What Your Future Manufacturing Partner Wants You To Know

August 24, 2016
3D Innovations

Manufacturing 3D PrintingWhen the time comes to manufacture your hardware product, having the right manufacturing partner on your team makes all the difference. Speed, accuracy, reliability and open communication are all characteristics to look for when picking a contract manufacturer (CM). Building a supply chain from scratch is challenging and many hardware startups falter during this early-stage, however with the right information your startup doesn’t have to be one of them.

Below are a few points that manufacturers want hardware entrepreneurs to know.
  1. Plan to visit the factory. Phone calls and emails are great, but nothing beats a face-to-face meeting to hammer out the details. You want to get your prototype in the hands of the people who are going to build your product and a visit to the factory lets you see how the manufacturer functions and lets you evaluate their methodology. Whether your factory is in Mexico, China or the United States a visit to the factory is vital to a successful collaboration.
  2. Be prepared to share everything. Whether you are asking for a quote or ready to start production, be prepared to share all the information you have about your product. The manufacturer is going to need CAD files, technical drawings, schematics, etc. Providing this information allows the CM to provide an accurate quote and/or production timeline.
  3. Give them a realistic assessment of production volumes. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to production volumes. Traditionally, startups need to start with small production runs and then scale up. You may find that some CMs would rather not work with your hardware startup because of the low production volume—if this is the case, it is better to know this at the beginning of your talk than weeks down the road. In other cases though, they may be willing to work with you on scope and budget because they understand the long-term potential you have as a client.
  4. Respect their knowledge. You manufacturer will be obligated to meet the requirements and specifications you set for your hardware product; however, they will also be able to provide valuable insight for your consideration. Manufacturers have extensive knowledge from years of experience and this can be a valuable asset to your business. Keep an open mind when they provide suggestions on how to simplify and improve difference aspects of your product.

Hardware product development is a lengthy process, but it doesn’t have to be frustrating. Taking the time to evaluate potential manufacturing partners before selecting one will save you headaches (and heartaches) later on.

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

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

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Hardware Startups: Defining Your Niche Market

August 22, 2016
3D Innovations

Launching hardware startups, or any type of business for that matter, is a gamble—but defining and finding your niche market doesn’t have to be. Knowing your niche market is one way for hardware startups to quickly get their product into the hands of consumers and find success.

What is a niche market?

niche_market“A small but profitable segment of a market suitable for focused attention by a business. Market niches do not exist by themselves, but are created by identifying needs or wants that are not being addressed by competitors, and by offering products that satisfy them.” (Business Dictionary)

Developing a product that specifically targets a segment of the market that is not having their needs met is a great way to scale a business quickly. The competition is low and the barriers to entry are minimal, which is an ideal landscape for launching a hardware startup.

Defining a Niche Market

Defining your niche market means that you need to have a deep understanding of both your product and the consumers you are marketing your product towards. Below are a few ideas on how to define a niche market for your hardware startup.

  • Define The Gap. What is missing and how will your product address it? Identify “the gap”, or problem, in an existing larger market that you aim to solve.
  • Understand Your Ideal Customer. With whom do you want to do business? Be as specific as you can. Create a “wish list” and narrow your ideal customer down as much as possible. For example, a small niche would be: customers located in Northern California, which make $60,000+ a year and are avid outdoor biking enthusiasts. This focus will help you develop your product and find your target market.
  • Focus. Clarify the product that you want to develop and sell. Have a clear understanding of your product and how it meets the needs of your ideal consumer. For example, you don’t want to say that you are going to design a GoPro accessory; instead you can say that you want to sell a GoPro accessory that easily attaches to a baseball hat.
  • Identify Your Strengths. What sets your hardware startup apart? Three factors to consider, what makes your startup unique, identifiable and is it scalable? You should be able to apply these three characteristics to both your startup and your buyer personas. While your business might be starting out in a small niche, having a product that is scalable will translate into long-term growth and success.

Once you have a clear understanding of the niche market you are aiming your product towards, take time to test this market and be ready to re-evaluate if necessary. In the end, having a firm understanding of your niche market will mean that your startup is taking a calculated risk, and not just a gamble.

