Domestic v. International Manufacturing for Your Startup

manufacturingWhether you are considering having your product manufactured in your home country or overseas, you need to take into account the benefits and disadvantages of each before reaching a final decision. Each item on your list should be weighed based on your startup’s goals, mission, customers and timeline. Below you will find a preliminary pros and cons list to help you get started.

Domestic Manufacturing Advantages
  • Easier Communication. When you and your manufacturing partner share the same language, you are less likely to experience communication barriers and breakdowns. When communication is a challenge, it can be costly for your startup.
  • Visit the Facility. When your manufacturer is close, you are easily able to visit the factory and build a trusting relationship with your manufacturing partner.
  • Faster Fulfillment. When you don’t have to factor in international shipping, your product will most likely be available much quicker, which means that you can get it to market faster.
  • Production Flexibility. Domestic manufacturers are usually able to accommodate smaller production runs. While an international manufacturer might be able to offer a smaller production run, shipping can make it cost prohibitive.
  • Reduced Shipping Fees. If you intend to sell your product domestically, you will be able to save money on shipping costs.
  • Positive Press & Market Perception. The American public tends to view products made domestically as superior in quality and is therefore willing to pay more for your product.
  • IP Security. Intellectual property (IP) can make or break a startup. Copycat products not only hurt your brand, but they can also harm consumers. Manufacturing your product domestically may decrease the chance of intellectual property theft.
Domestic Manufacturing Disadvantages
  • Higher Costs. Manufacturing your product domestically usually means that you will be paying more for your product. U.S. labor laws require manufacturers to provide minimum wage for workers along with safe working environments.
  • High Volume Production Issues. Manufacturers are not as well equipped to produce high volume orders as their international counterparts.
International Manufacturing Advantages
  • Reduced Costs. Manufacturing a product overseas is almost always significantly less expensive than manufacturing domestically.
  • Increased Options. In the U.S. manufacturers tend to specialize in the products they can produce, whereas in China a manufacturer might be able to produce a wide range of products. There are also more factories in China which means you have options, helping to keep prices competitive.
  • High-volume Capability. International manufacturers excel when it comes to producing high-volume orders in a single production run.
International Manufacturing Disadvantages
  • Communication Barriers. By not sharing a language or native culture, navigating business can be a bit more challenging.
  • Challenging to Find. Not all international manufacturing facilities have a website, or keep up with the Google algorithm—which means that finding them on the internet can be a challenge. Also, the facilities that do have a website and provide contact information are most likely contacted very frequently by people “testing the waters”, so they may not respond to your email in a timely manner, or at all.
  • Limited Oversight. It is always a good idea to visit a facility before entering into a contract, however this can be a challenge with international suppliers. You might make the initial trip to visit the facility, but subsequent visits can quickly add up and could be cost prohibitive for your startup.
  • Increased Shipping Fees. When you intend to sell your product domestically, having your product shipped from their international facility to the U.S. can be costly. Increased tariffs and other political factors can make predicting shipping fees a bit challenging, and these fees can readily fluctuate.
  • Less Secure IP Rights. Without the protections of U.S. intellectual property rights, your product is vulnerable to IP theft and copycats flooding the market.

Ultimately the decision to manufacture either domestically or internationally is based on your budget, timeline and customer preferences. With our heightened political climate and a shift in attitude, many people now prefer to buy products that are made in the U.S., and are willing to pay more for these products.

Do you have additional questions about manufacturing your product? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

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Get Your Product Idea Off the Ground

product idea, hardware, entrepreneur, startups, product developmentComing up with a product idea is exhilarating—knowing that you have an idea that will help not only yourself, but an entire segment of the population, is the very definition of exciting. So now you have an idea, but you aren’t exactly sure what to do next. Below we have gathered helpful advice and insight into the next stages of your product development journey.

Developing a Product Idea Isn’t a “One-Size-Fits All” Process

It is a common misconception that building a hardware startup is a straightforward and linear process: Find a Problem—Design a Solution—Sell the Product—Make Money. In theory this is how it should work, however in actuality, this process is more of a maze with twists and turns on your way to success.

Each product and each startup will face their own challenges on the way to market; by preparing yourself for any hiccups you encounter along the way, you will be in a much better position to successfully navigate them.

