In the beginning there were no headrests. This was not a problem for anyone not doing visual psychophysics.
Our Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research, recognizing this major problem, requested that we develop a utility headrest. That we did, producing a set of six units which were immediately claimed by our research faculty. (They were pretty good.)
Then, word got out of what had happened. Pretty soon, researchers worldwide were emailing to request information, or even to place orders. Well, if we're to make more, we ought to make them better. So we did. Here's how they're better: 1) more rigid than the original six; 2) optical black finish; 3) easier to make, especially one at a time.
The question of worth now arises. The original six were made of purchased parts, fabricated parts, and half-inch rods. A reasonable guess for the value of one is about $250. That covers the purchases and pays for the building.
The current product which we call the "HeadSpot" is heavier duty. The rods are three-quarter inch diameter. The fabrication process is molding, not cutting. The end result is more satisfactory. It's also a lot more handsome. It looks beefy. It is beefy.
Per HeadSpot our cost for materials and components is about $100. The labor to make one costs us about $250. These numbers are marginal costs and do not reflect the investment in tooling and process development that was required. That development effort was substantial, totalling nearly one full person-year, and requiring a few thousand dollars of investment in addition to use of available precision equipment.
For discussion, let's presume the development expenses to be $20,000. Now we have six units, so the development cost for each is $3,333.33. Add the marginal cost to find the value of one of six: $3,463.33. Nobody would pay that amount for a headrest (unless (maybe) it were the only headrest available.)
If we make a hundred HeadSpots, the total cost for each (including development) drops to $330.00. This is a reasonable figure. Can we reasonably expect to produce a hundred units? Perhaps not. Also note that this is our cost and includes no profit.
In 2012, the total number of HeadSpots shipped worldwide is above a thousand.
The distribution price for the HeadSpot is $500; shipping is additional.