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The Cost Equation, Part 2: Technical

Back to The Cost Equation, Part 1: Introduction

Part 1 of this little article provided a brief introduction and background information. If you arrived here directly, I do highly recommend you back up for a quick read.

As an experienced sex machine (among other things) designer and craftsman, I know what works, and what works even better. Years of experience and experimentation feed into countless little improvements in my machines, and several big leaps. With this experience, I feel qualified to discuss some of the technical shortcomings of cheap sex machines the average shopper might be unaware of, and compare them to the offerings of Orgasm Alley.

The Heart of a Sex Machine

It should be obvious that the motor is a sex machine's heart, and the most critical factor in a unit's performance. It's also the most expensive component, and the first thing you have to cut to build cheap.

I assume someone investing in a sex machine is going to use it quite a bit, and going to push both the machine and themselves in pursuit of new sexual heights. Their machine should perform wonderfully at any speed, any stroke length, with any dildo they might prefer. It has to last... both for an individual session of any duration and over time, for the rest of their lives.

The motor does the work in a sex machine, and is vital to achieving these objectives. To this end, I use only high quality, American-made industrial gearmotors. These motors are designed to run factory conveyors and similar equipment 24/7 for years on end, with little or no maintenance. They're heavily constructed and powerful.

An average OA machine's motor costs considerably more than $200... obviously you can't put such a motor into a machine you'll sell for $200! With that retail constraint, you have no more than $50 to put towards a motor, at most! If you want to wholesale to other retailers, cut back some more.

Most cheap machine makers select an automobile wiper motor, identifiable by its small size, shape, slow speed, and reliance on 12VDC power. Since these motors are usually multi-tapped -- meaning you can power just part of the motor's winding for a lower power/speed -- machines with these motors also often have specific running speeds. 40 or 80 strokes per minute, for example, instead of a variable range. The other favored options are low-end or small gearmotors. These typically show up as a slow stroke speed, perhaps accompanied by low output power.

The disadvantages of cheap motors compared to good ones are difficult to overstate. It's simple to make a machine that creates a fucking motion... but hopefully you're shopping for a sex machine that delivers great fucking!

The biggest issue is performance, notably speed and power. Many very cheap sex machines top out between 60 and 100 strokes per minute. One in-and-out stroke each second... you can squat on a dildo that fast! As a frequent and long-time user, I'll just say that something that slow isn't worth owning (in my opinion, of course). For more on power, please click the link to pop-up Understanding Torque.

You might read a pretty decent torque figure quoted by some wiper motor builders. However, auto wiper motors are generally rated on peak torque, which can't be compared to the continuous duty torque rating on industrial gearmotors. Peak rating can be as much as four times the continous duty rating on some motors.

The other major consideration is longevity. These cheap motors generally use bushings on the output shafts instead of bearings, have lighter and weaker gears, smaller windings... in brief, they're not built to last like a higher quality motor. Many will overheat under load, and offer no thermal protection. Some even have an unsealed enclosure, leaving them open to damage from dust and debris.

A final note on the motor front. You will find a maker or two citing the safety of 12 volts as the factor driving their motor choice... nonsense. A quick glance around your home will reveal a significant pile of equipment -- from hand mixers to blow dryers -- that runs on wall power (100 to 240 volts, depending on your location). Using a cheap transformer delivering 12 volts from wall power to a machine wired for 12 volts is actually more dangerous than delivering wall power to a properly grounded system designed for it. The only reasons to prefer the 12 volt solution are 1) for use from an automobile's electrical system or 2) to cut cost. All OA machines, by the way, may be run from your car with an inexpensive step-up transformer delivering 120 volts.

For anything more than very infrequent and brief use, take a good look at the heart powering a sex machine. Understand what you're buying, and the compromises that entails.

The Second Big Target

The next place cheap machines cut cost is the linear drive system, the parts that make the in-and-out motion. This aspect of machine design proved most difficult to assess, since those using inferior components choose to say nothing about them or speak in the most general of terms! These parts are next in line for both cost and performance impact.

After a great deal of experimentation, I settled on two different solutions for OA machines: a ball bearing slide and precision shaft/bushings. Both linear solutions are extremely durable, quiet, and reliable. A machine running at 200 SPM for an hour has ripped off 12,000 repetitions, so they'd better be! There should only be two reasonable options: balls or high-precision bushings or bearings. There is too much friction and wear on anything else. It just won't last.

