Three Common Product Development Myths

Product development is a fluid process that is not truly complete until there is a manufactured product in your hands. However, the process of taking a great idea and translating that idea into a physical product is not as predictable as you might think. Below are three common product development myths:

Myth 1: Product Development is Predictable

While the stages of the development process are the same for each product—concept, prototype, manufacturing and final product—and its overall progression is predictable; the length of time in each stage of the product development cycle may differ drastically for each product. The entire process has a certain volatility to it—a single manufacturing requirement can send you right back into the prototype design phase of development.

“In the world of manufacturing physical objects, tasks are repetitive, activities are reasonably predictable, and the items being created can be in only one place at a time. In product development many tasks are unique, project requirements constantly change, and the output—thanks, in part, to the widespread use of advanced computer-aided design and simulation and the incorporation of software in physical products—is information, which can reside in multiple places at the same time.” (Harvard Business Review)

Myth 2: A Finished Design is Ready for Production

Developing the tooling for a design that has not been tested beforehand is expensive and can be a potentially fatal mistake for a startup. If a flaw is found in your design after the tooling has been made, it is extremely costly and time-consuming to go back and try to fix the tooling—and in most cases, you will need to have new tooling designed.

Without proper testing and simulation, your design is not ready for production. Taking the time to test all aspects of your design will ultimately save you time and resources.

Myth 3: The More Features, The Better

It is a common belief that adding features creates value for customers and subtracting them destroys value. This attitude explains why even the simplest of products have become so inundated with unwanted features.

Startups and product designers that challenge this belief create products that are elegant in their simplicity. Designing for simplicity means that you must first understand two things—the problem you are solving and which features to hide or omit. “One company that has understood this is Apple. It is known for many things—innovative products, stylish designs, and savvy marketing—but perhaps its greatest strength is its ability to get to the heart of a problem.” (Harvard Business Review) By truly understanding the problem your customers are facing, your design can hone in on the perfect solution. As Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Have additional questions about the product development process or other product development myths? Contact us at info@3d-innovations.com

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Additive Manufacturing is Bending the Rules

Additive manufacturing (commonly referred to as 3D printing) technology is altering the business landscape and changing the way products are made. Before additive manufacturing was available to the masses, designing, prototyping and manufacturing a product took time and was considerably expensive—the cost prohibitive nature of the product development process left many startups in the dust. However, this technology has reduced both product development timelines and expenses, which means that kicking a hardware startup into high gear is not as challenging as it once was. Below are three ways 3D printing technology is bending traditional business rules—and helping startups succeed.

Product Design

Ideas and products that were once seemingly impossible to produce, due to design constraints, are now finding life with 3D printing. New designs are taking on geometric shapes that have never been produced before and the possibilities are endless. Product designers now have the ability to design a product in the most efficient way possible, instead of focusing solely on meeting manufacturing constraints.  Limitless design is now at your fingertips.

The Hardware Startup Scene

While additive manufacturing is changing many facets of business, prototyping is still where the technology is used most frequently. Entrepreneurs with a great product idea are now able to prototype their design in mere hours and at a low-cost. With the ability to build and validate an idea within such a short time period, the world of hardware startups is shifting. Hardware startups are gaining momentum and major investors are starting to take notice.

Innovation

Additive manufacturing is pushing the boundaries of innovative product design, but the technology in itself is undergoing major innovations. Where plastics once dominated the 3D printing scene – ceramics, metals, bio materials and even food are now viable options. New desktop 3D printers with customized capabilities are being designed at a rapid rate, and many can even be found on crowdfunding sites. The at-home consumer 3D printing market has not lived up to the hype that surrounded it a few years back, but industrial scale additive manufacturing technology is taking off.

Entrepreneurs and hardware startups are finding that designing a product has never been as easy as it is today—thanks in part to 3D printing. With 3D printing poised to disrupt manufacturing in a big way, we can only imagine how it will continue to revolutionize the entire business landscape in the coming years.

Ready to prototype your product idea? Contact us at info@3d-innovations.com to get started.

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Preparing for Your First Product Development Meeting

Once you have developed your product idea as far as you can on your own, it’s time to meet with a product development firm—but how do you prepare for such a meeting? Below are a few suggestions on how you can prepare for your first meeting with a product development firm and/or product designer.

Sketch It Out.

Whether you are able to draw your idea on paper or make a homemade prototype, bring a visual reference for your product idea. This will ensure that you and the product designer are on the same page from the get-go. (We have seen everything from napkin sketches to homemade prototypes, so don’t feel pressure to make a perfect prototype for the meeting).

List The Functional Aspects.

What is the product’s functionality? By listing out the functional aspects of your product you are clarifying its goal and also preparing yourself with the information you need for a patent filing.

Understand The Patent Filing Process.

Become familiar with the patent process and decide whether or not you are interested in filing a patent for your invention—design or utility patent. This step does not have to be complete by the time of your meeting—product development firms can actually help you develop the design documentation.

Bring All Decision Makers To The Meeting.

If you have a co-founder or someone else helping you develop your idea, bring them to the meeting. They will be able to ask their own questions and provide additional answers to the product designer’s questions. Having all decision makers present for the initial meeting, as well as all subsequent meetings, is always a good idea to help speed the product development process along.

Write Questions Down.

This seems simple enough, but in the excitement of the initial meeting you may forget to ask some questions that you need answered—writing them down will ensure that you remind yourself to ask them.

Bringing an idea to life takes both time and tenacity. Get the development of your product off on the right foot by making your first meeting count.

Have additional product development questions? Please e-mail them to us at info@3d-innovations.com

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3D Innovations in the News — Printing Innovation on Demand

3D InnovationsRecently our very own Collin Kobayashi, 3D Innovations President and Chief 3D Officer, was interviewed by Pacific Business News regarding the additive manufacturing industry along with the challenges of starting your own business. Below are a couple excerpts from the interview:

Regarding the 3D printing industry growth:

“The market with 3D printing now is so wide and deep. It can be applied to almost any type of industry… People want to be able to build parts on demand and not have to wait on parts from the Mainland or China. We have to ship everything here in Hawaii, so there’s big value in 3D printing.”

Discussing our top service:

The 3D printing is sort of a secondary process. Most times the customer wants to get a new product to market, get it developed. The 3D printing comes after that. Sometimes a customer will have their own 3D file, made on their own or downloaded from the internet. Other times we assist in the design process. The first step is the design and prototype and then you get into the production and manufacturing environment.

Read more of this interview on the Pacific Business News website, “Printing Innovation on Demand”.

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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.

Methodology

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.” (All3DP.com)

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.” (All3DP.com)

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, info@3d-innovations.com,we are happy to help.

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

3-d-academy-pw-spring-2017-page-001

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 www.play-well.org/hawaii

Have additional questions? Please contact Wrenn Okada at 808.221.4870 or wrenn@play-well.org 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 info@3d-innovations.com 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 info@3d-innovations.com 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 info@3d-innovations.com or give us a call at 808.722.8667. We look forward to talking with you!

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