National Engineers Week 2017: Dream Big

(Image courtesy of DiscoverE.)

This year’s theme for National Engineers Week is ‘Dream Big’, and it really embodies what the engineering profession is all about. Engineering is about taking a small idea, building upon it and transforming it into a reality. Engineers engage their creativity and technical know-how to transform dreams into reality.

Here are three ways that you can encourage the students of today, and our engineers of tomorrow, to Dream Big.

Introduce Students to Engineering

While at first glance, this suggestion sounds simple enough, the truth is that many students do not know an engineer. How can they be motivated to pursue a profession without any exposure to it? So whether you are a teacher or parent, take the time to not only explain the engineering field, but introduce your child or students to an engineer. An engineer will be able to explain what they do and answer any field-specific questions.

Engineering by nature is a hands-on field. While there are indeed many theories to learn, the most engaging way of teaching engineering is to let students get their hands “dirty”. Hands-on activities engage different parts of the brain, help foster a love of the discipline all while encouraging a growth mindset.

Take a Walk around Town

Get outside and go for a walk. This gives you a chance to glance up at those tall buildings, gaze upon the city parks and revel in all things engineering. Without engineering all of the things you walk by would not exist. Engineers constructed those skyscrapers, they designed the cars zooming by and built those bridges you walk across. Examples of engineering can be seen everywhere you turn. Engage your child during the walk by asking leading questions and encouraging discussion.

Build Upon an Idea

Children are inherently creative and have many ideas floating around in their heads. Discuss the ideas that they have. Narrow their list of ideas down until you come to a single idea, and then pursue it. You don’t have to be an engineer yourself to do this.

For example, if your child has an idea for a cool and innovative product, you can:

  • Research the industry together.
  • Sketch out the idea (or design it in a CAD program).
  • Build a prototype of the idea with household items.
  • Share the idea and prototype with friends and family (anyone who will continue to encourage your child).

You never know, you might also learn something along the way.

The spirit of engineering is built upon curiosity and determination. Whether your child is currently interested in engineering or not, always encourage them to Dream Big. The bigger the dream, the fiercer the passion.


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Manufacturing Technology: 3D Printing vs CNC

3D printing has undoubtedly become a tool-of-choice for makers and educators alike. The rapid growth in 3D printing technology and its popularity has manufacturers worried that at-home 3D printers may one day soon replace traditional manufacturing. From our experience though, a maker or entrepreneur is going to benefit the most from a convergence of these two manufacturing methods.

Below we will discuss the benefits and pitfalls of both 3D printing and CNC milling.


CNC milling machines “take a block of solid material (e.g. aluminum or wood) and use sharp rotating tools or cutters to remove all parts that are not needed. Milling is a subtractive method. CNC mills are computer-controlled. The computer feeds the machine-specific code that controls the cutting tools (just like the G-code used by 3D printers). The models for CNC mills are created using 3D modeling software, so-called CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) software applications.” (

3D Printing starts from scratch and builds a three-dimensional product layer by layer. This technology is referred to as additive manufacturing. Just like with CNC milling machines, a computer feeds the machine specific code that controls the design process.

Material Selection

CNC mills can work on a “huge variety of materials: metal alloys (e.g. aluminum, steel alloys, brass, copper), softwoods and hardwoods, thermoplastics, acrylic, modeling foams, machining wax (for creating a positive model for casting). You may need different cutting tools for different materials, but the tool-to-machine interfaces are usually standardized—so the tools can easily be exchanged.” (

At-home desktop 3D printers are usually restricted to a few materials, typically thermoplastics or resins. Thermoplastics can be mixed with other materials such as ceramics, wood, metal, but the workpieces produced on a 3D printer will not be as robust as workpieces cut from a block of metal or wood. Commercial or specialty 3D printers can print with more exotic materials (i.e. bioprinting and food).

Range of Applications

With the range of applications for these two technologies, there is a lot of overlap. (Here we will focus on the applications either technology supports, while the other does not.)

CNC milling is the better solution when you need to manufacture extremely robust, precise and/or heat-resistant products. 3D printing is the better solution when you need quick prototypes to test designs, small batch runs or are interested in exotic application fields—bioprinting, architectural purposes and printing food.