However, you'll find all sort of less expensive parts in use among cheap machine folks. "Oil-lite" style impregnated bronze bushings, which are a very poor choice for this much linear travel. "Steel pipe" thrust arms with plastic pipe for bearings (in at least one case, literally a piece of galvanized water pipe). Aluminum, used both as thrust arms and bushings... a material can quickly erode with wear. Be truly careful of any machine advertisement that doesn't say anything about the nature of the linear components. If they were decent, the seller would tell you about it.

Of all the parts that can degrade or completely fail over time, the linear components take the most friction, heat, and wear. Without them, your machine will be useless. If these parts can't take hundreds of hours of use, you're buying a disposable sex toy.

Boxing It In

One of my favorite challenges in fine sex machine design is taking a set of components -- or a performance goal -- and making it fit into the smallest possible space. The result is a more portable, more easily stored machine. Basically, it's more user-friendly! You'll find this philosphy pervasive among OA sex machines.

I built the first commercial sex machine inside a toolbox, the first in an attache case, and so on. The Toolbox in particular has been a target for copying... apparently, that was a really good idea ;). But are the cheap knock-offs the same as the OA Toolbox? Check the dimensions, and what's inside. Mine is the smallest I could find: 16" x 7" x 7". It has an extremely powerful (and fast!) 1/8 horsepower industrial gearmotor. The copies? An auto wiper motor (perhaps 1/20th peak horsepower), and the box itself is much larger! Size matters, folks.

Another big no-no, to me, is building a machine that requires tools to change the stroke length. I frequently change the stroke during a session, and none of my machines require tools or more than 10 seconds to do so. Even fully enclosed models like the Marauder... it's a simple as building in a hinged access hatch. Nonetheless, some cheap machines require wrenches, screwdrivers... on at least one, you have to physically remove a panel held on by four screws just to get at the adjustment!

Construction quality also shows up as a differentiating factor during even a brief look at some cheap machines. I guess to build as cheaply as possible, you can't put in much build time. Tacked together plywood won't hold up to an average user's handling. Floppy carpeting just shows a lack of attention... there's no reason for it. Failing to paint or powdercoat (or apply another protective finish) wood or metal is also poor. One will warp, the other rust. You should open a wood-boxed sex machine and find a carefully painted interior, not cheap raw particle board.

In making your decision, consider the machine's size and the provisions for moving it around. Examine what it takes to change the stroke length. Look at the construction quality. These factors can make the difference between a machine you're proud to own and one you're embarassed to be seen with.

Shorting the Strokes

Not everyone has the same needs. Everyone doesn't use the same dildos, nor have the same physical build. Why would a sex machine have a single stroke length?!? Every Orgasm Alley sex machine (except, as I say so many times, the Hole Saw) has a number of stroke lengths to choose from, to better meet the needs of different people, and the same person at different times.

It's surprising the amount of variety you give up if you cut a machine back to one or two stroke lengths. Worth thinking about. Buy a sex machine for fabulous and varied sex, not for the same 3" sex all of the time ;)

On the other end, several manufacturers on eBay and elsewhere offer a continuously adjustable stroke. This is one I've intentionally avoided. Although it's easy enough to make it lock in securely (although I'm definitely not convinced that those available do so), continuous adjustment interferes with repetition... the ability to reliably recreate a stroke length setting. My stroke adjustments are secure, repeatable, and fast to execute.

Shafting the Speed

I've already noted above that cheaper machine makers sacrifice maximum thrusting speed as part of their motor selection. It doesn't end there. some safrifice control of speed entirely.

Orgasm Alley uses a relatively expensive speed control, and my machines provide continuously variable control over speed. Turn the knob up a hair, the machine speeds up a hair. If the motor slows down under heavy load, it gets more power to maintain the user-set speed. There are cheaper options, of course, and the cheapest option of all: none. The wiper motor guys are big culprits here, using the multi-tapped wiper motor to deliver two (or occassionally three) running speeds. They don't mention the tremendous loss of power at the slower setting -- but have no intelligent control to compensate for it -- nor the disadvantages of a couple fixed running speeds.

Fine Tuning the Details

The details are what separates a great sex machine from an OK one, a piece you are proud to own from one you're willing to own. When the choice presents itself, I always choose to make the better machine. How about cord length? Almost every OA cord -- control and power -- is 10 feet long. The hand controls are nicely made, fit well in the hand, have an attractive dial indicator with speeds marked from 0 to 10. They've got an on/off switch, too, because that can be not only handly but can create effects impossible without one. Most importantly, almost all my machines have cords that detach. It's so much easier to manage a machine that doesn't have permanently attached cords! I use high-quality connectors and handles, like audio XLR jacks for my hand controls. Rubber feet on many models help them stay firmly planted on any surface.


Proceed to The Cost Equation, Part 3: Marketing

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