Hope you caught my original post about Wazer, the Personal Desktop Waterjet. This afternoon I had a chance to catch up with Nisan Lerea, once of Wazer’s cofounders. He was attending Techcrunch’s Disrupt conference, so we talked via Skype.
What’s the Wazer story? Nothing like the 2 minute pitch from the Founders about how the business came to be, what it is trying to do, and where it’s going.
Wazer is the first desktop waterjet cutter. The advantage of waterjet is the ability to cut any material. It’s a technology that’s been missing from individuals and small businesses because the machines are so expensive. Our goal was to downsize and make the technology accessible to make it available for virtually any workshop.
We were all engineers back at U Penn. We had CNC’s and Laser Cutters but we were still cutting lots of sheet metal with angle grinders and Dremels because the engineering school didn’t have a waterjet.
Here’s the original senior project:
I saw the original senior project, what changed? Is the Wazer more powerful than the Senior Project?
The hydraulics changed quite a bit. We ran off compressed air and we knew that wouldn’t work. We needed to run off 110 line voltage.
Wazer is very similar in terms of power to the original project. ¼” aluminum is the max thickness for both. Pump pressure limits the thickness, and that’s a function of hydraulic horsepower.
But our customers don’t need to cut 2” steel or cut at high speed. They’re happy with what we’ve got.
How many people are in Wazer?
There are 4 engineers. But we’re very busy, LOL. We started this in the summer of last year. We got accepted to the Hax hardware accelerator and got a little investment to hire 2 more engineers. All 4 of us had worked together at U Penn.
How do you see the whole entry-level CNC market and Maker Movement unfolding in the next 5 years? Where is it going? What surprises are in store?
I think it’s a really exciting time because we’re entering the age of personalized decentralized manufacturing. 3D Printing really kicked it off, but was limited to plastics. Personal CNC’s and Waterjet open up a lot more materials.
We think personalized manufacturing will compete well with mass manufacturing. It provides the opportunity for small businesses to solve problems with custom products rather than one size fits all, the same as we’ve seen for software once the barrier for entry was lowered.
What sort of marketing homework did you guys do before launching on Kickstarter?
The interest on Kickstrter has been amazing. (Well over $600K as I write this, BW) We’re thrilled and humbled. People tell us they’ve been following us since the original senior project–they’ve been waiting for us since 2012.
Our launch was really helped by the Hax Accelerator. They’ve helped launch a lot of Kickstarter campaigns. We learned from that community.
Pointers for others:
- Most important is outreach before and trying to have a community of interested people aware that it’s coming.
- We created a bunch of fun videos and released them on Facebook about the prototype machine. A steak in the shape of America, cutting a fake Rolex, and so on to raise awareness in a fun sharable way.
Tell me, had you heard of CNCCookbook before I contacted you guys?
We all know CNCCookbook and used it a lot back in school when we were building race cars. We’re very familiar with the Feeds and Speeds Calculator, LOL.
I hear you’re working out of an Accelerator in Shenzhen, China. Why didn’t you build Wazer in the US?
We had been product engineers and we knew in order to achieve our price point we’d have to rely on an overseas Supply Chain. This was a chance to do development using the same toolbox as we’d use manufacturing by being in China. We are committed to assembling the units in a facility in the US.
We feel we can do a better job ensuring quality control by assembling in the US.
What kind of pump generates the pressures used by Wazer?
I can’t go into the details of hydraulic pumps just because there’s some proprietary stuff. Big waterjets use specialty pumps. That makes them very expensive and requires a lot of maintenance. We leverage components from other industries. Off the shelf components and customization has made this possible.
How does your Waterjet compare to Lasers?
There is some overlap with desktop lasers. But lasers only cut soft materials—thin plastic and thin wood. They won’t cut metal. For the price of a desktop lasers, the waterjet cuts more materials.
Another advantage for waterjet is there’s no need for ventilation. Lasers can produce noxious fumes because they involve heat and burning.
OTOH, the laser’s kerf is smaller and they can engrave. Both technologies have their advantages and applications.
What development remains to be done between now and when you ship the Kickstarter units?
We have a fully functioning prototype that looks and functions as we want. We still have to tweak some of the components to make them easier to manufacture on a larger scale. We also have to make final deals with suppliers and get set up in the US. We’re trying to be realistic with our schedule. We expect to ship in August, Sep, and Nov of next year, and we’re shipping in batches.
How is Techcrunch Disrupt?
We did a live demo on stage at Techcrunch Disrupt.
We cut glass. The demo ran during our talk and finished as the talk ended. People loved it. It was very different than so many of the other startups.
We are looking to raise more money after the Kickstarter campaign.
What haven’t we talked about that you wish some interviewer would bring up?
One of the main things that I should’ve mentioned is that (you can see in the design) we’ve done more than just make waterjets smaller. Today they’re notorious for being dirty machines. The abrasive gets everywhere, so you need a dedicated room in your shop for the waterjet. We made a machine that’s compact, contained, safe, and quiet.
It’s easy to load and remove abrasive. We have a suction system that deposits it in buckets at the front of the tank. The machine uses 1/3 lb of abrasive per minute, so you want help managing it. We made it convenient, which makes the machine more accessible to a larger audience.
Also, we’ve partnered with some professionals in diverse industries to make some really cool things:
Custom knife maker. We got a DXF and we cut out a knife blank in 4mm D2 Tool Steel with carbon fiber and copper for the handle.
We had a jeweler who cuts designs in coins. We made a custom fixture and cut out these pennies.
We converted a bike to belt drive.
People will be doing amazing things with Wazers once they’re out in the world.
If you think you might like a Wazer, check out their Kickstarter page.
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