Consider and Research Intellectual Property Protection

Navigating the world of intellectual property is challenging for seasoned entrepreneurs, and even more stressful when you are working on designing and launching your very first product. Intellectual property (IP) is often moved to the bottom of the priority list because it is full of unknowns. When is the right time to file? Do I need a design patent? Is a trademark necessary?

With the spread of technology and globalization, a solid intellectual property strategy has never been more critical. Copycat products are popping up at an alarming rate—which is bad for business and dangerous for consumers. Having a strong intellectual property strategy early-on or having the patent process started, is a great way to protect your invention, attract or solidify partnerships and secure funding.

Add Value Through Product Design

The Design Hierarchy of Needs is a good starting point during the product development process. As an entrepreneur, you can look at your product, or product idea, through this lens and determine where your product excels, and which areas need a little more help before your product design is finalized.

Understand Common Startup Roadblocks—Then Avoid Them

We can all learn from failure, we can even learn from other startup’s failures. Making yourself aware of the challenges associated with building and launching a product, you are more likely to make educated decisions that allow you to avoid failure altogether.

Diving into the product development process is an exciting time for an entrepreneur. With the right knowledge and information, you are setting yourself and your startup for success.

We would also suggest you check out these additional blog posts:

Have additional questions about developing your product idea and want to talk to an expert? Send us an email with your questions to info@3d-innovations.com

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FOG Safe Product Development Process – Pacific Business News

product development process, FOG Safe, FOG Safe Drain GuardsRecently Pacific Business News sat down with our client, Shawn Santos, inventor of FOG Safe Drain Guards to talk about the product development process and launching his idea. FOG Safe Drain Guards are a way to responsibly dispose of fats, oils and grease after cooking a meal, instead of rinsing these harmful contaminants down the kitchen sink. Once the fat, oil and grease has cooled in your cooking pan, you simply pour the contents into the FOG Safe Drain Guard and wait one minute while the drain guard absorbs the FOG, then you dispose of the entire drain guard into the trash. No drips, no mess.

We have had the pleasure of working with FOG Safe from the beginning. We have assisted with designs, prototyping, patents, manufacturing and distribution. Below are excerpts from the Pacific Business News article that discuss our product development assistance (read the full article here).

The Product Development Process

We had several stages of printing for prototyping. I worked with a local product development company, 3D Innovations, through the process. He had resources for using the [3D] printer, so after coming up with designs and going through the process, the finished product is very different than the original idea.

Deciding on a Manufacturer

3D Innovations assisted with sourcing and manufacturing. We looked at several locations, we tried the U.S., and eventually we went overseas. We looked at a lot of paper pulp manufacturers and settled on doing it in China. In order for the product to work and relieve the problem, its gotta be worth it for the consumer. People are not going to want to spend a lot, so we needed to keep the cost down as much as possible.

Then there was the whole tooling process, which is preparing the molds — it’s another upfront cost that comes right out of pocket. We have to provide the schematics for the tooling, and once we approve it it’s all on us, we pay that amount even if that mold doesn’t work, so it’s a bit of a gamble. So we have to be 100 percent, and that’s where the 3D printing comes in. We do the printing, and the manufacturer uses those to make the mold.

Patenting FOG Safe Drain Guards

I have five issued patents. It started with getting a patent attorney and doing a patent search. The hope is that whatever they find is different enough in design, and we felt it was worth the try and we were different.

For my first patent to get issued was well over 24 months, probably closer to 30 months. After that, there were deviations of the design. One of the challenges of an inventor is that you can’t come up with a single design, there needs to be variations, because someone can easily copy off of your original design work. And the patent office is very particular, you can’t be broad, you have to be very specific on a type of design. You can’t just think in one dimension, you have to think about how this can be manipulated and changed. It’s a collaboration between the engineer, myself and my attorney, everyone having input.

Interested in learning more about our product development process? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

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The Benefits of Using 3D Printing Technology in Education

3D printing, 3D printing technology, education, 3D Innovations' STEM Program helps educators to assist students in learning to utilize real world engineering applications.The new school year is underway and social media is buzzing with fantastic projects that teachers have created to get their students involved as active learners—one big way involves 3D printing. As the cost of 3D printers has dropped significantly in recent years, more schools are able to adopt and incorporate the technology into the curriculum.

Our 3D Academy has seen first hand the benefits of introducing 3D printing technology to students early-on. Below are four benefits of introducing 3D printing technology in education.

