The Transformation of 3D Printing Technology

3D printingLess than ten years ago, the hype surround 3D printing technology was at an all-time high. The idea of each household having one led the news cycle. In hindsight, it is clear that this level of hype and the fever-pitch level of excitement was not sustainable or even realistic. There were far too many barriers for the technology to overcome, both technological and usability, before it could be in “everyone’s house”.

Over time the hype slowly diminished, and the technology began to steadily mature. Firms focused on 3D printing began to collaborate, merge and narrow their focus. Today, the future of the technology looks considerably different than it once did. Below are three areas of growth for 3D printing technology and a sign of where the technology is heading.

Industrial 3D Printing

3D printing is making its way onto the manufacturing floor. A recent survey from Jabil, found that “81% of manufacturers are using 3D printing technology today”. It seems that additive manufacturing has found its niche in mainstream manufacturing.

The fact that 3D printing has become so prominent with manufacturers, shows that companies are looking for ways to incorporate this technology into their product designs. Companies are no longer standing on the sidelines waiting to see how the technology matures, but are instead harnessing its design benefits and finding ways to use it themselves.

Material Selection

Where once the only material available was plastic, today there is an ever-increasing range of materials to choose from. The most prominent is still plastic (PLA, ABS, PET, PVA, Nylon) however, metals (steel, gold, silver, titanium), ceramic, and wood options are also quickly coming to market.

New and improved metal 3D printing will make a splash this year. “Metal 3D printing will become more and more of a necessity when solving specific manufacturing challenges and creating customized, complex end-use products.” (Engineering.com) We expect to see the range of materials available to continue to grow as the technology continues to advance.

End-Use Production Parts

Companies, such as GE, are making great strides in advancing 3D printing and its ability to produce end-use products. However, before 3D printing can really take off in terms of end-use production, there are some major barriers that need to be addressed. “Material properties, high costs, complexity, time to a usable part and location of a production-capable machine relegated to an additive manufacturing lab are significant barriers to the use of additive manufacturing in production.” (3D Printing Industry)

Products produced for consumers with 3D printing will be required to meet the same material properties (strength, surface finish, color) that traditional manufacturing has mastered. While it is most likely that end-use production won’t come to fruition in 2018, we can expect to see more companies finding ways of making this happen with one-off parts.

It is clear that additive manufacturing is here to stay. As it is now, this technology continues to excel with its prototyping capabilities and is a great compliment to traditional manufacturing.

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Early Product Design Challenges Facing Hardware Startups

3D CAD drawingBelow we discuss four common design challenges facing hardware startups today. It doesn’t matter what industry you are going into or if you are a first-time entrepreneur or serial entrepreneur, you are bound to encounter one or more of these challenges along the way. By understanding what lays ahead as you start your product development journey, you will be better equipped to successfully navigate it.

Originality

The marketplace today is vastly different than it was ten years ago. Consumers today not only want originality and authenticity in the products they purchase, they demand it. However, the thing about originality is that it’s hard. The rise of counterfeit goods, shows just how hard it can be to not only come up with an original business idea, but execute it correctly.

Hardware startups today are relying more and more on the experience and knowledge of their product designers to develop a product that is both externally and internally unique, completely original and visually appealing—so that it outshines the competition and stands out in the marketplace.

It is no secret that the one-size-fits-all approach to product design is losing its luster. Take the Futurecraft 4D shoe from Adidas for example. Adidas is known for its top-of-the-line athletic gear, and have shown that they understand that innovation is necessary with their recently unveiled 3D printed shoe. “3D printing allows the shoe company to unlock performance-enhancing design modifications that would have been impossible with other materials like foam.” (TechCrunch) By incorporating this cutting-edge technology into their design and manufacturing process, Adidas is introducing a truly unique and customizable running shoe into the marketplace.

