A San Francisco entrepreneur moves manufacturing from China to the Bay Area, and the twist is that production is cheaper here.
Entrepreneur Lisa Q. Fetterman has been so successful at running crowd-funding campaigns that she now teaches others how to do it.
The CEO of Nomiku, she raised nearly $600,000 in 30 days on Kickstarter and a seed round in Silicon Valley to fund the launch of the world’s first sous vide immersion circulator for home kitchens. (For non-chefs, it’s sort of like a gourmet slow cooker with very precise temperature controls.)
CEO Lisa Fetterman (second from right) and the team from Nomiku. The San Francisco company recently moved its manufacturing from China to Oakland.
Now Fetterman is running a Kickstarter campaign to fund Version 2.0 of the cooker, which is equipped with WiFi.
It will be made in America.
“We prototyped Version 1.0 in China, which involved going to the market in Shenzhen, soldering the pieces we needed together, and sending the CAD drawings out to a prototyping factory,” says Fetterman.
A huge drawback was the expense: CNC’ing one part in China cost as much as $300, while a complete prototype ran upwards of $5,000. You don’t have to be an engineer to know that kind of math doesn’t work out for a machine that’s priced at $249.
Working to cut the cost to manufacture Version 2.0, Fetterman says there were hard-won lessons from the first go-round. “There was too much cost and complexity: Our first-generation model has over 100 parts and 15 parts that move. It doesn't take an engineer to see the issues that can arise from that.”
Version 2.0 is WiFi-enabled and features only three moving parts: knob, motor, and clip. It has a rounded, rectangular shape with a thin, sleek profile.
Version 2.0 of Nomiku's sous vide immersion cooker has only three moving parts and a sleeker design than the original, reducing manufacturing costs substantially.
The biggest change, however, is the move to manufacture and assemble the parts in the United States.
“We’re fortunate that companies are springing up here on the West Coast that have 3D machines that can mold new materials like SLS Nylon, polycarbonate, and elastomers for flexible parts. A prototype now costs us only around $600, and we get it with fast turnaround because we get them printed right over in Oakland.”
A big appeal of local manufacturing, in addition to tighter quality control, is the ability to play with many materials, although the heat-resistant ones hold the most interest. Fetterman says she uses different 3D printing processes depending on the need: tougher SLS for higher-fidelity parts; FDM for the lower-fidelity, rough prototypes; Polyjet for high-resolution cosmetic parts.
Her advice for avoiding unnecessary hassles in the production process? “Less parts = less headache. Call up a factory and have that collaboration be a part of your prototyping process. And keep your sense of humor.”
“We once went to a factory in China that's named 'Inability to Express,'" Fetterman said, giggling at the memory. “We laughed until we could not anymore.”
"Keep your sense of humor," Fetterman advises. This Chinese manufacturing company's name ""Inability to Express Hardware Appliance Company Ltd." still cracks her up.
Lisa Fetterman’s Kickstarter campaign for Version 2.0 of her newly designed sous vide immersion circulator runs through Thursday, September 11, 2014, at 6:43 a.m. CDT. Currently she is just $58,000 shy of her stretch goal of $750,000.
— Karen Field, Director of Content, EE Live and EE Times