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

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

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The Upside & Downside of Crowdfunding for Hardware Startups

August 15, 2016
3D Innovations

With the exponential growth of crowdfunding, hardware startups are finding it easier to raise funds and launch their product into the marketplace. For instance, on Kickstarter in 2015, the amount of money going to funded projects increased by 35%, or $160 Million more than in 2014. There were 54,831 projects funded on Kickstarter in 2015, which is an increase of over 10,000 from the previous year. In addition, the Design and Technology categories were among the fastest growing segments.* Crowdfunding continues to grow in popularity and has transformed into a viable funding option for hardware entrepreneurs. However, like any type of business funding, crowdfunding has its upside and downside, and before you setup your campaign there are a few things to consider.

Upside of Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is often viewed as a way to raise funds and validate your product idea (both of which are true and terrific for startups). However, there is one aspect that many hardware entrepreneurs fail to consider, it is the community support of your early-adopters. The influence that these backers have on the success of your crowdfunding campaign should not be taken lightly.

hardware crowdfundingThe early-adopters help create, define and market your product to a much larger audience.  Through comments and feedback on your crowdfunding page, you will be able to get a firm grasp on your product-market fit; which in turn, will let you know if you are on the right path or if you need to pivot your current product and redesign your strategy. In this manner, crowdfunding is the culmination of the lean startup.

Through your early-adopters you also gain exposure that you would not have been able to receive if you went solely with the traditional Venture Capital (“VC”) funding route. The more exposure your campaign receives and the more public interest it garnishes, will undoubtedly affect your product’s funding. Recently, VCs have started paying close attention to successful campaigns as a way to evaluate a startup before investing their own funds. Hardware investors understand that crowdfunding campaigns give an advantage to startups because they speed up the market feedback process—which in turn, helps minimize a VCs potential investment risk.

Downside of Crowdfunding

Failed campaigns, wasted time and underestimated product development costs are crowdfunding downsides experienced by startups. When you are an early-stage startup there is nothing worse than failure and wasted time. To prepare for these potential missteps it is crucial that you plan ahead.

While a failed campaign can be attributed to a number of things, the most common factor is the lack of an engaging story. Early-adopters need to be motivated to invest in your product, and one way to do this is through an interesting campaign with a backstory that grabs their attention. Your “story delivery” also demonstrates to early-adopters that you have a strong marketing strategy that will translate well from your crowdfunding campaign and into the marketplace.

Another pitfall to avoid is asking for the wrong amount of funding. Estimating your total development costs can be tricky, but this risk can be minimized with the input from experienced team members and outside consultants. Manufacturing and packaging is one area that is particularly challenging for hardware entrepreneurs, and getting a firm “estimate” can be even harder. (Our advice, research potential manufacturers and meet with a variety of them before settling on one.) If your dollar estimate is off, it can sink even the best crowdfunding campaign.

Without and engaging story or correct project cost estimates you risk crowdfunding failure. The time you spend crowdfunding will be wasted, which can be detrimental for early-stage hardware startups.

*ICO Partners Kickstarter in 2015—Review in numbers

Have additional questions regarding crowdfunding for your hardware startup? 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.

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

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3D Printing Technology: What Does The Future Hold?

August 10, 2016
3D Innovations

Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is a process for making a physical object from a three-dimensional model, typically by laying down many successive thin layers of a material. This manufacturing process has been around for over 30 years, and in the last 5 years it has risen in popularity. While there is definitely “hype” surrounding the technology, there is also a lot that this technology is capable of—it is a driving force in hardware product development and the maker movement.

Below are two TED Talk videos that explain 3D printing and what the future may hold for this technology.

What is 3D Printing was 100x Faster? By Joseph DeSimone

In this TED Talk Joseph DeSimone talks about his inspiration for a new 3D printing method that was inspired by Hollywood, or more specifically Terminator 2.

“Now, we were inspired by the “Terminator 2” scene for T-1000, and we thought, why couldn’t a 3D printer operate in this fashion, where you have an object arise out of a puddle in essentially real time with essentially no waste to make a great object? Could we be inspired by Hollywood and come up with ways to actually try to get this to work? And that was our challenge. And our approach would be, if we could do this, then we could fundamentally address the three issues holding back 3D printing from being a manufacturing process.”

What’s Next in 3D Printing? By Avi Reichental

3D printing technology is changing the face of medicine—personalized medical devices are transforming an industry. “3D printing is changing personalized medical devices as we know them, from new, beautiful, ventilated scoliosis braces to millions of dental restorations and to beautiful braces for amputees, another opportunity to emotionally reconnect with your symmetry.”

With the elimination of complexity restraints, 3D printing is opening the doors to designs that have just not been possible before with other manufacturing methods. While 3D printing will not be the end of manufacturing as we know it, it is shaping the industry to meet today’s demands.

