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Desktop calculators: Diversity via material, performance upgrades

Makers adopt imported LCDs and ICs, while some incorporate talking features and thermometers to separate themselves from rivals.

With the industry facing rampant product homogenization, China suppliers of calculators are developing ways to widen the variety of their releases.

One such measure is increasing functionality.

Wenzhou, Zhejiang province-based Best International Co. Ltd, for instance, offers a three- to four-piece gift set consisting of a calculator, ballpoint pen, keychain and money clamp. Other items that can be included are notebooks, ashtrays, letter openers, knives, wallets, belts, watches and ties.

Desktop calculator
  Shenzhen Kingsun offers the A4 size GT-051 model that has a plastic housing and TPR keys.
At $3 to $4, the series is available in different combinations and customized colors and finishes. For added visual interest, products come in gift boxes with molded pads on which the items are placed.

Some makers, meanwhile, separate themselves from rivals by turning to higher-quality manufacturing inputs.

As most enterprises source components locally, stationery specialist Ningbo Deli Group Co. Ltd procures key parts overseas. The supplier adopts LCDs from Japan, which have heightened clarity and leak resistance. It also utilizes heat seal connectors that conduct electricity better and withstand temperatures of -30 to 80 C. Domestically produced variations usually handle between -10 and 50 C. In addition, the Zhejiang-based company employs imported ICs, improving calculation accuracy.

In terms of materials, plastic remains the most common choice for housings. Ningbo Deli also incorporates virgin ABS that has greater durability and visual appeal than most recycled polymers. Some high-end versions utilize metal, adding 10 percent to the price.

Models with fabric and silicone bodies are 30 and 40 percent more expensive, respectively. These units, together with those adopting Leatheroid, have enhanced appearance, tactile sensation and portability.

As regards the key pads, material options revolve mainly around plastic. TPR, soft rubber and silicone, however, are receiving increased attention.

Design, capability enhancements
Industry composition
Design, capability enhancements

China suppliers are offering promotional calculators with an expanded range of designs and features. To enrich visual appeal, makers employ a variety of shapes in their products.

Popular releases include those resembling MP3 players and mobilephones. The latter come with fl ip, slide and 360-degree revolving lids in response to the latest trends.

Round, half-moon, hamburger, heart, carabiner, pen, magic box and cartoon character designs are also available.

In addition, vivid and contrasting shades are applied for better aesthetics. Some versions, for example, have keys with varying colors.

Increasing usability, suppliers offer units that serve as mouse pads and have built-in USB ports, allowing connection to a computer.

Typical add-ons are picture frames, calendars, LCD clocks, LED lamps and stationery supplies such as pen and business card holders, notebooks, memo pads and rulers.

With each attachment, prices increase 30 to 70 percent.

To boost performance, makers incorporate enhanced features.

Most upscale releases are fitted with an IC. This enables models to feature advanced functions such as audio output, currency converters, world and alarm clocks, timers, perpetual calendars and thermometers in addition to basic mathematical operations.

Quotes for models equipped with two or three additional features are 20 percent higher.

Among solar-operated versions, dual-power units that also run on batteries are widely produced.

Ningbo Deli boasts releases that function with a minimum illumination of 200 lux. Most models perform at 300 to 500 lux.

The use of PV panels raises prices by 2 to 5 percent. Water-powered calculators, meanwhile, are 50 percent more expensive than solar versions.

Industry composition

There are approximately 1,000 makers of calculators in China. Most are specialists of gifts and premiums or electronic products, while several companies concentrate on stationery and school supplies.

Highway Trade Electronic Co. Ltd and Ningbo Deli offer calculators as a key category. The latter has an entire branch devoted to the manufacture of these units.

Some enterprises, on the other hand, release models for promotional and office purposes only.

The majority of makers in the industry adhere to ISO 9001 standards. Further, a number of large corporations, including Ningbo Deli and Shenzhen Kingsun Enterprises Co. Ltd, operate ISO 14001-certified factories.

Suppliers typically do molding, plastic injection, surface treatment and assembly in-house.

As a QC measure, companies generally perform function checks on their releases. Ningbo Deli, however, also administers testing for shock resistance, life span and temperature adaptability.

Most units meet CE and RoHS requirements. Although not mandatory for the industry, some products, including those from Shenzhen Kingsun and RichForth Ltd, pass US FCC standards.

This article "Desktop calculators: Diversity via material, performance upgrades" is originally posted in Global Sources.

Note: All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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