Friday, October 19, 2012

Kick starting manufacturing

In today's tough economic climate, it's difficult for small teams of engineers to obtain funding from the banks to finance the development of their new products no matter how original or innovative they might be.

Now, however, thanks to a website called Kickstarter, there's an alternative way that engineers with bright ideas can reduce the financial burden of getting their new products into the hands of early adopters.

The folks behind the New York City-based Kickstarter web site describe it as an "all-or nothing" funding platform which enables creative individuals to post ideas for potential new products on the site.

If readers of the web site like a particular product enough to buy it, they can pre-order it by pledging money to the company that has designed it. If the company then succeeds in reaching its funding goal to manufacture the product, all backers' credit cards are charged and the products are produced and delivered. If the project falls short of reaching its goals, no one is charged.

One of the individuals excited about the Kickstarter site is Auckland, New Zealand-based engineer Mark Hampton who is hoping to raise enough funding on the site to make his dreams of producing a right-angled lens for the Apple iPhone camera and Apple iPad come true.

Hampton started the development of his so-called HiLO lens in 2011. Since then he teamed up with an optical engineer, a mechanical designer, and an app developer to demonstrate the effectiveness of a prototype of the device which he now hopes to take into full production through his Kickstarter campaign.

According to Hampton, the HiLO product is built from three custom designed lenses and a prism. A free app that will come with the product corrects for the mirroring of the image caused by the prism and improves image quality.

It's a pretty simple concept, but one that might well fill a niche in the market for individuals who want to take high angle and low angle photos on their iPhones.

Backers on Kickstarter can pre-purchase one of Hampton's HiLO lenses now. If the backers pledge a total of $27,500, then the pledges will be collected and an initial production run of the lens system will be made in China. So far, Hampton and his team have raised $8,450. Hopefully, more support will be forthcoming!

Mark Hampton's project page on the Kickstarter web site can be found here.

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