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

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

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Lean Startup Principles for Hardware Entrepreneurs

August 8, 2016
3D Innovations

The Lean Startup methodology is a principled approach to new product development that can be applied to startups and corporations alike. While the Lean Startup approach is most often attributed to technology startups, it can be used by businesses of all kinds and at all stages of growth. The five principles of the Lean Startup guide you through the product development process while maximizing business acceleration.

The Five Lean Startup Principles:

  1. Entrepreneurs are Everywhere
  2. Entrepreneurship is Management
  3. Validated Learning
  4. Innovation Accounting
  5. Build-Measure-Learn

At the core of these principles are three goals: eliminate uncertainty, work smarter and continuously validate learning.

Eliminate Uncertainty

By eliminating uncertainty as well as a “just do it” mentality, you are able to take a measured approach to product development. Creating tools that constantly and accurately test your vision provide your startup with the necessary insight to know when to pivot or move forward.

Work Smarter

lean startupInstead of asking yourself, “Can this product be built?” the lean methodology asks you to take a step back and instead ask, “Should this product be built?” By changing your mindset in this manner you are asking the question, “Can we build a sustainable business around this product?”

Gathering the data to answer these questions will connect you with early-adopters. With each prototype, you are able to test your product with these customers and garner feedback. By the time you are ready to begin distribution, you will already have established customers in place. By working smarter, you save business resources, set a methodology around product development and ultimately eliminate uncertainty.

Validated Learning

Embracing validated learning shrinks the product development process and can save a significant amount of time and money for your startup. Validated learning stems back to the idea of finding your early-adopters and target market early on. When you have open communication with this audience you are able to rapidly adapt changes that they value.

Too many startups begin with an idea for a product that they think people want without actually asking their target customers if they would use it, and more importantly, purchase it. Speaking to prospective customers is critical and can often mean success or failure for a startup. Congruent with the validated learning concept, is the development of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

What is a Minimum Viable Product?

“The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning with the least effort.”

The core principle of the Lean Startup method is the build-measure-learn feedback loop. The first step in this process is to establish the problem that needs to be solved. Once the problem is established, an MVP is developed to find a solution as quickly as possible. At this stage, time is of the essence. Once an MVP is established, you then work to fine tune it with measured metrics and customer feedback. When the measurement and learning aspects of the feedback loop are done correctly, your team will be able to decide if the startup is moving in the right direction or if a course correction is necessary. All successful startup processes should be geared to accelerate this build-measure-learn feedback loop.

The Lean Startup Principles have been shown time and again to speed up product development and successfully launch products into the marketplace. While this business methodology has been embraced by technology startups, hardware entrepreneurs are seeing its benefits and incorporating it into their own businesses as well.

Have questions about the Lean Startup methodology or the product development process? Contact us, 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.

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

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Product Design: What Does It Take To Develop A Successful Product?

August 3, 2016
3D Innovations

Product design is where engineering and art intersect—combining vision with creativity to develop a product that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Designing a product is one thing, but designing a successful product is quite another. A designer must consider both the functional aspects of the product while keeping the consumer’s interest at the forefront—and these two concepts may not always coincide. While the product design process is rife with challenges, having an experienced team in place will help you navigate these obstacles. Before you dive into the product design process, here are five questions to ask yourself.

  1. What real-world problem is my product solving?

    Products find success because they solve an existing real-world problem experienced by many. Offering people a solution to a problem that consumers are already aware of is key. (If you have to convince your target market that they have a problem, you will face an uphill battle when it comes time to market and sell your product.) After you have identified the real-world problem you are aiming to solve, expand from there with the goal of addressing it.

  2. What is the primary function of my product?

    Asking yourself this question will help layout your priorities early in the design process. In essence, it is a mission statement for your design team. All engineering and design decisions should keep this function in mind and make it a priority throughout the entire product development process.

  3. Is every aspect of the design useful?

    Too many features will get in the way and take away from your product’s intended functionality. If you focus on features over functionality it will be easy to get bogged down with too many bells and whistles. This will undoubtedly slow down product development while diminishing your product’s focus. It is best to start with the basics from the onset and then add components as the design progresses.

  4. Is the design of my product intuitive?

    Consumers crave simplicity—products with sleek designs, clean lines and that are easy to navigate. If your product proves to be too complicated or frustrating, consumers will quickly switch to your competitor. When you are working on the design, always approach it from an “outsider’s” perspective to determine if the design is becoming too cumbersome.

