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devicemaker

Building a Machine

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Hello,

I have over a decade of experience in electronics, embedded systems development and a number of other product development skills.   


I thought it might be a good idea to combine my skills with a need in an area of Science (e.g. Microbiology / Genetics / Chemistry... etc).
Towards that end, I've tried now and then to email University professors in Bio / Chem.
I've asked if they might have any concepts/ideas for novel, automated lab equipment that they would like to develop - and how i could help.

Something that was not out there, something perhaps involving automation of existing processes/procedures, something not too crazy complicated and something that might have commercial potential.  I ask for nothing more than to collaborate jointly and equally with them on an idea.

Sadly I've never received a reply from any of them.  Its like sending information into a black hole. 


Either I'm going about it the wrong way or there seems to be an impenetrable wall of legal & bureaucracy barriers to academia collaborating with individuals from industry.

 

Consequently, I don't know how to go about finding a like minded Science professional who'd be interested in collaborating with me.

So I'm here posting this message to seek advice.  How to find such an individual given the limited amount of time I have available to run around?

It almost feels like looking for a wife, except that literally seems an easier task!   

 

I live in the metro Toronto area.  

I'd be interested to know if any Science professional/researcher would be interested in such a venture.

P.S : I'll post this in at least one other forum here as I'm not sure where my "significant other" might be lurking out there.
 

Thank you.

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2 minutes ago, devicemaker said:

P.S : I'll post this in at least one other forum here as I'm not sure where my "significant other" might be lurking out there.

!

Moderator Note

Please don't. We like to keep to a single thread per topic. 

We don't normally allow advertising, but as this is more a case of looking for collaboration I'll let it go (other mods might disagree!)

 

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I used to be a Remap Panel Engineer.

Remap is a UK charity where skilled engineers donate some of their time and skill to create bespoke solutions for disabled/disadvantage people.

Remap provides the funding, the panel members provide the 'doing'

The Panel meets on a regular basis and discussed those in its area in need.
Then if a solution can be proposed the Panel authorises a subgroup to carry it out.

It was great fun.

I do not know if there is a similar organisation in Toronto, perhaps if you contacted Remap head office they might make some suggestion.

But remember Scientists investigate. Engineers carry out.

https://www.remap.org.uk/

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14 minutes ago, devicemaker said:

Consequently, I don't know how to go about finding a like minded Science professional who'd be interested in collaborating with me.

..become student of scientific course.. you will immediately have easy access and know names of your professors.. and they will know who you are.. not some random person from the Internet (who might be hacker or foreign country spy, interested just in penetration of their university internal network)..

21 minutes ago, devicemaker said:

I have over a decade of experience in electronics, embedded systems development and a number of other product development skills.   

Build on-line portfolio of devices that you built. Full of photos and eventually videos to show how they work, with English native speaker lector. Upload them to YouTube and Vimeo. Make YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram accounts. Look up names of professors on FB and invite to your FB account. Talk to them through FB.

The more professional your accounts and videos will be made, the more seriously you will be taken by people..

 

It reminds me sentence: ""It's not what you know. It's who you know"..

(I obviously disagree with it.. but world is full of such knowing-nothing-but-well-connected personalities in the all areas)

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9 hours ago, Sensei said:

become student of scientific course..

Or look for a job as a lab technician to build contacts and experience 

I suspect most people who do the sort of freelance design work you are talking about, start out by doing work for their former employer(s). 

It can be hard to get started without a proven track record of successful projects and satisfied clients 

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All of the suggestions involve me doing a load of stuff and jumping through hoops to convince the other party that I am worthy of their attention.  Does not sound like a good proposition to me. 

To be sure, I'd be putting in a lot of the work on the technical front to realize what should be a mutual goal of both parties.

As for changing my profession just to have the off chance of meeting someone in academia who might be interested, there's no way I could contemplate that.

I've thought about simply dropping by a University and knocking on some professors door to introduce myself and my objective.  Not sure how that would go down i.e if i would be welcomed or booted out for the "intrusion".

Trying to collaborate with academia and profs  looks to be a waste of time as it's wrapped up in institutional bureaucracy.