Material Waste

By design, there is less waste with 3D printing. The technology only requires the material needed for building the product. With CNC milling, you need a block of material that is the size of the product it will produce—a great deal of material is then removed, and often times the excess material cannot be recycled.

Both technologies have their place in the manufacturing landscape. Where one technology falters, the other excels. When designing your product, keep in mind that using both technologies during product development might be just what you need.

Have questions about the manufacturing process? Send us your questions,,we are happy to help.


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3D Academy Event: 3D Printing and CAD Design using LEGO (March 20-24th)


Our 3D Academy and Play-Well TEKnologies have teamed up once again to host a 3D Printing and CAD Design using LEGO enrichment camp for students. This camp is a perfect introduction to design and engineering. For the design aspect of the camp, students will have the opportunity to create their own LEGO component, and in the second half of the camp they will hone their engineering skills by creating motorized and architectural projects with LEGOS. This hands-on approach is not only fun and interactive, it also makes the abstract design and engineering concepts come to life.

View photos from our last 3D Printing and CAD Design using LEGO camp on our Facebook page.

About Our ‘3D Printing and CAD Design using LEGO’ Camp

Everyday students will learn the fundamentals of 3D Printing, CAD Design and Spatial Environments to create their own custom and one-of-a-kind LEGO component to take home. In the other half of camp, students will take part in Play-Well’s LEGO Engineering program and have access to over 20,000 pieces of LEGO while creating motorized and architectural projects such as Steerable Motorized Gear Cars, Pneumatic Claws, Mechanized Battle Walkers, Conveyor Belt Systems, and Towering Skyscrapers. Students will be introduced to the world of 3D Printing, CAD Design, Engineering, Physics, Architecture and prototyping all while having fun in a LEGO-centric camp environment.

  • Age Range: Grades 2nd-6th
  • Location: Manoa Innovation Center (2800 Woodlawn Drive Honolulu, HI)
  • Date: March 20-24th (M-F, Spring Break) / 9:00am-4:00pm
  • Price: $290 for 5 day Camp

Register for the Camp at

Have additional questions? Please contact Wrenn Okada at 808.221.4870 or for more information.


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3D Academy: Fostering a Growth Mindset for STEM Education Success

STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects can be a challenge for students, however, as educators and parents we can help prepare our students for these challenges by equipping them with a growth mindset. This specific mindset encourages students to problem solve, overcome failure and develop a deep love for learning new concepts—which are all critical for STEM education success. Before we can teach kids about a growth mindset, we must first understand the term.

CAD TrainingThe concept of growth mindset was first developed by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck who explains that, “With a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Students who embrace growth mindsets—the belief that they can learn more or become smarter if they work hard and persevere—may learn more, learn it more quickly, and view challenges and failures as opportunities to improve their learning and skills.”

What does a growth mindset mean for STEM education?

There is a persevering idea that if you are not innately good at STEM subjects, or do not fit the mold of what society thinks an engineer or scientist should be, then a career in STEM isn’t for you. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Now, more than ever, STEM fields needs individuals that are willing to break the mold and think outside of the box. As technology continues to grow and transform society, STEM fields need people that truly embody a growth mindset.

How can you encourage a growth mindset?
  • Demonstrate to students that learning is a process. We commonly see teachers demonstrating this with a project-based-learning capstone project. Structuring lesson plans so they build in complexity toward a final semester or year-end project encourages students to look at a concept in a multitude of ways. For example, in an engineering course you might start with a basic theory, test it, develop a proof-of-concept and then ultimately 3D print the final design. This hands-on learning opportunity allows students to progress towards a common goal while applying new concepts throughout the project’s development.
  • Real-world demonstrations. Focus on building an overarching understanding of a concept rather than placing too much emphasis on short-term knowledge. One way of doing this is by connecting learning to real-world applications. For example, students can choose a global issue and work together towards solving it through robotics or product design. This type of hands-on-learning allows students to see the true implications of their work and understand how it applies to a real world situation.
  • Praise children for their effort. Instead of telling children that they are intelligent, focus on praising their hard work and perseverance. “Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control,” Carol Dweck explains. “They come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure.”
  • Bring in professionals. Students need to see professionals in STEM fields. Invite professionals into the classroom to speak to students about their career and what first motivated them to pursue it. Giving students a chance to connect with STEM professionals is both encouraging and motivating.

