My son has been working hard at school, but perhaps not as much on school work as on his start-up company, Futuristic Lights. It was just over a year ago that I was writing about My son’s first PC board, and I talked more about what his company was doing about 6 months ago, when they participated in TechRaising 2014. During that year he has designed, written software for, and tested 4 PC boards: 1 through-hole and 3 with surface-mount components (not counting a test fixture and a tiny board for connecting LEDs to cables).
His most recent design (the “Kinetic”) is going to be a real product—they are starting a Kickstarter campaign soon (they want to start it before Christmas, though they probably won’t be able to ship product until March). They just got 100 prototypes delivered from their manufacturer last week, and they are pleased with how well they came out.
The Futuristic Lights Facebook page has demo videos of the new board, but does not currently show a picture of the board itself (they do have some nice shots of the previous prototype, which has the same functionality, but needed some redesign for durability and fitting in the cases).
I don’t know how big their goal will be for the Kickstarter campaign, but I think that they need to make at least 1000 of the Kinetic boards to get a low enough price on the manufacturing (the 100 prototypes cost almost as much per board as the retail price for the finished ones, but a lot of the costs drop dramatically at 1000 units, and some of the tooling costs were already paid to make the prototypes).
They’re currently working mainly on their marketing efforts (they’ve got 6.8k likes on their Facebook page, but I’ve no idea how many people are following them closely). If they sell the lights in sets of 10 (one per finger), they’ll need to sell around 100 sets, which is a conversion rate of sales at 1.5% of likes, which seems high to me. They’ll need to get a lot more people interested once the Kickstarter campaign starts, so they are gearing up for that. I believe that they’ll be releasing new demo videos and some more technical videos that describe the features of the Kinetic boards over the next couple of weeks—you can follow the progress on their Facebook page.
My son, as Chief Technical Officer, is not a major part of the media campaign, but he’ll have to start lining up suppliers and manufacturers and figuring out lead times for the actual manufacturing. The 100 prototypes took less than a month from ordering to delivery of assembled boards, but getting sourcing the parts for a small batch run may take longer, as Digi-Key and Mouser don’t always stock that many of all the parts they need—they may need to contact some of the chip makers directly. They also need to get the cases, batteries, gloves, and custom boxes for shipping the sets.
This project has been a marvelous educational experience for my son—something that would be hard to duplicate at any university, as student projects rarely get past the prototyping stage into small batch manufacturing and fulfillment.