Product Form

Consumers care about design—hardware startups need to focus in on their product’s physical form, properties and materials. As technology advances, products are becoming slimmer, more light weight and exceptionally durable—in turn, consumers are expecting these characteristics from the products they purchase, not just electronics anymore.

Along with advancing technology, material selection is also advancing. The material expansion with 3D printing alone is ever increasing, today you can expect to see a variety of plastics available for your design (PLA, ABS, PET, PVA, Nylon) however, metals (steel, gold, silver, titanium), ceramic, and wood options are also quickly coming to market.

Technological Advancements

As a startup your main goal is to design, manufacture and launch a product as quickly as possible to turn a profit. However, the vast technological advancements that help throughout the development process, can also be a double-edged sword. You must also design your product with future technologies in mind.

For example, the recent introduction of the Internet of Things (IoT), has created a vast network of interconnected consumer products that work and communicate with one another. Entrepreneurs that incorporate this type of technological foresight into their product design will no doubt have a clear advantage over those who disregard it and look at it as if it’s a passing fad.

Awareness

It can be a challenging enough for well-known companies to create buzz over a new product. For a hardware startup navigating a new industry, these challenges increase exponentially. Not only are you creating awareness around your product, but your company and brand as well.

The internet is a great place to start working on this buzz. Between your website design, social media, partnerships, and customer engagement, it is possible to grab the attention of your target market. More and more entrepreneurs are turning to creative mediums, such as podcasts, videos and interactive websites, to build their brand and launch their startup.

While launching a hardware startup can be intimidating, it is not impossible. Knowing and understanding the challenges facing startups, allows you to have a better idea of what to expect and plan accordingly.

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Happy Holidays

December 22, 2017

Our 3D Innovations team would like to wish you and yours a joyous holiday season.

May you have a healthy, peaceful and prosperous New Year full of new adventures!

happy holidays

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FAQ: The Basics of Intellectual Property and Manufacturing

intellectual property and manufacturingFirst-time entrepreneurs, and even seasoned entrepreneurs, have questions when it comes to protecting their intellectual property (IP) and moving forward with manufacturing. No two products are alike; therefore, a custom-tailored strategy is necessary when it comes to navigating these two areas of product development.

On the IP side, a decision must be made about what type of patent (design patent or utility patent) makes sense for the invention and budget. On the manufacturing side, everything about the design, even the smallest details, must be accounted for when selecting materials and where to manufacture the product. Having insight and answers early-on in the startup journey helps entrepreneurs understand the full spectrum of what it takes to bring a product to market.

Below we delve into the top three questions we frequently receive related to IP and manufacturing.

Do I need a patent to start my design?

You don’t necessarily need a patent to start the design phase of product development. Often, the design phase is done in parallel with the patent creation process and filing.

Drawings from the design are included as part of the patent application and can be used as attachments to your application. It is recommended to at least file for a Provisional Patent prior to disclosing any information about the product such as designs, prototypes, and specifications to outside parties. You will also want to have your patent in the Patent Pending stage before moving forward with any manufacturing or marketing initiatives.

How will you keep my intellectual property confidential?

Ideas are a “dime a dozen”, but the real intellectual property (IP) is what gets developed, not the idea itself. Developing the functional aspect of the idea is the difficult part. All information is kept confidential and disclosed strictly on a need-to-know basis with the client’s approval.

What process will be used for production manufacturing?

Before entering the production manufacturing phase, several things will be conducted to determine the most cost effective and price friendly option.  Material, surface finish, quantity, and post processing are factors in deciding the appropriate process for production manufacturing.

*This is the second piece in a two-part series, view part one here, FAQ: The Basics of Product Development.

We are happy to answer any additional product development questions you have, please email us at info@3d-innovations.com

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FAQ: The Basics of Product Development

product developmentAs a product development firm, we often work with first-time entrepreneurs—people who have a fantastic idea for a product, but need guidance on developing their idea and beginning their startup journey. We help entrepreneurs navigate the wild world of hardware startups.

