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The Top 3 Challenges Between Launching & Scaling Your Hardware Startup

October 11, 2016
3D Innovations

Each stage of launching a hardware startup comes with its own set of challenges. While the challenges are unique for each business and each industry, below are the top three universal challenges we have seen arise time and again.

As you read through the two lists, you will notice a theme developing between the stages. During the launch phase, the challenges tend to focus on the startup founder and business acumen. As the hardware startup scales though, the challenges tend to focus more on the manufacturing side of the business. This is why the importance of finding the right manufacturing partner for your startup from the get-go cannot be stressed enough.

Challenges when launching a hardware startup:
  1. Funding. Whether you plan to bootstrap or seek outside assistance, funding is typically the main hurdle. Unlike software development, hardware development requires a large amount of capital for prototyping, testing, packaging, and tooling/mold for production manufacturing. The initial round of funding will usually suffice through the development and prototyping stages, but will likely require additional funding once the product is ready for production and distribution.
  2. Lack of Knowledge. Most startups do not have the internal resources and knowledge to plan and thoroughly develop each product development stage. This lack of resources means that necessary design, prototyping, testing, certification, and manufacturing requirements can get overlooked. Main challenges with the manufacturing process include, vendor management and supply chain resources. Both of which are critical to developing a successful startup. In order to combat these challenges, connecting with outside product development firms/resources and experts will not only help accelerate product development but also ensure that these challenges will be manageable and not the downfall of your startup.
  3. Identifying Opportunities. Identifying market opportunities and developing go-to market strategies is another common pitfall. While hardware startup founders are intensely focused on product development, creating a sound business strategy can fall to the wayside. Connecting with distributors and existing sales channels early in the product development process should be happening while the product is still in development. Building these partnerships takes time and the earlier you start, the better.
Challenges when scaling a hardware startup:
  1. Manufacturing & Inventory Management. Scaling up manufacturing requires a larger influx of capital as compared to the launching stage. However, this is a good problem to have since it means that the market has received your product well and demand is abundant. It will also mean that some level of product inventory is required, so having additional space and location for the product is not only necessary, but a vital part of your logistics plan.
  2. Manufacturers Capabilities. Depending on your manufacturer’s capabilities, this can make or break scaling opportunities. Manufacturers may not have enough resources, machinery, and capabilities to meet your product’s demand.  If a manufacturer is not setup for high volume production, then the output required will not be able to keep up with the required amount needed to fulfill orders.  Several well-known and successfully funded Kickstarter campaigns have run into this problem, causing headaches for the company and frustrated customers waiting for their products to be packaged and shipped.
  3. Meeting Demand. Meeting the demand of the market will be dependent upon the manufacturing capabilities. You need a manufacturing partner that will be able to deliver enough of your product on-time and on-budget. If your manufacturing partner cannot keep up with customer demands, your startup, brand and product will suffer —and this could spell doom for your business.

By now we have all heard the saying, “hardware is hard” — however, with proper planning and experts by your side, launching your hardware startup doesn’t have to be impossible.

Have questions about launching or scaling your startup? Send them our way, info@3d-innovations.

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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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3D Academy Event: 3D Printing & CAD Design Using LEGO (October 10-14th)

October 10, 2016
3D Innovations

3D Printing and CAD CampToday marks the first day of our collaborative “3D Printing and CAD Design using LEGO” event with Play-Well TEKnologies. Our 3D Academy team is excited to kickoff this event and to teach engineering and design principals to students through interactive play.

This is a week-long camp where 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.

What is Play-Well TEKnologies?

Play-Well TEKnologies hosts LEGO-inspired engineering classes for kids (Kindergarten through 8th grade).

A little more about Play-Well TEKnologies:

  • We teach approximately 100,000 students per year. We run our engineering programs in approximately 23 states, as well as in France.
  • We have outstanding instructors. They teach year-round and make the curriculum their own, so that each program is a uniquely fun experience.
  • We bring A LOT of LEGO®. With over 20,000 pieces in each class/camp, and hundreds of projects, there is no limit to what you can build.
  • We teach through play, explore, solve problems, and express ourselves through LEGO. Our curriculum is designed by engineers and refined by teachers, but the kids just think it’s fun!
What is 3D Academy?

Our 3D Academy is a division of 3D Innovations and specializes in developing and integrating industry technologies with STEM education.

3D Academy promotes Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education programs that integrate 3D Technology into K–12, as well as university classrooms. Using hands-on and project based learning strategies, we have been effective in providing students with opportunities to excel in the areas of STEM and to integrate industry applications into their learning experiences.

We will be sharing event updates and photos throughout the week on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Also, keep up-to-date on future events by checking out our 3D Academy website.

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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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3D Academy: Bridging The Gap Between Education & Industry

October 5, 2016
3D Innovations

We have been hard at work revamping our 3D Academy website and invite you to check it out. As an engineering and product development firm we understand the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education and want to help students actively engage with these subjects while fostering a love of learning.

Meet Lulu! The introductory video on the 3D Academy website follows Lulu’s journey from high school student to mechanical engineer. Learn about the programs she participated in and how 3D Academy helped her harness her talent and realize her dreams.

What is 3D Academy?