  5. What is my competitive edge over the competition?

    Be innovative. Truly innovative products revolutionize industries and quickly surpass the competition. As with any business, you have to know your competitive advantage and be able to articulate it quickly and concisely. Think of this as your “elevator pitch” and intertwine it into all facets of your design and product marketing.

Having the answers to these questions will not only keep your design on track but will also help clarify the product for your entire team.

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

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

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Five Product Development Pitfalls to Avoid

July 12, 2016
3D Innovations

The hardware startup landscape is riddled with product development challenges and barriers, and as an entrepreneur your job is to make sure that you are well equipped to handle whatever comes your way. This by no means is saying that you must have all of the answers—no one is an expert at everything—it is saying that you need to surround yourself with people of differing skill sets to help you along the way.

Below are five common product development pitfalls to avoid as you prepare to develop and launch your product.

costsPoor planning. “Failing to plan, is planning to fail.” Managing your risk and proper product development planning are two ways to overcome this common pitfall. Without a plan in place you leave the door open to errors and derailment. Though plans can—and do—change having one in place is a good way to minimize risk and reduce your time-to-market.

IP Risk. A survey of the IP landscape for your specific product/industry can greatly reduce this risk. Patent attorneys and engineers work together to make sure that your idea is not already patented and that there is ample room to innovate.

Market Risk. While you might find your product to be useful, is there a customer base for it? Are there other people out there who would purchase this product? Assessing the market risk is done through market research. Find your target market and work with them to gauge their needs and build a product that works for them.

Cost Risk. Can you make a profit? You want to be sure that your design is both effective and efficient. Minimizing your costs from the onset is the best way to combat this pitfall. The manufacturing phase of product development is where many entrepreneurs face this challenge. Research manufacturers and find one that has experience manufacturing a product similar to yours—chances are if they have experience, there will be fewer (costly) errors.

Competitive Risk. Work with professionals and team members that have experience navigating your industry. The experience they bring to your startup is invaluable and will help you get to market much faster, thus reducing your competitive risk.

Developing a product and launching a startup is a great adventure. Starting the process prepared and aware of these common pitfalls will undoubtedly help you throughout your entire product development and product launch journey.

Do you have further questions about the product development process? We would love to help! 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.

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

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Enhance Sales & Experience with Quality Package Design

July 6, 2016
3D Innovations

packageDesigning products that fly off store shelves is the universal goal during a product launch. The validation and fulfillment that comes with a successful product launch is what drives entrepreneurs. One of the first interactions a customer has with your product is on the shelf at the store. The package design is what catches their eye, motivates them to stop and look at your product and ultimately helps makes the final purchasing decision.

In order to optimize your product’s package design there are a few items to consider:

  • Material Durability. The material you would like to use and the material that makes the most sense for your product may not always align—costs and durability are two of the main reasons for the disconnect. You want to pick a material that can withstand shipping, stocking and being dropped (as this is inevitable). Design the packaging to help your product withstand the transportation process and any bumps it may receive along the way before reaching your customers.
  • Store Requirements. Most of the big-box retailers have package requirements that you must follow in order to get your product onto their shelves. Take the time to understand these guidelines and invest in shipping certifications when necessary (i.e. ISTA Certification).
  • Develop Your Product’s Message. Being clear and concise with your overall message will help reduce the quantity of materials in your packaging and ultimately reduce overhead. Within a 30 second glance at your product, what do you want consumers to learn? Consumers are inundated with messages as they walk down an aisle and you want to make yours memorable. You need to be both efficient in your use of materials, and in your package design communication.
  • Security. Deter in-store theft with a secure package design. If your product is easily stolen it will hinder your bottom line and could also get your inventory shipped back to you. Theft-proof packaging should be at the forefront of your design.

At the end of the day, you want to always keep the consumer in mind when going through the product development process and designing your packaging. This first interaction with your product can either enhance their initial experience or frustrate them from the onset. As the saying goes, you only have one chance to make a great first impression. Your overall package design should look good on store shelves, encourage sales and provide a positive experience for both the customer and retailer.

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

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

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Why Does Design For Manufacturability Matter?

June 23, 2016
3D Innovations
What is Design for Manufacturability?

