EYE ON INNOVATION: Turning the Tables on Turntables

The resurgence of vinyl records has been well documented.

The biggest music industry comeback story is the soaring popularity of vinyl records, the Wall Street Journal recently reported. Nearly 8 million records were sold in 2014 in the United States, up 49 percent from the previous year. Indie-rock fans especially are buying records in greater numbers, attracted to the perceived superior sound quality of vinyl, the ritual of putting needle to groove and the physical connection to album art that is sometimes lost in the digital age.

One Chicago-based startup has turned the tables on record players by creating the Floating Record, a vertical turntable that sits on a simple, minimal block of wood that contains speakers and electrical components.

Gramovox, a consumer electronics company that, as its website says, “re-imagines vintage audio design with modern technology,” just closed the books on a $1.6 million Kickstarter campaign for this vertical record player. The Chicago Tribune reports that Gramovox is working with AssemTech as its assembly partner, and expects to deliver the turntables to market by December. Last year, Gramovox brought the Bluetooth Gramophone to market, a Bluetooth-enabled speaker that looks like an antique gramophone.

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EYE ON INNOVATION: Converse, Nike Prove It’s Never Too Late to Innovate

Changing an icon can be risky business. Yet that’s just what Converse Inc., and its parent company Nike, are doing.

Boston-based Converse plans to release a new version of the classic Chuck Taylor shoe, or Chucks, which have been around since 1917. The new version will have more support and be lighter, using technology from design engineers at Nike.

The Chuck II, which arrives in stores next week, incorporates Lunarlon cushioning, which features a soft, yet resilient foam core that’s encased within a supportive foam carrier for lightweight, ultra-plush cushioning. Lunarlon foam, invented by Nike, is 30 percent lighter than traditional Phylon, which is normally Nike’s go-to midsole material. Lunarlon allows the force of impact to be more evenly distributed, which helps reduce painful pressure points on feet.

Simply stated, the Chuck II will be more comfortable, which may be a nod to aging baby boomers who love the counter-culture fashion statement of Converse shoes but are now seeking more comfort.

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Indiegogo’s Andrew Erlick Joins Judges Panel for Cool Idea! Award

Indiegogo’s Andrew Erlick.

We’re excited to announce that Indiegogo‘s Director of Hardware, Design & Technology, Andrew Erlick, has been added to the judges panel of Proto Labs’ Cool Idea! Award program. Erlick’s experience at Indiegogo (the largest global crowdfunding platform) and Quirky (a social product development company) should prove valuable as he helps identify and select innovative product ideas to receive the award.

The Cool Idea! Award program, now in its fifth year, was established to help product designers and engineers bring useful concepts to market. Since 2011, nearly $1 million in custom prototyping and low-volume production services have been provided to entrepreneurs developing new products in the United States and Europe.

The program runs year-round and today marks the start of the July/August submission period. Apply now at protolabs.com/cool-idea.

Read our full press release announcement here.

11 Reasons Why Launching a Crowdfunding Campaign is Valuable

By Joel Townsan, creator of the Flipout Screwdriver

When my crowdfunding campaign failed, I was pretty devastated. I couldn’t figure out what went wrong — my Flipout Screwdriver had just won the Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award, had gotten tons of press coverage and people really liked the video (not to mention the product). Yet, I fell short, raising only $17,000 of the $50,000 goal I needed to move forward. I’ll admit, the product was priced a little high ($130 compared to most electric screwdrivers that go for $30 to $50 in stores), but I still couldn’t understand what went wrong. I had spent six weeks emailing every gadget magazine, tech blog and DIY forum I could find, but was somehow unable get my project into the coveted “Popular Products” category on Kickstarter — a section on the site that can seemingly make or break a product overnight. I thought it signaled the end of Flipout. Fortunately, it was just the beginning.

The Flipout cordless driver has a 360-degree range of motion with 380 possible configurations.

In addition to simply raising capital, there are a lot of bonuses to running a crowdfunding project that can actually benefit an inventor more in the long run. When the Kickstarter clock expired, I thought my project had failed, but really, it was the beginning of a crazy roller coaster ride that would result in a DRTV deal with Lowe’s — one of the largest big box retailers in the world. Regardless of the success or failure of a Kickstarter project, there’s a lot of good that can come from the campaign. It’s kind of like running a marathon; it takes months of training and then you run like you’ve never run before, but once you cross that finish line, it can be life-changing. Thus, my excitement crowdfunding.

Here are 11 reasons why every inventor and entrepreneur should consider a crowdfunding campaign:

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