Archive for March, 2018

Prototyping to Production—What’s 3D Printing Used For?

3D printing, prototyping3D printing, also commonly referred to as additive manufacturing, is a technology that has grown exponentially over the last five to ten years. It has been a favorite tool of makers and product design professionals alike. 3D printing technology allows designers to quickly, easily and efficiently design and produce a product prototype for review. While prototyping is where 3D printing is most popular and widely used, the technology is beginning to mature and find it’s way into manufacturing for end-use parts as well.

Visual Prototyping

“When it was invented, 3D printing was referred to as rapid prototyping, a method for automating and reducing the labor required to create a prototype model for design validation. Since then, it has found use in a number of other applications, but the technology is still widely implemented to create visual models and functional prototypes.”

A visual model of your product lets you get a better idea of how the product will look and feel. With the rapid expansion of 3D printing materials and colors available, you have more options than ever when it comes to product design materials. Most hardware entrepreneurs start with a visual model and then move forward with a functional prototype for design validation and testing.

Functional Prototyping

A functional prototype allows you to test the form, fit and functionality of your product. Testing and validating your product design with a functional prototype is highly recommended so that any potential errors can be fixed before heading into manufacturing.

The benefits of a functional prototype extend beyond your design. With a functional prototype you can also gather critical market feedback, rally financial support from venture capitalists and your community as well as file for a patent.

A major misstep that can derail your hardware startup is to skip the development of a functional prototype.

Tooling

As a design moves from the concept phase to the production phase, a manufacturer might implement 3D printing for the fabrication of custom tools that aid in the production process. “This can include anything from guides for precise drilling, dies for forming or cutting raw material into a specific shape and measurement tools, like gauges, to jigs and fixtures that hold a part in place while other operations are performed.”

3D printing is a flexible tool that can be used either directly or indirectly in the creation of tooling for manufacturing. In the case of indirectly, a tool may be made by coating a 3D-printed component in rubber, which is then used to cast the tool itself.

Production Manufacturing

Currently, due to the speed, quality and cost of 3D printing, “the technology is best suited for the production of specialty parts in smaller batches, rather than mass-manufactured goods. However, there is an industry shift towards expanding 3D printing technology to take a more prominent role in mass manufacturing”.

“3D printing brings some important qualities to the world of manufacturing that make it ideal for certain jobs. For instance, parts can have complex geometries impossible with traditional manufacturing processes. It is also possible to 3D print goods on demand, allowing for easy creation of custom parts.”

Because of these intrinsic benefits, businesses that need to create specialty or custom parts in shorter runs will often turn to 3D printing to manufacture their products. The benefit is that they don’t have to invest in costly tooling to mass produce goods that will only see a limited release.

(Referenced Source: Engineering)

 

Have additional questions about 3D printing or how the technology can benefit your business? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

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Staying Motivated As A Hardware Entrepreneur

hardware, entrepreneur, startups, product developmentTaking the leap into entrepreneurship is a major change and a bold move—you are now focused on building a hardware startup around your product idea, which is both intimidating and exhilarating. In the very early stages of product development your motivation is through the roof because you are seeing a product that was once only clear in your mind become reality. However, as you progress through product development, and beyond, it’s normal for your motivation to fade at times because being an entrepreneur is also stressful.

When you feel your motivation start to slip, here are five ways to help reignite that fire within you to keep pushing forward.

Make A Plan

What is your personal mission statement? Your hardware startup should have its own mission or vision statement to help identify goals—and so should you. Once you have a clear mission statement for yourself, write it down and post it somewhere visible as a daily reminder of the goal you have set for yourself.

Now take this mission statement and make a plan around it. How will you accomplish this? Write down your short and long-term goals. Keep in mind that your written plan is a living document and should change as you do and as your business matures.

