"I wanted to make the Iron Man suit," Sean Petterson told me over ramen noodles in Chinatown a few weeks ago. The 23-year-old recent graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology has mastered a new generation of easy-to-use 3-D printers and prototyping tools to found StrongArm Technologies. Based in Rochester, it is creating an industrial lifting aid that aims to revolutionize how workers do physical labor.
"The vest keeps the worker in just the right posture as he lifts," Peterson explained. "And it greatly reduces the chance of injury."
Peterson, who won a $100,000 MassChallenge prize recently and is closing in on finishing a manufacturing-ready prototype, says raising money has not been his problem.
"Once I get the product just right. I should be ready to fill my first order," he said, "I am in a good place."Hardware is still hard
What's critical for markets to understand is that every single one of the two dozen or so hardware-oriented entrepreneurs, educators and backers I have spoken with over the past three months agree that though their space is growing, hardware still presents unique challenges. (WMT) economics of low-cost products made en masse using tools like high-output plastic molds," Ted Ullrich, founding partner at Tomorrow Lab, the New York intelligent product design shop, explained to me over a burger several weeks ago. He says that molds such as these can cost upward of $75,000 to make -- per product. So unless a startup knows it can sell tens of thousands of something, taking advantage of those economies of scale can be very challenging. "That manufacturing reality is not going to change no matter what cool 3-D printer you use," Ullrich said. All of which puts a premium on operations that can master the basic blocking and tackling of solving the real-world problems of getting a well-designed, real product really made. "This is an exciting time to be getting into hardware," summed up the Zahn Center's Elhawary. "But hardware is still hard."