18 Cheap but Well-Engineered Items

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Most people think that a high price tag on a product indicates better quality. But that is not all true. There are cheap, mass-produced, well-engineered items, and here are 18 favorites. 


Collection Of Zippers Of Different Colors And Variants In The
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What would we do without zippers? “It is a very cheap mechanism that secures objects in a very neat fashion,” one commentator says. In fact, they are an underrated invention. 


Clean White Toilet And Paper Rolls With Lime Green Mosaic
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Toilets use nothing more than gravity to flush. They don’t use power at all,” reads a post. 


Multicolored Gas Lighter In Package For Sale.plastic Gas Lighter Closeup
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Having a lighter with you means you can ignite fire wherever and whenever. Lighters are cheap, reliable, and durable. 


Macro Shot Of Large Heap Of Bipolar Transistors In Case
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That one is sophisticated. Well-deserved Nobel Prize in 1956,” says a commentator. Imagine how many industries rely on transistors for operations, including aviation, security systems, and nuclear reactors.


Led Light Bulb On Table With Black Background
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One post reads, “Diodes are one of the greatest inventions in the history of the world.” And there are several LED colors to choose from, such as white, red, green, and blue.

Ball Bearings

Ball Bearing Measurement. Vernier Caliper In Technician Hand. Professional Document.
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Ball bearings may be cheap, but they do not compromise tolerance. One online user writes, “Even the cheapest ball bearings with the loosest tolerance are still made in the 10-50 micron range of tolerance.”

Ballpoint Pen

Close Up Of A Businessperson's Hand Signing Document With Pen On
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You might not think much when buying a ballpoint pen because it is cheap. So, next time you scribble something with one, appreciate the marvel of this well-engineered writing tool.  

Aluminum Beverage Can

Woman Holding Aluminum Can With Beverage On Grey Background Closeup.
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Have you ever thought more about Pepsi, Coca-Cola, or beer cans? You can bet filing them and preserving their taste is genius engineering. One poster says, “It’s a way of using a relatively small amount of cheap metal to withstand the pressure of carbonated beverages with a reliable opening mechanism.”

Plus, a lot goes into work to ensure the aluminum can does not rust. 


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Batteries are also sophisticated items, whether small or big. “You’d be surprised how much engineering goes into the cathode material alone. You have to synthesize from the nano-structure to micro-structure and then back to the nano process and some more,” explains a user who works in a battery manufacturing firm.

Glass Bottle

Separate Collection Of Glass Garbage. Colorful Bottles And Cans For
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Did you know glass is made from sand? Yes, the sand is heated at high temperatures and then cooled to make glass! Your glass bottles were once sand grains. 

Zip Ties

Self Locked Plastic Zip Cable Ties In Different Colors Over Slate
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Such a simple piece of plastic but so versatile,” points out a user. Another explains, “Zip ties hold most of the plastic shielding underneath my car together.” Sadly, “after a few years in sunlight, they get brittle and fall apart.” 

Metal Pencil Sharpeners

Metal Pencil Sharpener With Yellow Shavings. Horizontal Photograph. Color.
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Manual metal pencil sharpeners are amazing at sharpening pencils to near perfection, and they last long. 


Tapping Screws Made Of Steel On Wood Background Metal Screw
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Lots of things would fall apart if we didn’t have screws. In other words, “We would be screwed,” mentions a commentator. 

Road Reflectors

Autumn Road Red Triangle Red Emergency Stop Sign Red Emergency
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Countless lives have been saved thanks to road reflectors. One commentator explains their history, “The guy who invented them was nearly in a bad car accident at night, but the reflection on a wild cat’s eyes saved him from driving off the dark road. After seeing how that reflection saved his life, he invented road reflectors.”

It makes sense why people in the UK call road reflectors ‘cat’s eyes.’

Quartz Movement Clocks

Small White Alarm Clock Black Numbers Set The Time Placed
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Today, most people use smartphones or smartwatches to check the time. Nevertheless, quartz movement clocks are a cheaper, more practical, and classic way to do the same. “A quartz watch is objectively better than a mechanical one. They are more accurate and don’t nearly need as much calibration when they drift,” explains a user. 


Bushcraft Tarp Camp Shelter In The Blue Ridge Mountain Wilderness
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One commentator summarizes the versatility of tarps, “(You can use them to) make a shelter, make a floor, make a carriage vessel, make a weather-proof housing for firewood or anything outdoors you want to be protected, or use it at a picnic. Because of their threading, they can distribute weight and hold up against snow and rain build-up.

Additionally, they are easy to put up, take down, clean, store, and transport. 

Stainless Steel Cutlery

Cutlery Set With Fork Knife And Spoon
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How many other things are used daily then machine washed, thrown into a drawer, and regularly survive for more than a century?” asks a commentator. Well, stainless steel cutlery does!

Door Knobs and Locks

A Round Door Knob Installed On A Wooden Door
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Door knobs and locks are the last greatly-engineered items on this list. They help keep unwanted strangers, including bears, out of your home. 

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