Engineers and other STEM professionals play a vital role in society—we need to encourage today’s students to be tomorrow’s STEM leaders.

Learn more about our 3D Academy and how we can help integrate STEM education into your classroom. Contact us at or by phone at +1.808.722.8667


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Demand for 3D Digital Design Rises

January 26, 2017

3D CAD has become a critical early step in the product development process. These digital designs minimize design challenges and manufacturing complications.

Below are three common questions we regularly receive about 3D CAD technology:

What is 3D CAD?

Three-dimensional computer aided design, or 3D CAD, is a type of software that helps engineers, product designers, architects and other professionals design schematics for three-dimensional objects.

When is the best time to use 3D CAD in the product development cycle?        

For most, the first step in the quest to produce the next big innovation is building a digital design of the product idea using 3D CAD.

Product Design and Development | 3D Prototyping3D CAD can be used to initially test product design theories and understand all of the design aspects without the need for building physical prototypes. Even though prototyping costs are decreasing, due partly to additive manufacturing (3D printing), it is best to develop a 3D digital design before producing a prototype.

It is not to say that 3D digital design is meant to replace physical prototyping, but it is bringing advantages throughout the design workflow that include computational fluid dynamics (CFD) tools for virtual simulation/testing, using the same data as for physical prototyping.

By using a 3D digital design process, we are able to create designs and validate them with up to 95% certainty that they will work before even building a prototype. -Collin Kobayashi, President & Chief 3D Officer of 3D Innovations

What are the major benefits of 3D CAD?

Test product ideas. With 3D digital designs you can easily test form, fit, materials and functionality without the need for a physical prototype.

Clarify product functionality. If you plan to seek funding from an outside source, digital designs are a great way to communicate an idea. You can demonstrate the product without having to produce a physical prototype.

Speed up time-to-market. The goal of every hardware startup is to get your product into the hands of consumers as quickly as possible. Your company is not profitable until you begin to sell units, therefore any tool that speeds up time-to-market is valuable. With 3D digital design files you can not only design and communicate a product idea, you can also export the design into various file formats for use with CNC machines and 3D printers for production. Manufacturers around the world have adopted common practices and standards that rely on the use of digital design files for their production processes. This adoption of using digital designs for their downstream applications eliminates operator error, increases productivity, and allows for more competitiveness in the marketplace.

Reduce Costs. From the onset, 3D digital designs reduce costs in the form of prototyping. While later on in the product development cycle, these same designs reduce costly errors during production.

The demand for 3D digital designs is rising and it is easy to see why.  For hardware entrepreneurs, 3D digital designs are a great way to explore a product idea, build upon the idea and solicit feedback.

Need assistance creating a 3D Digital Design for your product idea? Contact us! Email us at or give us a call at 808.722.8667. We look forward to talking with you!


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Hardware is a Perfectly Complex Mess

Early-stage hardware startups are faced with complex challenges, a flurry of information and questions, many questions. To sum it up, hardware is messy. However, with technological advances and a shift in barriers to entry, hardware has never been easier than it is today. Technology is enhancing the ability for fast experimentation, prototype development and manufacturing. Years ago these steps in themselves took months, today 3D printing along with a plethora of other advancements means that you can test designs and prototype in days or weeks. So what exactly makes hardware complex?

Product-Market Fit

While hardware is easier today than any other time in history, finding product-market fit remains as tricky as ever. Whether you have a market in mind and are building a product to solve a problem, or you have a product and are trying to find your customer base—product-market fit is hard. It is one thing to design a beautiful product with flawless functionality, and quite another to rally a strong customer support base around this product.

This is where your support network comes into play. Form a core group of supporters willing to not only share your product, but to actively advocate for it. You want supporters that can provide quality feedback, engage with you on an on-going basis and that are eager to share your product with their own network.

