Nomiku, Making Sous Vide in China

Ethan Lowry
April 27, 2013

We had lunch (a Chinese classic, pizza) with Abe Fetterman, one of the makers of the Nomiku. He and his partners came to HAXLR8R in Shenzhen last year to turn their DIY sous vide machine into a prototype for a consumer product. They launched a Kickstarter campaign, raised almost $600,000, and have been living in Hong Kong for the last year getting into production.

The first step was to find a manufacturer. In the same way that Silicon Valley is the center of gravity for software, Hong Kong and Shenzhen sit at the center of the world for electronics manufacturing. They had lots of partners to choose from.

After talking to a bunch of factories making battery operated toys, they figured out a basic rule: find someone who’s already building what you need. Eventually they were introduced to a factory for coffee makers and other kitchen appliances. It turns out the motor, heating elements, wall-power, electronics, and UL rating were all largely similar to what the Nomiku required. And this factory made products for popular consumer brands, which gave them the confidence to move forward.

They had calculated their costs (with surprising accuracy) by adding up the bill of materials for the electronics even before choosing a manufacturer. In China plastics are cheap, and the factories have inexpensive engineering on staff. They’ve hired a couple of different firms to help with design and prototyping along the way, and that’s where most of their costs have come from.

But the manufacturing process is never smooth. Despite the factory’s experience, despite design consultants, and despite their own experience, it’s been a long road. Turns out very hot water, a spinning motor and electronics don’t play well together. Steam was infiltrating the mechanical and electrical components of the device, and fixing it meant expensive redesign. Would-be manufacturer’s take note: even with a great run on Kickstarter they aren’t making a mint on those initial orders.

All that’s behind them now. As we sat down to eat, with almost paternal pride, Abe showed us the final working prototype. It looks great, and we can’t wait to see it in action.

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