I'd be interested to know if non-academia folks in industry on this forum perhaps might be interested in jointly working with me to realize a product dream.  Ideally something that requires automation of a process like cultivating and analyzing cell cultures or some such activity.  I'm open to your ideas.

Please let me know if you or someone you know might be interested.

Other than that, I don't know what else I can do as I'm not up for running through a maze just to meet somone.

Thanks.

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34 minutes ago, devicemaker said:

All of the suggestions involve me doing a load of stuff and jumping through hoops to convince the other party that I am worthy of their attention. 

Yep. That is what you need to do. 

I am surprised you don't realise that.

34 minutes ago, devicemaker said:

Other than that, I don't know what else I can do as I'm not up for running through a maze just to meet somone.

Maybe you could read some books / look at some videos on marketing and how to create a new business / sell your skills.

Sadly, it is never as easy as just saying "Hey, I've got some skills and am available to work with you." There are plenty of other people out there with similar skills, so you need to find some way of differentiating and selling yourself.

In the case of academics, they have ready access to a pool of students and technicians to help develop projects. If they need more help, and the research budget stretches to it, they may go to an outside contractor or industrial partner. But this is likely to be someone they have worked with before, or someone recommended by a colleague.

I don't think academic institutions are much different, or more bureaucratic, than commercial companies. You would face similar challenges getting work with an industrial organisation.

11 hours ago, studiot said:

But remember Scientists investigate. Engineers carry out.

Pffft

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, devicemaker said:

All of the suggestions involve me doing a load of stuff and jumping through hoops to convince the other party that I am worthy of their attention.  Does not sound like a good proposition to me. 

Have you tried looking at the issue from your proposed partner's point of view.

Ask yourself

If some unknown person knocked on your door and offered

"Tarmac your drive, guv ?"

Would you let him in without some sort of vetting?

 

 

 

2 hours ago, Strange said:
13 hours ago, studiot said:

But remember Scientists investigate. Engineers carry out.

Pffft

Did you thank that was a disparaging comparison. It was not

Edited by studiot

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33 minutes ago, studiot said:

Did you thank that was a disparaging comparison.

No, just wrong. (And slightly disparaging to scientists and engineers.)

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37 minutes ago, Strange said:

No, just wrong. (And slightly disparaging to scientists and engineers.)

Can't see why for either statement.

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18 minutes ago, studiot said:

Can't see why for either statement.

Because engineers investigate. And scientists “carry out” (I assume you mean do/implement things, rather than get takeaway food :) )

It is an arbitrary and misleading distinction 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Strange said:

Because engineers investigate. And scientists “carry out” (I assume you mean do/implement things, rather than get takeaway food :) )

It is an arbitrary and misleading distinction 

 

Nowhere have I made a value judgement about the worth of scientists, engineers or fast food outlets or the work they do or service they provide.

That is all in your mind.

I did make an honest appraisal of the activities of engineers and scientists from personal experience for the benefit of devicemaker to help him towards his goal

This discussion about your value judgement belongs in another thread.

Edited by studiot

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17 hours ago, devicemaker said:

Hello,

I have over a decade of experience in electronics, embedded systems development and a number of other product development skills.   


I thought it might be a good idea to combine my skills with a need in an area of Science (e.g. Microbiology / Genetics / Chemistry... etc).
Towards that end, I've tried now and then to email University professors in Bio / Chem.
I've asked if they might have any concepts/ideas for novel, automated lab equipment that they would like to develop - and how i could help.

Something that was not out there, something perhaps involving automation of existing processes/procedures, something not too crazy complicated and something that might have commercial potential.  I ask for nothing more than to collaborate jointly and equally with them on an idea.

Sadly I've never received a reply from any of them.  Its like sending information into a black hole. 


Either I'm going about it the wrong way or there seems to be an impenetrable wall of legal & bureaucracy barriers to academia collaborating with individuals from industry.

 

Consequently, I don't know how to go about finding a like minded Science professional who'd be interested in collaborating with me.

So I'm here posting this message to seek advice.  How to find such an individual given the limited amount of time I have available to run around?