Write Down Your Startup Goals

It’s easy to get tunnel vision and focus solely on your product when you are in the trenches of product development. However, at times, it is necessary to step back and remind yourself why you are doing all of this. What problem is your product solving? How is it making life easier? Is it benefiting a greater good?

If you have a business partner, communicate these goals with them as well so that you are both on the same page about where you see this product and startup going.

Talk With Your Mentor

Mentors are motivating. They are cheering for you from the sidelines and want to see you succeed. A nice chat with your mentor over a cup of warm coffee might be just what you need. Mentors often have more experience and different ways of viewing things, so getting some helpful advice or viewpoint could help you get over your temporary slump.

If you don’t have a mentor, or your mentor isn’t readily available, a TED Talk or an inspirational podcast are two other options.

Stay Positive

“Choose happy”. Life can get hard and it can feel like the weight of the world is right on your shoulders, but with the right attitude and a smile, you will prevail. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to launching a hardware startup or becoming an entrepreneur. What works for you may not work for anyone else. So with opinions, ideas and theories coming at you from all angles, remember that ultimately you in one in control of your business and life.

Not everyone gets to do what they love for a career, but if you play your cards right, you have the chance to live the entrepreneurial dream. There will be days you want to quit and situations that seem impossible to navigate, but by remaining positive you will be able to channel your inner strength needed to reach the finish line.

Set Aside Time to Rest & Relax

Never underestimate the benefit of a good night sleep. Tasks and goals are easier to accomplish when you are well rested and ready to take on the day. Starting each day recharged and rested will ensure that you are able to reach peak productivity and make decisions with a clear mind.

Ready to develop your product idea? We are here to help! Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

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Leaping into Product Development—Four Questions to Ask Yourself First

hardware, startups, product developmentBefore you take the “leap” into the early stages of product development, you first must decide if you have a viable product idea that is worth pursuing. There is quite a difference between coming up with a fantastic product idea and then coming up with a product idea that is completely unique and solves a universal problem while simultaneously igniting a passion within you.

If you have been mulling over a product idea, but are still on the fence as to whether it is commercially viable—here are four points for you to consider.

Does this product solve a common problem?

Chances are that if you came up with this product idea to solve a problem that you regularly face, others out there are dealing with the same issue. Finding and developing a solution to a common or universal problem is how most great inventions came to be.

Action: Take a minute to write down the problem that your product will be solving and how it would make life easier for its users. You can even start to casually ask family and friends if this is a problem they have experienced. You don’t have to go into details talking about your potential product yet, if you want to keep it in stealth mode, but you can get a feel to see if others are having this same reoccurring issue and would appreciate (and purchase) a solution.

Is this a problem that a large segment of the population faces?

Narrowing down a target market is one of your first tasks. If your product focuses on fixing a technological issue, perhaps your target market is geared toward a younger tech-savvy crowd. Likewise, if your product solves an issue for a specific industry (i.e. automotive, financial services, restaurants, etc.) you are going to want to make sure that it is easily integrated into daily operations.

Action: Compile a list of potential customers. Focus on age range, education, location, skill set and start to narrow your target market focus. Once you have this list, take a moment to think of the ways in which you can reach this segment of the population.

Is this product one-of-a-kind or is there something similar already on the market?

Brand new products are great—they are exciting and intriguing. Brand new products also come with a requirement—you must educate your audience and customer base first about the problem and your solution before they make a purchasing decision. While it is an additional step, it is nothing that can’t be overcome.

If there are already similar products on the market to your product idea, how are you going to make your product shine? What features will set yours apart? What does your pricing strategy look like in comparison?

Action: Do your research and get a comprehensive view of the industry landscape as well as potential competitors.

 Do you have the time and energy to commercialize this product idea?

Products aren’t developed and launched overnight—though it may seem like that at times from an outsider’s perspective. Often though, weeks and months go into development. Many entrepreneurs are carried through the product development cycle by their passion—they have a strong passion and obsession with their product and know that it can make a difference.