Our team shares their in-depth knowledge on what it takes to get a project going, what a development plan looks like and what the path of product development entails. By assisting entrepreneurs through their product development journey, we aim to set them up for a successful product launch.

One thing we have learned over the years is that, no matter the industry, first-time entrepreneurs have some of the same questions and concerns when they first get started. Below we discuss three frequently asked questions.

What do I need to provide in order to get my project started?

It only takes a few things to get started. You may think that the littlest details may not make a difference as you start developing an idea, however, every detail matters. Provide as much detail about your product requirements as possible. A good development company will be able to ask you the right questions throughout the development process, to help you narrow down the requirements and focus on the functionality. You don’t need to know all of the technical details about the product, just how it needs to function.

As the adage goes, hardware is hard. However, it is not impossible. It can sometimes be a long and difficult process to develop your hardware project, but aligning yourself with a great development partner will help to make things easier.

Do I retain all rights to the engineering design that is created?

Short answer: It depends. In most cases the answer is yes—you own all of the rights to the design and intellectual property (IP).

In other cases, clients have elected to share equity in their company with product development companies in lieu of paying for development costs, in which case the design and other IP becomes shared property.

How will you prototype my design?

Depending on the type of product, the initial prototype may be a proof-of-concept prototype. This is created to prove out your concept or idea. Some view the proof-of-concept prototype as a feasibility study versus the traditional functional prototype. The prototypes created will serve as a one-off design of your product for you to review, test, and make adjustments before the final production design is created. Be prepared that it may take several iterations to get to the final production ready design, but is an essential part of the development process and should not be skipped.

With a multitude of technologies available to build prototypes, 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing will be the front runner in prototyping your design. It is cost effective and provides a quick turnaround, which is why it is also commonly referred to as ‘rapid prototyping’. The design will be prototyped in order to test the form, fit, and function and to make sure that the manufacturing process is attainable.

In a subsequent blog post, we will dive into intellectual property and manufacturing, discussing the top questions entrepreneurs have about these subject areas as well. Starting your product development journey with the right information at hand can make all the difference.

We are happy to help answer any additional product development questions you have, please email us at info@3d-innovations.com

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A Startup Adventure in the New Year

hardware startupAre you ready to launch a startup in 2018? As the year begins to wind down, many people use this time to assess current goals and make new goals for the year ahead. A new year is often looked at as a fresh start or a new beginning—a time to make a change and forge a new path.

If you are considering developing a product or launching a hardware startup in the new year, we have a few pieces of advice to help you gear up for this adventure and to get you started in the right direction.

Write Everything Down

Grab a computer and start typing. Write everything down that has to do with your product idea. What it looks like, how it will function, its size, who will use it—all of this needs to be down on paper so that you can review every detail about the innovative idea swirling around in your head.

Draft a Business Plan

We suggest that you draft a business plan, however don’t get bogged down by it. Business plans can be high level, and just a couple of pages at this point. A business plan is a great way to take all of the details you have written down, and organize them. A simple internet search for a business plan template can help get you started. With your ideas organized and in one place, you can then begin the process of listing “action items” and getting to work on them.

Make a Prototype

In the very early stages, a homemade prototype may suffice. Depending on your product idea, you might be able to find the items you need to build a rough version at your local home improvement store. As you build upon your idea and start to assess your target market, you will need to work on a functional prototype.

A functional prototype will allow you to refine your design, gather market feedback, rally financial support (if you are looking for VC or crowdfunding investments) and file a patent.

Consider a Partnership

Many people envision entrepreneurs as “lone wolves”, however this could not be further from the truth. No one person has the skill sets necessary to build a startup completely alone from start to finish—the key is to find quality partners. You might decide to bring partners on full-time or to consult with outside agencies (product development, intellectual property, legal matters, to name a few).