Hands-On Learning

3D printing makes learning fun and engaging. Students are able to move away from books and lectures and actually design and print the subject they are learning about. Learning about ancient Egypt? Design and print a model of a mummy. Learning about landforms? Design and print a mountain range. When the possibilities are endless, creativity can flourish.

While CAD programs can get complicated, there are specific programs available for educational purposes. This means students will be able to design on their own and see their exact design get transformed into an actual object.

Creating Inventors

Kids love to create. Whether it’s with LEGOs, blocks, sticks or anything else they can get their hands-on, kids are always creating. Instead of buying someone else’s creation, kids can identify a problem and create their own solution. Giving students the power to design and build with cutting-edge technology gets their minds thinking about the things they can create.

Real World Problem Solving

3D printing is a technology that businesses, engineers and scientists are using everyday to change the world. Put that same technology into the hands of students and introduce them to some of the challenges facing the community. Through this problem-solving approach, students will learn empathy, teamwork, and critical thinking skills as they work to develop a solution to a real-world problem.

Engaging Students

3D printing has a ‘wow factor’ with students since it is not something they see every day. It motivates and engages students to learn. Students who may otherwise not be actively engaged in the classroom, suddenly light up and want to participate when 3D printing is involved.

3D printing technology promotes active learning and has the power to open a world of career possibilities to students. 3D printing inspires creativity and can help encourage students to explore a career in engineering or science.

Have questions about introducing CAD and 3D printing technology into your school or classroom? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

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3D Innovations: Product Case Studies

We are sharing product case studies over on the 3D Innovations website. Within these case studies you will see the type of projects we have partnered on and how customers have leveraged our design and manufacturing expertise to reduce time to market. (Note: This is a small sample of our client projects, as many projects are required to stay confidential.)

The case studies on our website are from a range of industries. Below you can see some of the industries we support and have experience working with.

3D Innovations, product development, case studies, product design

Developing ideas from concept to product is where our expertise shines. With a knowledgeable team, we help bring products from initial concept to store shelves.

About 3D Innovations

3D Innovations provides product development services assisting companies with all stages of development. Our suite of services includes product design/engineering, prototyping, 3D Printing, additive manufacturing, supply chain management, packaging design, and production manufacturing sourcing. Using our experience in Design for Manufacturing (DFM) processes, we develop custom solutions for clients that accelerate their commercialization activities.

We provide 3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping services to quickly validate designs and make improvements for production manufacturing. Experience the benefits of 3D Design and see how 3D Innovations can develop innovative solutions to engineer, design, and manufacture your product.

Interested in learning more about our product development process? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com or give us a call 1.808.722.8667 so that we can schedule a meeting to talk about your project’s individual needs and requirements.

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3 Common Product Development Firm Misconceptions

product development firm, product development, hardware startupsFinding the right product development firm is a big step when it comes to developing your product idea. If you’re trying to decide on whether to work with a product development company, let us help clear up three common misconceptions that many first-time entrepreneurs often have.

They can only help during the early-stages of product development (design & prototyping).

False. While some product development companies may focus on one or two areas of product development, there are others that can help you from idea to commercialization. Having a product development team in place through commercialization means that there won’t be any interruption in the product development process. A full-service product development firm is invested in the success of your product and wants to see it on store shelves just as much as you do.

They can’t help with patents and licensing.

False. Often a product development firm is exactly what you need when it comes to intellectual property. Line drawings are necessary for design and utility patents, and your product development partner can produce these for your patent application. Also, experienced development firms work with IP attorneys and will be able to help answer or questions or setup meetings with experienced attorneys.

When it comes to licensing, your product development partner will be able to provide the technical aspects of the design to interested partners as well as their manufacturers. Licensing a product requires strategy and know-how, and this is exactly what a firm will be able to provide.

They all follow a similar process.

False. Successful product development companies have spent years honing their process. They have guidelines and clear steps in place to develop great products. With this knowledge and experience, they should be able to guide you around common pitfalls, in turn saving you both time and money.

With the assistance of a product development firm, you will be guided by knowledgeable experts throughout the entire development process. You can ask questions, share ideas and collaborate on all aspects of the product development process. A skilled product development firm will be able to guide you from design to manufacturing and beyond.

Now it’s time to get out there and meet potential product development partners. In this blog post we discuss what you can expect during your first product development meeting.

