“Maker Tales” is an ongoing series on knowable, where we highlight outstanding Makers and their projects. This week we spoke to Berlin’s very Felix Kochbeck and Tim Kirchner, part of the team behind the GoPro Stabilizer „LUUV“ – knowable’s current „Project of the Week“ – who also happen to run a very promising crowd funding campaign „on IndieGogo“ at the moment. But let’s start from the beginning.
Hey, guys! Good to have you over. Why don’t you tell us little a bit about yourself.
Felix: Hi, I’m Felix, I was born 28 years ago in Munich and I studied ‘smart materials engineering’ at universities in Germany and Canada. Since I can walk I am riding all kind of boards, be it a skateboard, a snowboard or a kiteboard. Add a passion for film and photography and the outcome is LUUV.
Tim: Hi, my name is Tim, born in Berlin in 1988. I studied media management and I am currently finishing my M.A. in ‘media science’ at the HU Berlin. In addition to Felix and me, there are Friedrich and Tobias (hi guys!), who have their backgrounds in advertisement and service marketing.
Cool. How did you get started as a Maker – and as a team?
F: I was already spending lots of time as a kid assembling different kind of things on my dad’s workbench in the basement. Refusing to fight my inner child the last thing I tinkered together before LUUV was a kiteboard. I didn’t have a concrete plan of becoming a maker, all I knew was that a nine to five office job wouldn’t do it for me at that point in my life. And there has always been the urge to start something, being responsible for a project and sculpting it.
T: Our team evolved organically. We have already been friends long before we started working together on LUUV. In the beginning Friedrich, Tobias and me spent all of our free time on the project. Since it got more and more intense we quit our jobs and joined Felix, full time. None of us planned to be part of a hardware startup, it just happened. Thankfully.
Ha, sounds good. So, what is the story behind LUUV? How did it all start?
F: I was filming with action cams like the GoPro for many years. Like everybody else I was dealing with the problem of shaky footage ever since and there was no proper way to fix that. It doesn’t matter whether you have your GoPro attached to your body, hold it in your hand or put it on a pole, you will never get a decent steady shot in motion. After trying different builds of camera stabilizers out there, I came to the conclusion: Not satisfying at all. Let’s built a stabilizer that fits our own needs and implement the feedback we receive testing it in the field. The product evolved and the list of unique features is still growing.
What were the main challenges in designing it – and in manufacturing?
F: There are basically two types, two different shapes of camera stabilizers on the market and both builds are dealing with the same list of issues. Even after studying the underlying physics of dynamic stabilization it still takes lots of time to adjust them, they are hard to operate, only work for one specific camera model, are way too expensive or easily break. And they all share one enemy: the wind. With all that (and a lot more) in mind I sat down and started constructing. I came up with a new concept for a camera stabilizer, which is not only functional in it’s design but also doesn’t have a technical look and feel.
That’s for the actual idea. But how about going from there to production? What happened with your first-day-sketch?
F: After building a very basic prototype with parts from the hardware store I faced a new challenge: how to get the sketch alive? Especially as there are lots of high precision parts required as the state of equilibrium is super sensitive to tolerances? And what about the costs for all the special parts? I decided to make use of the technology of 3D-printing, but using online-based platforms for printing sadly has some disadvantages: you can’t test and redesign your parts right away but instead have to wait some days for the delivery and the prints are pricey. That’s one of the main reasons we decided to scramble up some money and buy our very own 3D-printer, a PP3DP UP Plus to accelerate the whole development process. Design a part, print it, and test it in the field. Implement new findings and pivot. Without the technology of 3D-printing LUUV wouldn’t exist. At this stage we are producing on industrial SLS-printers from EOS.
A very common hurdle, indeed. So where did all this happen? Do you have a studio or use a public maker space? Or both?
T: Our office is located at ‘betahaus Berlin’ and we use Felix’s flat as the makerspace. But that’s definitely not a long-term solution. We hope that that the whole movement behind knowable.org, hardware.co e.g. will lead to a strong and connected berlin hardware community, which shares makerspace, infrastructure and capacity. Come on guys, let’s build a factory together!
Is there a place online, where people can learn more about you and your work?