Schedule a Product Development Meeting

Often, entrepreneurs think that they need to have a firm idea in place before setting up a time to meet with a product development firm, this is not the case. Many times, a product development firm will be able to help you refine your idea and provide suggestions on maximizing the design. A product development firm has extensive experience in both design and manufacturing, so meeting them early-on is advantageous.

The new year is a time to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. If you still find yourself on the fence about developing that product idea, ask yourself this one simple question, Why not?

Have additional product development questions? Please e-mail them to us 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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Top Five Product Design Articles

Product design is about building a product that is simultaneously functional, intuitive and appealing to a range of consumers. No matter the industry, product development is exhilarating—building upon an idea and seeing it come to life is the essence of entrepreneurship.

Before you dive into product development, we have compiled five of our top product design articles for you. These articles touch on everything from preparing for your first product development meeting to building a product that consumers will love for years to come.

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? Here are a few suggestions on how you can prepare for your first meeting with a product development firm and/or product designer.

Product Design: Building Products Customers Can’t Live Without

Often times startups believe that designing their innovative product is the hardest part when launching the business, but the task of gaining a loyal customer base can often times be just as challenging. If you have found yourself in the predicament of having a great product design, but your customer base is lagging, here are four items to reflect on.

Q&A with Rob Saito of Herbavore

In this post we sit down with Rob Saito, Founder of Herbavore, and discuss the product development process and what it takes to successfully design, protect and commercialize a product.

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. Here we discuss three common product development myths.

Why the ‘One-Size-Fits-All Approach’ Doesn’t Work for Product Development

When it comes to the development of a product, there is a great deal of time, energy and effort that goes into both the specialty design and product launch. Just like the fact that each product is unique, product development needs to be unique and customized in order to be successful.

Have additional questions about product design? Send them our way, 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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A Warm ‘Thank You’ to Our Clients

November 22, 2017

thank you“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” ― John F. Kennedy

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, our 3D Innovations team would like to send a big ‘thank you’ to our valued clients. Our clients are the driving motivation and the reason we do what we do. Each and every project we work on is unique, just like each client. Seeing the excitement build as we assist in the development of taking an idea and turning it into a real-world product never gets old, and fuels our desire to keep helping entrepreneurs launch their dreams. With that, we would like to say…

Thank you to the clients that have helped us grow.

Thank you to the clients that have provided us with feedback and suggestions.

Thank you to the clients that referred us to friends.

Thank you to the clients that have supported our dream from the beginning.

Thank you for helping make 3D Innovations what it is today.

We also couldn’t miss a chance to shower our family and friends with a warm ‘mahalo’. These are the people that have helped us as we navigated complex business decisions, listened when we asked for advice and stood by as we followed our dream of building this business.

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!

-The 3D Innovations Team

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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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Four Considerations Before Launching a Crowdfunding Campaign

Crowdfunding can help hardware startups launch not only a product, but an entire company. The power of “the crowd” is strong and can be a great asset for entrepreneurs. However, by now we have all heard of those crowdfunding campaigns that make headlines, for all the wrong reasons—Coolest Cooler and Pebble stand out, both raised a considerable of money, but stumbled when it came to production manufacturing and order shipment. In order to avoid issues early-on, there are a few considerations to take into account before you launch that crowdfunding campaign.

Evaluate Your IP Exposure

Is there a business out there with a similar product? If so, how is yours different? “Start by reviewing any patents marked on similar competitive products, product packaging or your competitors’ web sites. If your product is similar to a specific competitor’s, you can search patents by owner of record. You can also search on Google for any patent-infringement lawsuits related to the same or similar products/services. (Entrepreneur)”

Do your due diligence and research patents that are similar to your product. You can be liable for patent infringement whether you knew about the patent or not.

Consider trademark and copyright protection for your product and startup as well. It is better to have your logo, tag line, text and photographs protected, than to risk someone else using them without your permission.