Have additional questions about product development? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com.

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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4 Tips for a Smooth Start to Manufacturing Your Product

manufacturing, baby toon, baby spoon, feeding, soft tip, bitingTaking the leap into manufacturing is a big milestone for a startup. Once you start to search for a manufacturing partner, suddenly it all seems real. Manufacturing is not cheap, and one misstep here can severely hurt or completely crush your business. Finding the right manufacturer is not easy, but with proper planning and research, it can be done. Below are four tips to keep in mind as you research potential partners.

Market Segment Experience

Start your search for a manufacturer that has experience in the industry your product is entering. For instance, if you are manufacturing a baby spoon find a manufacturer that has a great deal of experience in the baby product consumer market segment. Having a manufacturing partner that is knowledgeable about the industry you are entering means that they will be up-to-date with best practices, safety standards, and will have the ability to offer helpful insight.

Unit Scalability

Not all manufacturers will be able to scale with your business. As your startup grows, the number of units you need will increase as well. Your initial manufacturing partner might be great at prototypes and low volumes, but higher volumes may pose a problem. Minimize production delays, by meeting with other potential manufacturing partners that are able to adequately meet higher volume needs. You don’t have to stick with just one manufacturer.

Multiple Open Partnerships

Depending on your product, one manufacturing strategy is to have multiple open partnerships with manufacturers. Your once very attentive and grateful manufacturer might put you on the back burner when a bigger customer comes along. A vendor list with manufacturers you can utilize or bounce between is a good idea. This keeps pricing between them competitive and the diversification minimizes your business risk.

Make a Visit & Check References

Your manufacturer is critical to your business, so open communication is mandatory. It is imperative that you know them, and trust them, before working with them. This is true whether you are manufacturing close to home or in another country. Phone calls and emails are great, but a visit to their location is highly recommended. Visiting the facility lets you meet the factory workers and see the facility. You want to feel comfortable that your product is in the right hands, and an on-site visit will do just this.

Don’t forget to check their references. Make those phone calls and get your questions answered by people who have experience with this potential manufacturer.

Now here is what your future manufacturer wants you to know.

Have additional questions about manufacturing your product? We can help. Send us an email with your questions to info@3d-innovations.com

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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Developments in the Metal 3D Printing Segment

IP Licensing, metal 3d printingAs Terry Wohler’s put it best, this is the year of metal 3D printing. At trade shows globally, metal 3D printing has been a main focus for both speakers and attendees. 3D printing with plastics has advanced to the point where individuals can purchase a small, affordable and pretty compact desktop printer for their home and get to printing out their designs almost immediately. 3D printing with metals is not to this point yet, the current methods are not that simple or affordable. However, metal 3D printing is making strides this year and below we have gathered a few of the notable developments in this small, yet quickly growing, market segment.

Metal 3D Printing industry expected to be worth as much as $10 billion by 2030 to 2035.

Today, 3D printing is a very small part of the metals industry, but it is growing rapidly and this market is expected to be worth as much as $10 billion by 2030 to 2035. Already, a number of healthcare and aerospace companies have adopted the technology. Some are running pilots to see how 3D metal printing can contribute to their operations while others are using 3D printers to produce metal prototypes in-house. (McKinsey & Company)

High volume parts product arrives.

Tech giant HP Inc on Monday, October 10th, launched the worlds most advanced 3D printing technology for the mass manufacturing of production-grade metal parts.

Called HP Metal Jet, the technology is up to 50 times more productive — delivering low-cost, high-quality mechanically functional parts for the auto, industrial and medical industries to begin with. (Machinery)

Researchers appear to have found a simpler method for 3D printing metal.

Jan Schroers, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Yale University and Desktop Metal, Inc., in Burlington, Massachusetts, USA and colleagues think they’re onto a simpler way of additively manufacturing metal using bulk metallic glasses (BMGs). These can be continuously softened when heated and have a “super-cooled liquid region in their thermodynamic profile”.

“We have shown theoretically in this work that we can use a range of other bulk metallic glasses and are working on making the process more practical- and commercially-usable to make 3D printing of metals as easy and practical as the 3D printing of thermoplastics,” said Schroers. (All 3DP)

Flood of new entrants to the market segment.

