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Kniterate: The 3D Knitting Machine



Back to China: Kniterate’s new desktop 3D Knitwear Printer takes shape!

Not to worry, we are working on making the machine lighter.

After £256 in excess baggage and a connecting flight in Frankfurt, we arrived back in China.

It’s been a bit more than a week since we left home, and so many things have already happened.

The goal of this visit is to dramatically improve the features of the machine we took to Maker Faire. What better way to do it than moving into a factory with 30 years of experience manufacturing industrial knitting machines?

Been there, done that. But wait! We are bringing industrial knitting machine capabilities into your desktop.

Despite spending last weekend in a hotel, we didn’t want to get too cozy, so we moved to the factory rooms, keeping us close to the action. But before that we had to stop by the local Walmart and buy ourselves some towels and bed sheets.

Got rice? A Chinese Walmart.

The rooms are simple, and that’s all we need. We have been given an office in the factory to act as our headquarters, with a massive table that we wish we could take home. It’s exactly what we need to get the job done for the next two months.

Earlier this year at HAX, the hardware accelerator, we had a chance to push the company forward as hard as we could. Helping us out, were the brilliant Chinese staff at HAX, who had to put up not only with us, but also with 14 other international teams, all scrambling for survival. Everyone spoke English.

This time it’s different. The factory is family-owned and run, and it feels that way. Workers eat with management, and some bring their kids over, as it’s summer holidays here too. Every day we sit and eat with everyone else and, although we struggle at times, we learn something new about China and the Chinese language.

There’s a vegetable garden, looked after by the founder and patriarch, and his wife. Both have now retired, but still enjoy gardening and cooking in the factory. There’s also a free-range chicken coop. Both ecosystems provide a great amount of fresh food for the kitchen.

Vegetables for vegetarian startup founders.

We’ve also played ping pong with some of the managers, including the retired owner. He had some impressive moves!

Laoban vs. Laoban. Forever young.

To close the week we were invited to the house of the boss for dinner. Afterwards, we went for a hike in a park by the lake. In Chinese parks groups of older people get together to dance to some sort of Chinese-techno music. It helps them them socialize and be physically healthy (it does get sweaty around here!).

Sunday evening park Chinese dance music.

Hardware Insights: The Product Co-development Agreement

For hardware startups working with experienced manufacturers helping them to develop their ideas, it’s important to have in place a Product Development Agreement. The aim of this document is to allocate the intellectual property rights to each party, especially regarding the manufacturing of the product.

We have been working on this for the last month, with the help of our lawyers, who helped us focus on the main issues at stake.

Because the factory has a lot of experience in building knitting machines (what we call “core technology”), the agreement is extremely important in terms of defining the co-development that will take place with Kniterate at the factory (“new work”).

We are working hard on getting this in place, and we expect to close negotiations within the next week or two. Meanwhile we have a term sheet that allows us to keep working.

Our experience both with our lawyers and the factory boss has been incredibly positive. We are lucky to have someone reasonable and excited about our project on the other side of the table. In fact, it was this positivity which stood out, when we visited a number of factories back in April; we were drawn to the boss’s open minded approach and ability to understand our vision of the future:

‘I would have never believed that a phone could have all the things it has inside, now I believe anything is possible with creativity’, she said.

We could not be getting more support at the factory!


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