It almost feels like looking for a wife, except that literally seems an easier task!   

 

I live in the metro Toronto area.  

I'd be interested to know if any Science professional/researcher would be interested in such a venture.

P.S : I'll post this in at least one other forum here as I'm not sure where my "significant other" might be lurking out there.
 

Thank you.

Just to echo what others have said, and to add my thoughts as I have some (limited) experience of garden-shed inventing.

First, your experiences are not new.  This is the process that most (all?) inventions and new products have to go through - a sort of rites of passage for want of a better phrase.

Apparently WD40 is so called because it was the 40th formula for a water displacement product, after 39 failed attempts to come up with something viable.

Successful inventors need to be customer, not product, focussed by identifying thier (the customer's) need and wants, gaps, and ambitions.  This is achieved best by targetted market research.  If your unsolicited emails are not working then as others have said you need to put in some legwork and invest time, energy and most definitely money.  ie speculate to accumulate.

Once you have a foot in the door, not only do you need to sell your ideas and concepts you need also to sell yourself - build up your CV to give yourself credibility and added value.

You should also consider that those you approach may have contractual obligations or strict procurement processes that may prevent them from direct engagement.

And most importantly: learn from your "failures" then try, try and try again.

Good luck

 

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Imagine that, an idea you had once, has legal leverage; mind blown, for me and at least one other...

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1 hour ago, studiot said:

Nowhere have I made a value judgement about the worth of scientists, engineers or fast food outlets or the work they do or service they provide.

That is all in your mind.

What value judgement? What's in my mind? What are you talking about?

1 hour ago, studiot said:

I did make an honest appraisal of the activities of engineers and scientists from personal experience for the benefit of devicemaker to help him towards his goal

It is simply false. If it is honest, then you are ignorant.

1 hour ago, studiot said:

This discussion about your value judgement belongs in another thread.

I have no idea what "value judgments" you are talking about. (But you are right, your erroneous descriptions are probably off topic. So we can leave it there.)

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8 hours ago, devicemaker said:

All of the suggestions involve me doing a load of stuff and jumping through hoops to convince the other party that I am worthy of their attention.  Does not sound like a good proposition to me. 

I thought so it is the easiest part of your journey...

Once you will have your "dream device", you will have to persuade them (universities, labs, companies?) to buy the product.. That's the hardest job. You will have to get to the right people and persuade them to spend thousands, maybe dozen thousands of dollars, to buy the device. It requires worldwide marketing. Creating your own website, promotional films, promotional materials, brochures, participation in scientific conferences etc... All this will cost millions of dollars. You will need to find the right people from marketing industry to do this job for you and pay them good to get quality product i.e. worldwide recognition of your "dream device".. Literally you will need to spend millions of dollars to be taken seriously and sell your "dream device" to anybody..

Otherwise you will create your "dream device" and nobody will ever hear about it, nobody will buy, and the all work and money involved in making it will be wasted..

 

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There is a lot being said here regarding getting to know a prof, but I think that this is not the key issue here. The main challenge is that the pitch it unclear and as a researcher I would not see an immediate actionable beneficial path. Ultimately, academics are busy and I would need to know why I should invest time into something incredibly vague. 

Considering that the pitch is very broad it is not clear what precisely the provided expertise is, who is going to pay for materials and so on. Basically OP is proposing a rough idea and hopes that folks buy into it. But that is generally not going to happen. One will need to make at least some headway into demonstrating that whatever one provides has the potential to be useful and make the investment from the researcher worthwhile. Ultimately, commitment to a collaboration is an investment of time and time is the most limited resource we have. It would help immensely if OP could outline specifics so that folks can look at it and see whether there is potential for them or not. 

It would also help to inform oneself on already commercialized automations. For example, pipetting robots are very helpful for high-throughput analyses. But they require high precision and are therefore very expensive. Other folks (myself included) also occasionally develop new analytical schemes. We often buy, say pumps, PMTs and so on and try to make them play nice via labview or similar. What new would OP bring to the table in that area, for example?