Action: Ask yourself if you have the time to dedicate to developing this idea. Will you need help? If so, what type of help?

 

Have additional questions about 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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Women’s History Month: Women of Invention

March is Women’s History Month—a time to celebrate the achievements of women and acknowledge the ways in which many have changed modern life through invention.

“The most dangerous phrase in the language is, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’” -Grace Hopper

Background of Women’s History Month

Before the 1970’s, the topic of women in history was largely missing from general public consciousness. To address this situation, the Education Task Force on the Status of Women initiated a “Women’s History Week” celebration in 1978 and chose the week of March 8 to coincide with International Women’s Day. In 1987, the National Women’s History Project petitioned Congress to expand the celebration to the entire month of March.

Since then, the National Women’s History Month Resolution has been approved every year with bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. (Source: ThoughtCo)

Women of Invention

Women have been at the forefront of invention for centuries. Their ideas, and subsequent inventions, have shaped the modern world as we know it. While there are countless women to celebrate, we discuss four women below that have made great strides in engineering.

The First Woman to File an American Patent. In 1809, Mary Dixon Kies received the first U. S. patent issued to a woman. Kies, a Connecticut native, invented a process for weaving straw with silk or thread. First Lady Dolley Madison praised her for boosting the nation’s hat industry. Unfortunately, the patent file was destroyed in the great Patent Office fire in 1836. Until about 1840, only 20 other patents were issued to women. The inventions related to apparel, tools, cook stoves, and fireplaces. (Source: ThoughtCo)

Inventor of the Paper Bag. Margaret Knight was an exceptionally prolific inventor in the late 19th century; journalists occasionally compared her to her better-known male contemporary Thomas Edison by nicknaming her “the lady Edison” or “a woman Edison.”

After seeing a fellow worker injured by a faulty piece of equipment, Knight came up with her first invention: a safety device for textile looms. She was awarded her first patent in 1871, for a machine that cut, folded and glued flat-bottomed paper shopping bags, thus eliminating the need for workers to assemble them slowly by hand. This machine and method is still in use today. Knight received 27 patents in her lifetime. (Source: Biography)

Inventor of Transparent Glass. Katherine Blodgett (1898-1979) was a woman of many firsts. She was the first female scientist hired by General Electric’s Research Laboratory in Schenectady, New York (1917) as well as the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in Physics from Cambridge University (1926). Blodgett’s research on monomolecular coatings led her to a revolutionary discovery.

She discovered a way to apply the coatings layer by layer to glass and metal. The thin films, which naturally reduced glare on reflective surfaces, when layered to a certain thickness, would completely cancel out the reflection from the surface underneath. This resulted in the world’s first 100% transparent or invisible glass. Blodgett’s patented film and process (1938) has been used for many purposes including limiting distortion in eyeglasses, microscopes, telescopes, camera and projector lenses. (Source: Biography)

Computer Science Pioneer. Grace Hopper (1906-1992) was one of the first programmers to transform large digital computers from oversized calculators into relatively intelligent machines capable of understanding “human” instructions. Hopper developed a common language with which computers could communicate called Common Business-Oriented Language or COBOL, now the most widely used computer business language in the world.

In addition to many other firsts, Hopper was the first woman to graduate from Yale University with a Ph.D. in Mathematics, and in 1985, was the first woman ever to reach the rank of admiral in the US Navy. Hopper’s work was never patented; her contributions were made before computer software technology was even considered a “patentable” field. (Source: Biography)

We encourage you to share the stories of these women along with other notable women inventors with your students, colleagues, children and classmates. By acknowledging and celebrating the women innovators of the past, we encourage the women innovators of the future.

Other women inventors that have made an impact are: Stephanie Kwolek (inventor of Kevlar), Melitta Bentz (inventor of the coffeemaker), Ann Moore (inventor of the Snugli baby carrier) and Martha Coston (inventor of pyrotechnic flares).

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