Luma's been quiet for a while, and today's launch of the new ARCA Loop is a big milestone in what we've been up to.
About 18 months ago, we purchased a (used) Fanuc Robodrill - one of Apple's primary CNC machines used to produce the iPhone. These are amazing CNC mills that offer a tremendous levels of speed, accuracy, and reliability... but production machining of our parts to the tight tolerances we demand is not as easy as sending the Robodrill a file and clicking "Print"! If you follow our Instagram, you can get an inside look at the gory details and broken end mills it took for us to climb the production machining learning curve. Remember the Special Edition? That was a pilot run to see if we had the chops to start producing our own hardware in-house.
So why did we do this? Luma's always struggled with inventory. We've often been described as a "boutique" company, and that isn't exactly wrong. Outsourcing manufacturing in this kind of volume is extremely difficult when lead times average about 12 weeks from purchase order to finished parts in hand. The problem gets even more complicated as we look to expand the Loop lineup with new mounts for different applications which will split up our orders into smaller batches of even more parts.
Having the ability to produce our most critical components in-house changes the game for us - with quick change fixtures and standardized tooling, we can have the CNC set up to make more components in about an hour. A small production run can be completed in a matter of days, with our largest lead time being a trip to the anodizing shop. It's been a tremendous amount of learning to get to this point, and we probably won't be perfect with this strategy at first, but the potential gains are absolutely worth it.
The other amazing thing about having our own CNC? Prototyping. The ARCA Loop we're launching today is the result of over 20 unique, fully functional, production material prototypes. This level of iteration and exploration was never possible for us before, and the result of that design exploration is a new kind of camera sling mount geometry that we're really excited about.
The hinged offset mount you see in the new ARCA Loop provides a dramatic improvement in both security and stability for your camera compared to any other sling. The bounce and twist that's normally associated with camera slings? Eliminated. Carrying your camera on an ARCA Loop is absolutely secure, and nearly as stable as the two point strap that came with your camera, but with the speed and comfort you expect from a sling.
It is kinda weird that we're as excited as we are about something as nerdy as camera sling mount geometry, but we really are! Over the next couple of months, we're going to be showing off how it works and makes for the very best camera sling available (here's a quick video from a test of one of our prototypes versus another brand sling). More importantly, we have different mounts in the works - first up will be a replacement for the Loop 3's original Offset Mount with a big thumb screw for quick install/removal. After that will be an RC2 mount for Manfrotto tripod users, and a solution for you folks running specialty L brackets or fitted ARCA plates.
Of course, once you have the ability to make parts on a CNC machine, you naturally start having ideas of what to do with it. Luma has a whole pipeline of interesting ideas to go beyond the Loop and we've hidden a couple of them in some of the ARCA Loop's marketing images.
So that's what we've been up to. This process has been a big investment for us and we are really excited that all this effort is starting to show results. Not only are we going to be able to stop with the "Out of Stock" notices and delayed shipping, but it will be really amazing to bring you some of the stuff we are working on. We absolutely can't wait!
- Greg Koenig