A cold call is in its essence a sales pitch. You are trying to get folks interested in something and considering the time constraints you always need to make it pretty clear what is in for them and what is the expected investment. If you want skills you need be specific in what they are and what you can deliver, for example. The way OP is phrased it basically reads like "I have certain skills, please outline a project to which I could apply them for- I will work on it and at some point (?) we might commercialize it". This is not a very attractive pitch as it does not have a scope or even an outline how one might imagine a collaboration to work. There are various ways to create interest, and I usually only respond when I see at least some way forward. The same will be for most other folks, our inboxes are overflowing  and we literally only have a few seconds to deal with such requests otherwise we will never get to the end of the list (and honestly more than a few get lost in the process).

 

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On 5/27/2020 at 12:51 PM, Sensei said:

Literally you will need to spend millions of dollars to be taken seriously and sell your "dream device" to anybody..

Otherwise you will create your "dream device" and nobody will ever hear about it, nobody will buy, and the all work and money involved in making it will be wasted..

 

If every inventor sat around thinking he needed millions of dollars before he could get going, we'd all still be swinging from tree to tree.

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Posted (edited)
18 minutes ago, devicemaker said:

If every inventor sat around thinking he needed millions of dollars before he could get going, we'd all still be swinging from tree to tree.

Majority of inventors died poor, revealing their ideas (or in western countries after XIX century selling for fraction of their price) to people who had money to actually implement them for real..

I am assuming you don't want to end up this way.

Anyway you're not inventor, because you're asking us (or university personalities) for idea for invention that you will just realize. Quite understandably, university personalities, are reluctant to reveal their ideas to random person from the Internet who is writing to them unsolicited emails, to not wake up one day seeing their idea is actually implemented without them seeing penny from it..

 

What I wanted previously to say is that making prototype of device is the easiest part of entire process.. later will be worse! You complain about inability to get access to university personalities to give you ideas for device. Think what will happen if you will have ready device and nobody will want to meet you and buy it.. and people with money (financial investors) will want to flush you out from the business just intercepting patents..

 

Edited by Sensei

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On 5/27/2020 at 1:47 PM, CharonY said:

There is a lot being said here regarding getting to know a prof, but I think that this is not the key issue here. The main challenge is that the pitch it unclear and as a researcher I would not see an immediate actionable beneficial path. Ultimately, academics are busy and I would need to know why I should invest time into something incredibly vague. 

Considering that the pitch is very broad it is not clear what precisely the provided expertise is, who is going to pay for materials and so on. Basically OP is proposing a rough idea and hopes that folks buy into it. But that is generally not going to happen. One will need to make at least some headway into demonstrating that whatever one provides has the potential to be useful and make the investment from the researcher worthwhile. Ultimately, commitment to a collaboration is an investment of time and time is the most limited resource we have. It would help immensely if OP could outline specifics so that folks can look at it and see whether there is potential for them or not. 

It would also help to inform oneself on already commercialized automations. For example, pipetting robots are very helpful for high-throughput analyses. But they require high precision and are therefore very expensive. Other folks (myself included) also occasionally develop new analytical schemes. We often buy, say pumps, PMTs and so on and try to make them play nice via labview or similar. What new would OP bring to the table in that area, for example?

A cold call is in its essence a sales pitch. You are trying to get folks interested in something and considering the time constraints you always need to make it pretty clear what is in for them and what is the expected investment. If you want skills you need be specific in what they are and what you can deliver, for example. The way OP is phrased it basically reads like "I have certain skills, please outline a project to which I could apply them for- I will work on it and at some point (?) we might commercialize it". This is not a very attractive pitch as it does not have a scope or even an outline how one might imagine a collaboration to work. There are various ways to create interest, and I usually only respond when I see at least some way forward. The same will be for most other folks, our inboxes are overflowing  and we literally only have a few seconds to deal with such requests otherwise we will never get to the end of the list (and honestly more than a few get lost in the process).

 

Thank you for the reply. 

Its given me some insight into the mind of the "other" side. 

My skills lie across a spectrum of electronic hardware (i.e. PCB), firmware and software development along with abilities in mechanical CAD design.

