eMotimo is a San Francisco-based company that is dedicated to the manufacturing of photography and videography tools that are both affordable and high quality. These tools enable users to create beautiful shots that were once only achievable by professionals.
eMotimo sold their first product back in January 2011 called the eMotimo PT, a pan and tilt head that was built on the Arduino platform. Since their first release almost two years ago, the company has been able to improve their product into the current model called TB3 Black. They’ve managed to design their product to be an affordable tool kit that can be plugged into variety of different camera gears, brands, and models, making it easy for the average customer to jump into the professional market.
Brian Burling, founder of eMotimo, previously created prototype parts using CNC machines at TechShop in San Francisco. While at TechShop, Burling got acquainted with the Type A Machines team and our Series 1 3D printer. He saw the potential for its use at eMotimo, and, after looking at other brands, invested in a printer in March 2013.
“The build area was important,” Burling says. “We have some parts that are larger and need the print space, so having that volume, without having to spend a lot of dollars, is great”. He notes what else made us a standout choice was the fact that we are open source, as well as a local company who has American-made products and a great support center.
“We wanted to have something not only designed in the US, but made in the US,” he says. “With all things being equal, if we could get the same product somewhere else and save $100, we still would’ve chosen the Series 1″.
Logan Steinfeld and Brian Burling posing with their Series 1
Since then, he and Logan Steinfeld, Industrial Designer at eMotimo, have been using their Series 1 machine to successfully prototype parts for their products. Although Steinfeld had prior experience using a 3D printer in college, both he and Burling found ease with the Series 1.
“It has allowed us to create and validate these designs much faster, and we’re not spending money unnecessarily on the development,” says Burling. “The Series 1 allows us to go from concept to actually holding the part in our hand–it’s a one day process that would normally be a 2-3 week process, or a very expensive 3-4 day process if it was something we were working with a machinist on. That’s the value in it. Our products could be more expensive if we were developing them without these smart tools.”
“We try things with the Series 1 that we wouldn’t have tried before,” continues Burling. “We’re building things that fit into a larger machine and it allows our company to be nimble.”
Burling and Steinfeld, who sometimes produce up to 6 small parts a day, note that prior to 3D printing prototypes, they’d have to go through a lengthy and costly process of designing a part and then outsourcing it. They would also spend a lot of time critiquing the design before actually prototyping it.
“If there’s any sort of small change I need to make, I can just tinker with it in the CAD program and in a matter of minutes it’s printed,” says Steinfeld. “There are other days where I’ll sketch something out, then model it, and then we’ll print it out. To transition from a sketch to holding something in your hand in a day is crazy.”
finished part, metal part, 3D printed prototype
“With this 3d printer, we have been able to cut that time down significantly quicker,” Burling says. “We can prototype and test things to get the form and feel right. It has sped up our process so significantly, and now we can be this really fast company that makes products that really evolve with the market and the consumer. It helps us grow much quicker and as a small company. That’s really valuable to us.”
With lots of ideas in the product pipeline, eMotimo is doing great things that bring previously expensive products in the professional market down to a price point that hobbyists can afford. Burling notes that some of these ideas may never reach the market, but with their Series 1, they can throw out concepts and play around with ideas without having to go through a costly process. eMotimo has even sent out prototypes to customers as a means of testing, and then these users can tell the team what worked and what didn’t.
“We can devote a few days to the product and see if it has potential,” he says. “We’re testing mechanical things, so we can print out pieces that are good enough for structural rigidity, and then we can have a functional part that we’ve tried out.”
eMotimo’s finished product
From prototype to market, eMotimo, whose customers include National Geographic, Discovery Channel, and History Channel, have not only found satisfaction in all of the beautiful creations their customers have made, but also in the idea that they can design a part and physically hold it within the same day.
“For us it’s a toy where we can play with new ideas,” Steinfeld says. “We also get high enough tolerances that we can feel very confident in pushing the button on low-run prototype production. We don’t have to make one expensive prototype–we can print out dozens and the cost of that is remarkable.”
“Type A Machines allows companies like ours to be nimble,” says Burling. “The fact that the Series 1 is a high value machine that can span the hobbyist market all the way up to professionals is something we appreciate.”
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