principle I was objecting to was charging customers far more than the manufacturing price of what are, at least to the manufacturer, pieces of plastic, even though they have much more value to the customer. However, I did not understand how high the initial cost involved in manufacturing such parts is, and I agree that $1.475 is reasonable. Thanks for the explanation!