Its a skill set that would enable me to design and develop products of various kinds.  Ideally I'd prefer sticking to the development of controls based machines (i.e. electro-mechanical automation of some process in biology like cell culturing for instance) or perhaps construction of some electronic device that currently only has a mechanical equivalent.  Or perhaps a sensor of some kind incorporating bio/chemical material developed by the researcher and integrated with electronics on my end. 

Building something which would require far more in depth expertise like a mass spectrometer (which is very complex) would be off the table however.  Its just not do-able by 1 person.  

I'd also prefer to avoid doing things that are already out there since what's out there is likely to have undergone many iterations by multiple companies already - even if it expensive.  Rather I'm searching to develop something novel that isn't out there or a significant improvement over what's out there. 

I'm afraid I'm unable to be more specific than that because just like you, I'm trying to understand the researcher's side of things and how I can fit into the picture.

I expect that most of the cost will be in expertise, time and energy we put into the project.  I'd be willing to pay half of the material costs whatever they may be.

Are you interested by any chance? 

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3 hours ago, devicemaker said:

Its a skill set that would enable me to design and develop products of various kinds.  Ideally I'd prefer sticking to the development of controls based machines (i.e. electro-mechanical automation of some process in biology like cell culturing for instance) or perhaps construction of some electronic device that currently only has a mechanical equivalent.  Or perhaps a sensor of some kind incorporating bio/chemical material developed by the researcher and integrated with electronics on my end. 

I think it would work best if you could give a specific example of the type and complexity of things you are able to work on. Let's take one example (where I am interested in) which is quite amenable to tinkering: microfluidics. There is a whole range of applications including MEMS, lab-on-a-chip, biosensors and so on. You could take a look at those systems and maybe think a bit a) whether that is something you would be interested to learn about and b) what level of tinkering you would be able to do (e.g. reproducing a particular design in a different system or designing new systems, etc.). The field is quite a bit more established than it used to be, so there are already tons of designs and ideas out there so making something novel slowly becomes more difficult. Conversely, it means there is a lot to read up and get inspired in.

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@devicemaker

I have an idea of device for you which you could build. But from other discipline than biology or biotechnology.

Build remotely controlled (in a more advanced version quasi-automatic) submarine drone which will be searching for trash on the bottom of sea and be able to clean it from e.g. plastic or other difficult to destroy by nature trashes.

With such pro-environmental ideas, it would be easy peasy to collect enough money using crowdfunding platforms to build a prototype and then production of ready devices.

The "island of trash" problem must also be solved:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_garbage_patch

 

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Posted (edited)
17 hours ago, CharonY said:

I think it would work best if you could give a specific example of the type and complexity of things you are able to work on. Let's take one example (where I am interested in) which is quite amenable to tinkering: microfluidics. There is a whole range of applications including MEMS, lab-on-a-chip, biosensors and so on. You could take a look at those systems and maybe think a bit a) whether that is something you would be interested to learn about and b) what level of tinkering you would be able to do (e.g. reproducing a particular design in a different system or designing new systems, etc.). The field is quite a bit more established than it used to be, so there are already tons of designs and ideas out there so making something novel slowly becomes more difficult. Conversely, it means there is a lot to read up and get inspired in.

 

I do have experience with precision control of fludics, perhaps not micro-fluidics per say. 

My work experience is in developing controls based electronic systems for a variety of industries. 

The examples you mentioned - MEMS, lab-on-a-chip would require specialized equipment to develop - which I obviously don't have access to. 

What I could develop are systems _using_ MEMs if it is provided to me. 

In the case of lab-on-a-chip, i could develop systems that operate to perform certain (electronic / controls based) actions on the chip.  e.g. precision pumps, valve actuation, heating/cooling, pressure inducement, lazing, ultrasonic vibration or disruption.. etc.  Perhaps developing a precision pump for instance, if there was a commercial need for it for instance.

Anyway, if you'd like to converse in email offline, do let me know. 

Even if there's nothing promising we can work on in the immediate future, perhaps there might something further down the road where we could.

 

Edited by devicemaker

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