Most of us today working as an engineer or an inventor really want to bring their ideas into products. Rather than waiting for the reality to happen through typical mechanisms such as technology licensing, angel fund, and venture capital, crowdfunding is a very popular approach in which several creative inventors around the world have exploited it to speed up their goals.
The “Power of Crowd” approach is indeed not new as we have been familiar with it in similar activities such as fundraising and donation. Well, it gains popular because of the internet that provides an effective way to communicate our creative ideas and demonstrate our working prototypes to the worldwide community. It also simultaneously assists in performing worldwide market survey, establishing strong engagement to the target customers, getting the fund, and eventually starting up the company. In 2013, the growth of the crowdfunding was over $5.1 billion worldwide.
To inspire you a little bit more, this article highlights some simple photonic-based systems that were successfully campaigned through popular crowdfunding platforms “Kickstarter” and “Indiegogo.” I encourage you to check on all references to see how they were done. I am sure that you will not see only creative ideas and demonstrations but also impressive presentation via good storytelling, pictures, and clip videos.
3D optical scanners
From the basic principle of investigating the change of the sheet of light beam on the 3D object, one can have a low-cost 3D optical scanner (see Figure above) specifically designed for a small object having 8×6-inch2 cross-section area (1). The scanning speed is 12 minutes with a resolution of 0.25 mm. This crowdfunding campaign went very well obtaining USD219,996.
Faster (3 minutes) and higher-resolution (< 0.1mm) 3D optical scanner was also campaigned on the crowdfunding which was based on analyzing the change of white light patterns shining on the object (2). At the end of the campaign, it reached USD123,022.
There are many solar chargers available today. But the Figure below shows a very creatively designed solar charger where a small and yet high-efficient multijuction 1×1-cm2 solar cell was placed at the focal point of a large spherical lens. It was also embedded with a dual-axis microtracking device (3). The system can be calibrated to maximize its performance via a smartphone. The project successfully received USD230,036 which was 181% above its goal.
Lenses for mobile devices
Transforming your mobile phone into a digital microscope with minimum accessories possible is highly needed. Small polymer lenses shown below offer an optical magnification of around 100x and they can directly stick on the camera of the mobile device (4-5). Both of these lenses reached above their goals of 2.2 and 1.3 times, respectively.
An advanced but yet low-cost portable Raman spectrometer is highly-sough-after equipment for chemical and biological analysis. TellSpec proposed its handheld Raman spectrometer in the crowdfunding platform and received USD386,392 (6). Its first version shown below can be applied for determining the allergens, chemicals, nutrients, calories, and ingredients in the food.
A near infrared (NIR) spectrometer is also categorized as one of the high-tech optical instruments. In this case, SciO made it affordable for everyone through the crowdfunding (7). It reached an unexpected USD2,762,571.
These examples have proven that new opportunities have open up for creative inventors and engineers under the crowdfunding environment. It gives new platform to spread your idea, new channel to demonstrate your prototype, new way to do market survey, and new window to receive fund. Hence, I strongly encourage you to cross the valley of death by exploiting the crowdfunding platform.
1 – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1545315380/atlas-3d-the-3d-scanner-you-print-and-build-yourse
2 – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/681809941/einscan-s-fast-accurate-safe-3d-scanner-for-3d-pri
3 – https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/rawlemon-solar-devices#/story
4 – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/968523355/micro-phone-lens-150x-cell-phone-based-microscope
5 – https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/dual-microscope-lens-for-mobile-devices-twi-vis#/story
6 – https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/tellspec-what-s-in-your-food#/story
7 – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/903107259/scio-your-sixth-sense-a-pocket-molecular-sensor-fo
Sarun Sumriddetchkajorn received his B.Eng. in electrical engineering with honors in 1994 from Khon Kaen University, Thailand. He earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in optical science and engineering in 1998 and 2000, respectively. His research interest is in the photonic area where he applies photonics to solve problems for industrial, medical, environmental, and education sectors.
He is a recipient of the 2005 ICO/ICTP Award from the International Commission for Optics (ICO) and the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP). In 2002, he initiated the formation of the OSA, SPIE, and IEEE-LEOS Thailand Chapters. He is a Senior Member of IEEE and OSA as well as a Fellow of SPIE and an SPIE invited lecturer.