Many new metal technologies have already been announced this year, and there are even more on the way. If you’re thinking about investing in a very high cost metal 3D printer today, it might be wise to wait a couple years. The market is moving so fast that any equipment purchased today might be obsolete in only a few years. (Fabbaloo)

The metal 3D printing industry is on the rise. Manufacturers, businesses and researchers are working hard to push the technology forward. While it won’t eliminate the needed for traditional manufacturing methods, it will be one very powerful tool in your toolkit when it comes to manufacturing.

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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A Human-Centered Design Approach

When it comes to designing consumer products, the best approach is to consider your end-user throughout the entire design processwhich is commonly referred to as “Human-Centered Design”. This means that you are focusing on the problem that your audience is facing and designing a streamlined solution.  While additional features might be great marketing tools, most often than not less is more, the more streamlined your product and the more it addresses their current need, the better.

Famed design firm, IDEO, first coined the term, “Human-Centered Design” and have been using this approach to design many recognizable products, such as: the first computer mouse for Apple in 1980 and the Palm Pilot in 1998. IDEO’s main tenet is empathy for the end-user of their products. They believe that the key to figuring out what humans really want lies in doing two things:

  • Observing user behavior — Try to understand people through observing them. For example, if you’re designing a vacuum cleaner, watch people vacuum.
  • Putting yourself in the situation of the end-user — IDEO does this to understand what the user experience is really like; to feel what their users feel.

IDEO defines human-centered design as a creative approach to problem solving that starts with people and ends with innovative solutions that are tailor made to suit their needs. In their Field Guide to Human-Centered Design IDEO states, “When you understand the people you’re trying to reach—and then design from their perspective—not only will you arrive at unexpected answers, but you’ll come up with ideas that they’ll embrace.” Below is the central philosophy of human-centered design.

human-centered product design, product development, Human-Centered Design

Image from: User Testing Blog

The Six Phases of a Human-Centered Design Approach

Phase 1: Observation

The first phase is about observing the target audience or end-user going about the activity you are aiming to design a solution for. You are identifying patterns of behavior, pain points, and places where users have a difficult time accomplishing a task—this is where your opportunity lies.

Phase 2: Ideation

This is the brainstorming phase. Come up with solutions to the problem you have identified. Think of solutions that directly address the needs and desires of the people you are designing for. Maybe you already have a solution in mind, but are there any other options out there as well?

Phase 3: Rapid Prototyping

This phase is to make sure that the solution you have in mind is right on target. Your prototype at this phase doesn’t need to be a finished product. You need a prototype that makes your idea tangible and allows you to gain valuable target audience feedback.

Phase 4: User Feedback

This is the most critical phase of the human-centered design process. You want to get your prototype into the hands of your target audience. Without input from your end-user, you aren’t going to really know if your product solution is on target or not.

Phase 5: Iteration

The insight collected during the user-feedback stage is now implemented and it either impacts your design, where you need to make changes, or it validates your original design.

Keep iterating, testing, and integrating user feedback until you’ve fine-tuned your solution. This may take a few rounds, but don’t get discouraged. With each iteration you’ll learn something new.

Phase 6: Implementation

At this point you have thoughtfully and carefully design a product that solves a real need for your target audience, now it is time to launch it into the marketplace.

When it comes to developing and designing your product, don’t forget the “human” aspect. To build a truly innovative product you don’t need to start with fancy technology, you can start by simply understanding people.

Have product design questions? We are happy to help! Please send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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New Partnership with the Hawaii State Bar Association

hawaii state bar association, hsba, 3d innovations, partnership, hawaii, product developmentWe are excited to announce a new partnership — 3D Innovations has partnered with the Hawaii State Bar Association. HSBA members have access to a range of discounted products and services throughout Hawaii with their “HSBA Member Benefits”.

3D Innovations (New Member Benefit)
Have a new product that you want to develop?  Let 3D Innovations help you develop your new idea.  3D Innovations provides Product Development Our suite of services includes product design/engineering, prototyping, 3D Printing, additive manufacturing, supply chain management, packaging design, and production manufacturing sourcing. We provide 3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping services to quickly validate designs and make improvements for production manufacturing. Experience the benefits of 3D Design and see how 3D Innovations can develop innovative solutions to engineer, design, and manufacture your product.

Members will receive a 15% discount when they present their bar card. Click here for more information.

View other business partners and service providers on the Hawaii State Bar Association website.

Have questions about our new partnership with HSBA? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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