(GIF via YouTube)
Here’s the problem: unlike the world of software, where agile development (trying things out, iterating quickly) has become the norm, the electronics world is still stuck in the last century. Circuit boards — those lil green, rectangular disks with electrical pathways traveling across them — take weeks to order and get shipped, and can cost hundreds of dollars. This makes rapid prototyping pretty difficult.
That’s where BotFactory comes in. The company’s signature product, the Squink, is basically a 3D printer for circuit boards, which allows companies to have a teeny tiny lil circuit board factory on a desk at the office. A printed-out circuit board from a Squink takes only a few minutes and costs only about $5 in supplies. People are taking note. The NYU Digital Future Lab alumnus just raised a cool $1.3 million from New York Angels.
“We’re bringing agile methodology to electronics,” BotFactory CEO and cofounder Nicolas Vansnick explained in an interview. “Trying to make hardware less hard.”
Vansnick said the Squink, which we first covered back in August 2014, is the only product on the market that is capable of creating a fully-functional PCB (printed circuit board). When they started out, Vansnick (a graduate of NYU Tandon School of Engineering) thought the company’s main userbase would be makers, but as the Squink gained traction, larger and larger companies began putting in orders. The company started with a Kickstarter campaign, which raised $100,000. Soon after, it received a boost in the form of a $30,000 grant from the New York Economic Development Corporation, a city-run and financed organization whose purpose it to encourage business growth. Now, Vansnick says, BotFactory counts a number of Fortune 500 companies and universities as customers.
As BotFactory grew — the company is now in Long Island City, having outgrown the Digital Future Lab — they needed to be able to keep up with the orders. Procurement of parts for the Squink became something of an issue. So they turned to another local company, East Williamsburg-based Voodoo Manufacturing, for help. The 3D printing manufacturers can print out individual parts for the Squink at low volume and deliver them within days.
So now BotFactory is focused on growth. With the funding, the eight-person company will look to bolster its marketing and sales efforts to get their weird-named product out to a larger audience.
The BotFactory story, though obviously far from over, is a tangible success for the Brooklyn innovation economy.
Vansnick came to Brooklyn from Belgium to study electrical engineering at Tandon. He had an idea and started a company and got space to work and help from Tandon’s Future Lab incubator. The company used Kickstarter, another Brooklyn company, to get some initial money and orders, as well as a bit of a following. It got a grant from a city agency, the NYEDC to help it along. It did well and hired people. Now it’s buying end-use parts for its product from another Brooklyn hardware startup that allows it to work faster and more efficiently. And the product they make helps other people create their own products and inventions, faster and better.
If that ain’t the model, what is?