Prototyping: Fast Over Fancy

industrial_design-handleNew tools, new filament and updated components are always being released. You could spend months researching all of the ‘latest and greatest’. Instead of spending countless hours in front of the computer researching all of the ways to build a prototype, get your hands dirty. Find the components you need to build a prototype and get to it. Once you have this version in hand, switch gears and focus your attention on a functional prototype. Your first prototype will be able to explain your idea, while your functional prototype will be able to showcase a working model of your product.

Industry Interviews

Don’t be afraid to get out there are interview the big players in the industry you are trying to break-in to. These businesses have been in the industry much longer than you have and can share customer insights with you—such as, what customers will actually buy and at what quantity.

Build connections with industry contacts, other hardware startups, product development experts and others in the (growing) hardware community. These contacts will be able to help answer questions, act as a sounding board for your ideas and give you the encouragement you need to forge ahead when things get tough. “Surround yourself with people that reflect who you want to be and how you want to feel, energies are contagious.” (Rachel Wolchin, Author)

Hardware is complex, messy and perfectly wonderful. Take your idea and pursue it.

Need assistance with your hardware product? Contact us! Email us at or give us a call at 808.722.8667. We look forward to talking with you!


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Designing & Prototyping with 3D Printing

3D Printing Services | Rapid Prototyping Services | 3D-innovationsIt’s no secret that additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing) is shifting the manufacturing landscape and transforming supply chains. 3D printing is redefining how companies design, develop and manufacture products. Product designers are experiencing what it means to design without traditional limitations of design for assembly, allowing them to radically reinvent products based on performance rather than manufacturability. Below are four reasons as to why you should be integrating 3D printing into your product development lifecycle if you aren’t already.

Timelines & Budgets.

These are the biggest challenges to any product development team. Producing prototypes and delivering accurate designs to clients has never been easier than it is today with 3D printing. With a 3D printer, CAD models can become real life touchable designs in a matter of hours.

Multiple Design Iterations & Prototyping.

In product development it often takes many iterations of a product before a design is settled on. People have different ideas on how the product should look and function. While a 3D CAD model makes it easier to share design thoughts, nothing compares to holding a physical product in your hand to help communicate an idea.

Once a design has been finalized, a functional prototype is needed to help with other aspects of the business (securing funding, marketing, presentations etc.). In today’s competitive startup market, a functional prototype is no longer optional, and investors (whether VCs or through crowdfunding) want to see how your product actually works and that you have come up with something that is indeed manufacturable.

Manufacturing Flexibility.

3D printing helps reduces the capital involved in achieving economies of scale, thus lowering any barriers to entry for production. This is a major benefit for hardware startups that previously had to find funding before even approaching the idea of manufacturing their product. With 3D printing, startups can now manufacture small batches at an affordable rate and customize products based on customer demands.

Market Testing.

Gauging customer support early in the product development lifecycle is vital for success. You want to get a functional prototype in the hands of your test market as soon as possible so that you can incorporate their feedback into the design. They will be able to share insight regarding product material, product fit, weight, visual appearance and usability. Having access to a 3D printer will let you update designs quickly and communicate design changes.

While 3D printing is making quite an impact on businesses today, it is hard to remember at times that the technology is still evolving and maturing. With the evolution of 3D printing technology, we can only imagine how it will look in five or ten years.


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3D Printing Continues to Transform Manufacturing in 2017

Additive Manufacturing, commonly known as 3D printing, is ripe for innovation in 2017. 3D printing technology has been evolving at a rapid rate since it caught the attention of makers and the public alike in 2009. Though the technology dates back to 1986, it wasn’t readily accessible to the public until 2009, when the first commercial 3D printer kit was offered for sale. Since 2009, additive manufacturing technology has transformed in itself, while simultaneously transforming the business and manufacturing landscapes as well. Below are three ways that additive manufacturing will continue to alter the manufacturing industry in the coming year.

Transform the Manufacturing Industry Landscape

Over the past ten years, 3D printing has transformed from a primarily prototyping technology to one suitable for making quick-to-market products, specialized designs, and low-volume production runs. It is natural to assume the technology will continue to advance and become more sophisticated.

