How Kitchenware Startup Misen Used 3D Printing to Develop a Chef’s Knife and Raise Over $1 Million on Kickstarter
Whether you’re breaking down meats or dicing a handful of fresh herbs, it’s difficult to imagine what cooking would be like without a trusted knife. After all, there has to be more than a few good reasons why chefs would consider a knife to be the most valuable tool in their kitchen, right?
But while it might make perfect sense for professional chefs to invest hundreds of dollars into their knives, it can be difficult for home cooks to justify the same purchase without breaking their budget.
Recently, a pair of Brooklyn chefs — along with an industrial designer friend — set out to solve this frustrating experience of searching for a professional chef’s knife on a home cook’s budget once and for all.
“Between confusing, unexplained features and needlessly expensive price tags, finding the perfect blade can be difficult,” explain the trio. “That didn’t seem right to us, so we spent 18 months making something better.”
The result of their research is Misen — a new company that aims to redefine kitchenware essentials with premium materials, thoughtful design and honest pricing.
After launching a Kickstarter campaign for their Misen Chef’s Knife on September 22nd, the team managed to raise their campaign goal — $25,000 — in just a single hour.
By the time their campaign came to a close on October 22nd, Misen’s first product had raised a staggering $1,083,344 USD from 13,116 backers — one $65 knife at a time.
So how did a small team with a good idea take one of the oldest tools known to man — a handled blade — and make it new again?
Thanks to developments in rapid prototyping — or 3D printing — within the last decade, the process of going from an initial sketched idea to a finished product design has never been as accessible or affordable as it is today.
To create their million-dollar knife concept, the Misen crew turned to the 3D Hubs network of 3D printing services to develop multiple iterations of what would become their final knife design.
Here, Misen co-founder Omar Rada and NYC-based 3D Hub provider Dano Wall give us further insight into the process of creating the runaway Kickstarter hit:
3D Hubs: Hey Omar! Can you tell us a little bit about your background? What came first for you — design or cooking?
Omar Rada: Food comes first!
3D Hubs: How did the idea for a new and better cooking tool come about?
Omar Rada: We were frustrated that we couldn’t find high-quality kitchen tools for a reasonable price. There were either cheap and poorly-made tools or expensive ones.
Also, we’re not creating a new cooking tool. While we incorporate some pretty neat features in our Misen Chef’s Knife, the tool itself has been around for millennia. What we did feel there was a need for was a well-designed knife made with premium materials that is sold for an honest price. That’s what we aimed to do with Misen — and so far, the response has been very encouraging.
3D Hubs: Can you tell us more about the Misen Chef’s Knife?
Omar Rada: Our Chef’s Knife is thoughtfully designed, constructed with quality materials, and costs less than half of what mainstream “premium” knives retail for. It’s a really great tool for less. Simple as that.
3D Hubs: How did you guys begin the development process for the knife once you had the idea in place? What digital tools did you use?
Omar Rada: We partnered with an industrial designer in Chicago named Peter Muller. After many nights of sketching we moved into CAD, where Peter and I further iterated on knife designs until we were ready to start 3D printing. As for digital tools, we primarily used SolidWorks 2014 to further develop our design and create 3D printable models leading up to our finished design.
3D Hubs: At what point in your process did you know that it was time to start 3D printing your models?
Omar Rada: We had a pretty good sense of the necessary dimensions from the get-go, so once we had the initial CAD in good shape, we started printing just the knife handle as a toe-in-water approach. Once we were comfortable with the handle design, we then started thinking about the blade. After many 3D prints later, we combined everything into a final knife design that we were able to use as a reference for our final material prototypes.
3D Hubs: How did you find out about 3D Hubs and what made you decide to have your prototypes 3D printed by your local 3D Hub?
Omar Rada: I had always been aware of 3D Hubs, but had never tried the service out before. The platform was so incredibly easy to get up and running that within minutes of signing up; I had already contacted Dano Wall, my nearest 3D Hub, to inquire about printing.
3D Hubs: Can you tell us a little bit about your experience of working with Dano? How was it to work with an actual human to support your prototyping process?
Omar Rada: Dano, who I believe is the 3D Hubs Mayor/King/Sultan/Emperor of NYC, is the absolute best. He’s so passionate about 3D printing and design that we often went totally off topic discussing other side projects both of us have. But regarding the quality of his work, it is second to none. It’s been a pleasure to not only have worked with Dano but to have gotten to know him personally as well.
3D Hubs: Do you have any tips for somebody who might want to launch their own product through a Kickstarter campaign?
Omar Rada: As Dano warned me, Kickstarter campaigns are a lot of work.
Spend time building a community of like-minded individuals early on and prepare for long hours of work in advance of your campaign. Be passionate about what you are doing, because it’s not going to be easy!
3D Hubs: Last but not least — what’s your favorite f0od to chop with the Misen knife?
Omar Rada: Good question, but I can’t answer! There are too many good choices!
3D Hubs: Hey Dano! Can you tell us about who you are and about your Hub?
Dano Wall: Hey! I live in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where I have a Makerbot Replicator 1 and Replicator 2 3D printers. I love 3D printing and problem solving, so 3D Hubs has given me a ready supply of interesting projects and people to help — like Omar and the Misen team.
3D Hubs: Can you tell us more about your first interactions with Omar as a client? How did you guys connect?
Dano Wall: Omar found me on 3D Hubs and started prototyping his knife designs through my Hub in the spring of 2015. I remember liking how carefully he prepared his files for printing and how detail-oriented he was, so we got along great from the start.
3D Hubs: Is this your first time working with 3D printed knives? What about a product that was gearing up for crowdfunding?
Dano Wall: This was definitely my first time printing knives. 3D printed knives aren’t functional for cooking, but allow you to test the shape, balance, feel in the hand, and overall visual impact of the knife, which is what Omar was looking for.
As for crowdfunding projects, I’ve worked with a handful of people who were interested in pursuing Kickstarter campaigns with their various designs down the road, but this is the first project that has actually come to fruition.
3D Hubs: Are there any tips that you might have for creating high-quality 3D printed prototypes like Omar’s?
Dano Wall: I do a lot of trial-and-error type experiments to figure out what works best for any particular printing project — so I always try to include extra time for some playful experimentation.
With these knife prototypes in particular — which have very thin blades — I had to find something that would print perfectly flat and smooth in a single layer, retain its flatness after coming off the print bed, and have enough flexibility that the blade would stand up to rough handling. After trial and error, I eventually settled on a PET and polyester mix, printed on a slightly warm bed at very slow speed. This yielded high definition and extremely durable results that I was happy to pass on to Omar for further testing.
Could you be the next creator with the million-dollar product idea?