Decide If A Patent Is Necessary

Securing and protecting the intellectual property (IP) rights to your invention is key to successful commercialization. As soon as you make your crowdfunding campaign public, you forfeit your right to obtain a utility patent on that product unless you have previously filed a patent application. Costs can be an issue when it comes to filing a utility patent, however a provisional patent application is cheaper and still protects your invention. A provisional patent application will allow you to keep your rights to a utility patent for 12 months while you decide the next move for your startup. You will also be able to use the coveted, “patent pending” term as you market your product.

A design patent is another option if the value of your product lays largely in its unique design. This design patent can block competitors from making an exact copy of your product, but it doesn’t block them from making a functionally equivalent product with a different appearance.

Build A Functional Prototype

A functional prototype is necessary when you are trying to get people excited about a new product. While people can indeed envision a product from a great description, there is no substitute for the actual thing. This prototype not only shows potential investors what your product can do, it is also necessary for the marketing material on your crowdfunding page.

Develop A Video

Let’s face it, you can’t have an exciting video unless you have a functional prototype. The video portion of your page is where you let your product shine. You want to demonstrate your product to potential customers and let them get a feel for what it has to offer. The more descriptive and creative your video is, the more people are going to get truly excited to contribute to your campaign and share your campaign with friends.

While there are many moving parts to a crowdfunding campaign, these four considerations should be thoroughly reviewed by your team to set yourself up for success right from the start.

 

Have questions related to product development? We are happy to help! Send us an e-mail 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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I Have A Product Idea—Now What?

product

Developing an idea into a physical product that people need, love and enjoy is a fulfilling venture for any entrepreneur. For first time entrepreneurs though, the product development journey may seem challenging and fraught with obstacles. With so much information available it can be confusing as to what needs to be done first and who you can turn to. Below we discuss the first five steps of product development to help you dig in and get to work.

Document

Write your idea down in detail. Talk about the functionality of your product, what it looks like and what you want it to achieve. Writing the details down will ensure that you don’t forget anything and help clarify the idea for yourself.

The documentation process doesn’t have to happen in one sitting, but may evolve over time as you continue to build upon your idea and narrow its scope.

Research & Evaluate the Idea

This step is going to take some sleuthing, but it will be well worth it. Take the time early-on to properly evaluate your idea, research the market landscape as well as potential competitors. With this research in hand you are less likely to make the (costly) mistake of developing a product that is already out there and available to consumers.

If you are planning on filing a patent, this research should also extend into preliminary patent research. Consulting an Intellectual Property Attorney would also be a great idea to assist with the patent research and be provided with all the necessary patent filing information.

Target Market Evaluation

Get to know your potential customers. Who do you want to buy your product? How does your product suit their needs? How will you be able to get their attention? These questions, and others like them, will help you narrow down and define your target market. You want to know all the details, age, gender, occupation, likes/dislikes, preferences—keep narrowing it down until you have a complete picture of who will be purchasing your product.

Make a Prototype

Depending on the type of product you want to develop, you might be able to make a prototype at-home with traditional household items. However, keep in mind that this prototype won’t suffice as you head into manufacturing. In the very early stages, a homemade prototype will help convey your idea to potential investors and customers. As you moved towards manufacturing, you are going to need a functional prototype developed using DFM (design for manufacturability) methods to ensure a smooth transition into manufacturing.

Market Testing

Using your new functional prototype, it is time to reach out to those potential customers to get their feedback and insight. This could be done through focus groups, product testing etc. At this stage you want to know what customers like about your product and what they don’t. Keep in mind that you might have to re-evaluate the design of your product if you are receiving feedback indicating that change is needed—these design changes may deviate from your initial idea, but ultimately you want to meet your customers’ needs.

Once you have gone through these five steps it is on to production manufacturing and preparing for your product launch. Developing a product takes time and patience, but once you see your product on store shelves or in the hands of customers, the journey to get there will all be worth it.

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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