“Two-thirds of manufacturers use 3D printing in some way, and 25% plan to adopt it in the future.” (CES 2017)

While companies are not giving up their existing manufacturing methods, they are beginning to integrate 3D printing into these more traditional practices. Manufacturers see 3D printing as a way to cut down on the time and costs of injection molding processes, thus making product development cheaper and more efficient. For product development and on the manufacturing floor, CAD software allows for quick design updates and 3D printing is able to quickly adapt to these changes. Additive manufacturing will continue to be a supplement to existing manufacturing techniques.

Smart Automation Will Take Shape

As the technology advances, automated 3D printing systems will become more advanced. The current pre-programmed automation efforts are error prone and lack the ability to self-correct. New, intelligent, automation is right around the corner. This new automation will be able to self-correct and adapt to changing design modifications. “The process will monitor itself as it is being printed and either correct the process or reject the part when problems occur. The nature of 3D printing and the continuous, high-inspection requirements make ‘smart automation’ a better fit in the long-term for the manufacturing processes than older programmable robotic approaches.”

Reduce Time-to-Market Even Further

In Gartner’s 2016 annual predictions about the future of 3D printing, the report indicates that 3D printing will continue to reduce new product development timelines—as much as 25% by 2020. Companies across a wide range of industries have been using additive manufacturing to speed up prototyping processes. Using 3D printing, companies are better equipped to turn out prototypes, test them, present them to clients, adjust and tweak them, and repeat. As Gartner states, “The number of iterations enabled by rapid and iterative prototyping results in short new-product development time, lower development costs and fewer finished goods defects.”

3D printing is having quite an impact on the industrial sector and demonstrating huge potential for the future of consumers. What shape that potential will take is still unfolding before us.

Garnter’s full report can be found here.


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Hardware Startups: A New Year, A New Adventure

December 30, 2016

4startJanuary is seen as a time to start anew; set new goals, conquer fears and take on new adventures—such as venturing out and starting your own business. Starting a business—whether a physical business, a software company or a hardware startup, is an endeavor that is as exciting as it is terrifying. Below are a few points to help keep you motivated as you get your new business off the ground.

  1. Do something you really like. Find what you are passionate about and pursue it. Don’t start something you can’t envision yourself doing for the next five years. Because if it is successful, you will most likely still be doing it in five years.
  2. You will not know everything. While you will know what business you want to start, you probably won’t know all the details surrounding the industry. Start your business anyway. You will quickly learn as you go. Step out of your comfort zone and build relationships with experts in your industry—mentors are valuable to both your professional and personal growth.
  3. Define your market. You need to know who you are selling to, without customers you do not have a business. Define your market and then get to know everything about this segment of the population. These are potential customers and you want to tailor your product to their exact needs and desires.
  4. Find a partner. Partner with someone because it makes your business stronger. Don’t partner with someone just because it’s convenient, partner with them because of the knowledge they bring to the table. The wrong partner can cause unnecessary frustration and put more strain on your startup. However, the right partner will have skills that compliment your own and they will bring a fresh perspective to the business.
  5. Don’t focus solely on raising money. Yes capital is vital to business success, however first focus on building a business so incredible that investors seek you out. A strong product will speak for itself, and excite you, potential customers and investors alike.

Starting a business is hard work. There will be days where you want to quit and go back to a corporate job, but don’t let these days deter you—instead, let these days motivate you.

If you are searching for a product development partner, check out our website and send us an e-mail ( so we can chat further about your project.

“Don’t wait for the right moment to start a business. It never arrives. Start now.”—Lauris Liberts


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Season’s Greetings

New_Year_2017During this special time of year, it is important to take a moment to reflect on the previous year’s accomplishments. Over this past year, 3D Innovations has had the privilege to partner with numerous companies on a variety of product development projects—We had the honor of helping first time entrepreneurs bring ideas to life, assist clients with IP licensing, support in the development and marketing of crowdfunding campaigns, just to name a few.

Also this year, our 3D Academy partnered with both local and national organizations to bring hands-on STEM education activities to students here in Hawaii. Being able to share our passion for engineering and introducing students to the discipline is always rewarding. We are committed as ever to strengthening the local STEM ecosystem and working hard to ensure that all students are introduced to STEM subjects and technology early-on.

As we move into 2017, we look forward to what the New Year will bring.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season and all the best in the New Year!

-The 3D Innovations Team


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