Design for Manufacturability (DFM) is the process of being proactive during the product design phase by considering the manufacturing stage of product development at the start of the design cycle. Early consideration of the manufacturing phase shortens product development time, minimizes development costs and ensures a smooth transition into production for quick time-to-market. Overall development costs are minimized when DFM is utilized because the product design, from the onset, aims to reduce the number of parts that need to be manufactured which speeds up assembly. The entire goal of DFM is to produce a product that is easily and economically manufactured.

Why is Design for Manufacturability Important?

When you are working towards commercialization of a product, the goal is to be efficient, minimize costs and get your product onto store shelves quickly—DFM works to do just this. With DFM you work out any potential issues before manufacturing planning which saves both time and resources.

At the heart of Design for Manufacturability is a group of design guidelines structured to help the designer reduce costs and manufacturing difficulty. The following is a brief list of these guidelines:

  • Reduce the number of total parts
  • Use of standard components
  • Design parts to be multi-functional
  • Design for ease of fabrication
  • Minimize assembly directions
  • Maximize compliance
The Importance of Strategic Product Development

Quality product development is a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Product design establishes product features, how it will work and overall reliability of the product. When the product development cycle is planned out and every stage is properly accounted for, a product is able to be successfully designed, manufactured and put into the hands of consumers at a much quicker rate.

Do you have additional questions about DFM or the manufacturing phase of the product development cycle? Let us help! Contact us by e-mail at info@3d-innovations.comor or by phone at 1-808-772-8667.

Works Referenced

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

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

Subscribe to the 3D Innovations newsletter on our Facebook page!

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Celebrating Makers During The ‘National Week of Making’

June 21, 2016
3D Innovations

The National Week of Making (June 17-23) is a chance to celebrate and honor our nation of tinkerers, inventors and entrepreneurs. With barriers to entry diminishing and technologies becoming more available—such as 3D printers, design software and desktop machine tools—maker enthusiasts are now better equipped to design and build almost anything.

“Makers and builders and doers—of all ages and backgrounds—have pushed our country forward, developing creative solutions to important challenges and proving that ordinary Americans are capable of achieving the extraordinary when they have access to the resources they need.” – President Obama

Local and national maker communities have really started to rally around one another since the first National Week of Making took place in 2014. Makers are feeling empowered to learn new skills and develop products that make our lives easier and our world a better place.

Here at 3D Innovations, we support makers and the entire maker movement. We understand the desire to build and develop a cutting-edge product. The drive to commercialize an idea is what making and entrepreneurship is all about. Product development is exciting, yet it is also all-encompassing and full of challenges. With years of product development experience, on a wide variety of products, we pride ourselves on being a resource for the maker community.

If you are busy building a product but find yourself up against a roadblock, let us help! Below is a brief list of our core services.

  • Product Design. With a focus on product markets, our designers can optimize your product designs and functionality to exceed customer expectations. Designs conform to industry standards and follow Design For Manufacturing (DFM) and Design For Assembly (DFA) methodologies.
  • 3D Printing. We’ll generate a custom quote for you, anywhere in the world. From on-demand parts and customized products to full scale manufacturing runs, give us a try!
  • IP Protection. Every great idea needs to be protected. Use our resources to file for Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights.
  • 3D Engineering. We deliver value and focus on the complete development process.
  • Prototyping. Get your concept off quickly by using prototypes. Built from similar materials as the finished product, use as an aid in understanding your product’s aesthetic and visual appeal.
  • Prototype Finishing. Need Pre-Production grade parts? Projects that require unique finishes can be done with special coatings, custom painting, graphics, and Hydro Dipping applications. Post process finishing can give your prototype the finished look required for use in presentations, trade shows, and marketing/sales activities.
  • IP/Product Licensing. Need to license or sell your intellectual property? Take advantage of our expertise and confidentiality in this area in order to get a fully protected IP into the marketplace.
  • 3D Design. Using 3D Visualization and Design tools, you will have the capability to understand all aspects of your design before building physical prototypes.
  • Production. Avoid Manufacturing errors and expensive re-tooling. Utilizing domestic and foreign partners, we are able to provide low and high volume manufacturing sourcing solutions that specialize in Blow Molding, Injection Molding, and Rotational Molding manufacturing methods.

Don’t see a service you are looking for on this list? Let’s chat! Send us an e-mail at info@3d-innovations.comor or call us at 1-808-772-8667 to discuss your specific product development challenge.

Catch us at the ‘Third Annual Honolulu Mini Maker Faire’ on June 25th! Find details and further event information on our blog. See you there!

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

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

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