Critical Communications

Vertex Standard VHF Two-Way Radio Teardown

18 September 2008
The following is an overview of a teardown analysis conducted by IHS Benchmarking.

Overview / Main Features

The Vertex Standard VX-829 is VHF-band portable 2-way radio with full keypad and monochrome LCD for law enforcement and public safety use. It is has a 5W output capability for extended range communications and is designed to meet MIL spec standard 810C/D/E/F and international waterproofing standards IP55/57.

Vertex Standard VHF Two-Way Radio Main ImageVertex Standard VHF Two-Way Radio Main Image
Target Market

Law enforcement and public safety environments

Released

Received FCC approval in June 2006. Actual release date unknown.

Pricing and Availability

Only one reference pricing was found through a distributor. The Vertex portable radio model sells for about $820 at list price for the base hardware without options. Note that this price likely reflects the upper bounds of the true per-unit purchase price for a typical high volume municipal or commercial customer.

Vertex Standard VHF Two-Way Radio - Main PCB TopVertex Standard VHF Two-Way Radio - Main PCB Top

Volume Estimations

For the purposes of this teardown analysis, we have assumed a lifetime production volume of 50K units (10K units/year for 5 years).

As a reminder, teardown volume production assumptions are primarily used for our cost analysis in terms of amortized NRE and tooling costs, especially for custom components specific to the model being analyzed (mechanical components especially). Unless assumed, volumes increment by an order of magnitude. Minor changes in volume (say 1 million vs. 2) rarely have a large net effect on our final analysis.

Vertex Standard VHF Two-Way Radio Cost AnalysisVertex Standard VHF Two-Way Radio Cost Analysis

Cost Notes

Unlike with consumer products which feature very high production volumes over short life cycles, such two-way radios have very long lifetimes and are produced in modest volumes. The end result is that the cost structure of these devices is elevated at every level of the supply chain. Low volume production environments present a plethora of cost amortization issues - and typically each vendor in the chain will mark-up their product handsomely to reimburse themselves for these extra costs which include inventory management and holding costs (broken reels of electronic components), set-up and break-down costs for custom component manufacturers (especially if asked to do multiple small runs, and maintain custom tools when idle, etc., set-up and break-down costs for PCB and final assembly, etc.

As a result, it is difficult to produce an accurate assessment of what costs are currently being paid by the manufacturer, but we have factored these elevated costs in various parts of our analysis from electronic components, to custom components and manufacturing costs.

The end result is that even if these radios use fairly common, commodity, off-the-shelf electronic components, the low volumes makes their cost much closer to 'full retail' pricing than to 'tier 1' volume pricing that major producers would enjoy.

Vertex Standard VHF Two-Way Radio - Main PCB BottomVertex Standard VHF Two-Way Radio - Main PCB Bottom

What Is Not Included in our Cost Analysis

The total materials and manufacturing costs reported in this analysis reflect ONLY the direct materials cost (from component vendors and assorted EMS providers), AND manufacturing with basic test. Not included in this analysis are costs above and beyond the material manufacture of the core device itself - cost of intellectual property, royalties and licensing fees (those not already included into the per component price), software, software loading and test, shipping, logistics marketing and other channel costs including not only EMS provider and the OEM's margin, but that of other resellers. Our cost analysis is meant to focus on those costs incurred in the manufacture of the core device and exceptionally in some circumstances the packaging and literature as well.

Vertex Standard VHF Two-Way Radio - Acoustic / Connector PCB Mounted in EnclosureVertex Standard VHF Two-Way Radio - Acoustic / Connector PCB Mounted in Enclosure

Manufacturing Notes

Country of Origin / EMS Provider

Based on markings, the unit was assembled in Japan. Furthermore, we have assumed that custom mechanicals (plastics, metals, etc.) were sourced in Japan.

Country of origin assumptions relate directly to the associated cost of manufacturing, where calculated by iSuppli. In the cases of 'finished' sub-assemblies (such as PCBA), we do not calculate internal manufacturing costs, but rather assess the market price of the finished product in which case country of origin assumptions may or may not have a direct effect on pricing.

Remember also that labor rates are applied directly only to hand inserted components and systems in our bill of materials, and although regional assumptions do, these new rates do not have a direct effect on our modeled calculations of placement costs for automated SMD assembly lines. "Auto inserted components (such as SMT components) placement costs are calculated by an iSuppli algorithm which allocates a cost per component based on the size and pincount of the device. This calculation is affected by country or region of origin as well.

Design for Manufacturing / Device Complexity

Mechanical Design

The Vertex Standard radio has the smallest form-factor of the 4 radios analyzed in this teardown. Its compact construction necessitates a simpler design and is reflective on its selling price as compared to the other 3 radios. The VX-829 VHF radio has a mechanical components count of 80 which is only slightly more than the similar form-factor of the Motorola HT750 (67 count) model previously analyzed by iSuppli. Functionally, however, the Vertex is more comparable to other 3 VHF radios in this teardown than the HT750.

Electronic Design Complexity

The electronic component count is 1156, which is significantly higher than the 693 part count of the previously analyzed Motorola HT-750 model but comparable to the EF Johnson 5100 radio.

Component counts have a direct bearing on the overall manufacturing cycle times and costs, and also can increase or decrease overall yields and re-work. Our calculations of manufacturing costs factor counts and more qualitative complexities in the design.

Note that manual labor has a much smaller effect on auto-insertion assembly lines (for the Main PCB, for example), where manufacturing costs are much more capital equipment intensive and driven by these investment costs.

Design Notes

Mechanical

From a mechanical point of view, the Vertex VX-829 is designed as a ruggedized and yet compact 2-way radio. The device consists primarily of a front enclosure, made from injection molded polycarbonate with 2 metal inserts and co-molded silicone rubber side buttons. It is framed by a die-cast aluminum alloy main rear enclosure as well as battery contact cover. The device also features a number of silicon seals for weatherproofing around the perimeter and openings. All of these custom moldings and castings add significant cost to the design, but are not inherently complex or time consuming to integrate into the end assembly.

Electronic

Two-way radio designs are typically not complex devices when compared with other handheld communications devices such as consumer handsets - but handsets are also more integrated, as the silicon manufacturers have a financial incentive and larger market that drives higher integration levels than are possible with two-way radios.

Nonetheless, the core of this design revolves around the CPU 'functional area' (as defined by iSuppli) which include a Sanyo LC87F5KP6A microcontroller and DSP ""functional area" containing a TI TMS320VC5416ZGU120 digital signal processor. The rest of the design consists of much lower level RF components and discrete semiconductor components.

Here is a summary of the major components used in the Vertex Standard design:

Main PCB

CPU

  • Microcontroller - Sanyo - LC87F5KP6A - Microcontroller

I/O & Interface

  • Encoder - AKM Semiconductor - AK2345 - CTCSS Encoder/Decoder

RF/IF

  • Synthesizers - NXP Semiconductors - SA7025DK - Frequency Synthesizers

DSP PCB

CPU

  • DSP - Texas Instruments - TMS320VC5416ZGU120 - Digital Signal Processor

I/O & Interface

  • Codec - AKM Semiconductor - AK4554VT - Audio Codec

Memory

  • Flash - Spansion - MBM29LV400TC-90PBT - NOR, 4Mb

Keypad PCB

I/O & interface

  • Controller - JRC - NJU6624A - LCD Controller

"

Vertex Standard VHF Two-Way Radio - Box ContentsVertex Standard VHF Two-Way Radio - Box Contents



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