Our 3D Academy is a division of 3D Innovations and specializes in developing and integrating industry technologies with STEM education.

drone academy 3D3D Academy promotes Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education programs that integrate 3D Technology into K–12, as well as university classrooms. Using hands-on and project based learning strategies, we have been effective in providing students with opportunities to excel in the areas of STEM and to integrate industry applications into their learning experiences.

Our core program utilizes 3D CAD and takes students through the entire design process (design, prototyping and manufacturing). When integrated into school curriculum, our STEM education programs provides students with opportunities to solve real world design problems, engage with industry standard technology, and transform concepts into reality. Our education programs have been integrated with many robotics programs such as FIRST, UROV, BotBall, and First Lego League. Programs are both customizable and scalable to meet various applications and grade levels.

Education Programs We Provide

The programs we offer bridge the gap between education and industry. Our hands on learning approach invite students to tackle a real-world problem, test theories, build upon these theories and design their own solutions. We teach them the skills needed to succeed and watch as they put these skills to use in their everyday activities.

  • Digital Media + IET + Engineering Academies: Learn 3D modeling programs such as SketchUp, Solidworks, and Autodesk products to design, develop, and build digital designs.  Transform digital designs into engineering projects to further develop STEM skills.
  • Robotics + Project Based Learning + Drones: Utilize the Engineering Design Process to design custom robotics systems for competitions such as Vex/FIRST Robotics, and others.  Learn about electro-mechanical system design using Drones and other Project Based Learning activities.
  • 3D Printing + K-12 Programs + 3D Printing Curriculum: Get students excited about STEM.  Use 3D Printing technologies to integrate with new or existing projects that let students develop their own parts.  Our projects can be integrated for a wide range of grade levels and topics or use our specific curriculum to focus on 3D Printing.
  • Custom Program: We are also available to help in the development of a custom program to meet the needs of your students and teachers.

Experience the benefits of STEM education and see what 3D Academy can do for you. Contact us today at info@3d-innovations.com or by phone at 808.722.8667

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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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Hardware Startups: The Challenges of Scaling Up

September 28, 2016
3D Innovations
IP Licensing

Most entrepreneurs start out hitting the ground running and want to take their idea, build upon it, and scale it quickly; however, scaling hardware startups come with unique sets of challenges to consider. Growing any business has inherent obstacles and the basics must be considered, such as: funding, talent and competition—hardware startups also need to take into account additional vital aspects, such as: sourcing, manufacturing and intellectual property. Scaling is a tricky task—scale too quickly and you can get in over your head, scale too slowly and you risk losing momentum and opportunities.  Below are some common pitfalls to avoid when scaling your hardware startup.

Losing touch with your customer.

When you are growing a company it is imperative that you keep your current customers happy. These are the customers that have made it possible for you to scale your business in the first place and you don’t want to let them down with poor customer service now. It is also extremely easy to start to get “sloppy” as you introduce new product versions or product lines, and these errors will whittle away at your customer retention. The core elements of a successful business are customers and products, so even in times of growth, both should be at the front of your mind.

Manufacturer sourcing.

Manufacturing can be the Achilles heel for hardware startups. One misstep in the vetting process or in contract development with a manufacturer and your business can sink. If you don’t have experience going through the contract manufacturing sourcing process, it is critical to find advisors or consultants that have. You are going to want to embrace competition and have multiple manufacturers bidding on your project. Your meetings with manufacturers are as much about pitching to them to get them excited about your project, as it is about doing your due diligence on their facilities and experience.

Streamlining a strategy.

At the beginning, your hardware startup will have one goal in mind: To successfully develop a product and get it onto store shelves. All team members will work towards this single goal on a daily basis. As you begin scale, your strategy and goals will transform, change and multiply. The fluidity of your new goals can make it hard for founders to take their mindset from that of laser-focused product development to business high-level. As your list of goals begins to grow, your strategy will shift to taking the top three or four-high level goals and focus teams accordingly.

Scaling a business is rewarding. Taking the time now to plan and prepare for sustainable growth will serve your startup well.

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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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3D Innovations: A Top 100 Twitter Account in Honolulu

September 26, 2016
3D Innovations

Twitter_User

Our 3D Innovations Twitter account made the list for the Top 100 Twitter Users in Honolulu, Hawaii. (We are currently at #27.)

We are always looking for ways to connect with our clients and industry leaders. You can also find us sharing product design, manufacturing and startup news and events on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.

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

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Product Design: Custom Electronic Sensor [Case Study]

3D INNOVATIONS CASE STUDY

The challenge: Develop and prototype a custom circuit sensor application.

3D Innovations was contacted to assist in the product design and development of a custom circuit board sensor device prototype. The exact application was to measure specific amounts of units through an on board sensor that would store and transmit the data to a cloud storage system.

custom circuit board design

Using the client’s requirements, the 3D Innovations team was able to produce a schematic design to develop the circuit layout and determine Bill of Materials (BOM) requirements and the associated cost. Gerber files were generated and used for the manufacturing process. While the option of 3D printing the circuits was available, the conventional method for fabrication and assembly was utilized.

Integrating best practices for PCB design, development cost was reduced by 230% and prototypes were built in several weeks, saving 3-4 weeks in lead time. UL and FCC certifications were conducted to ensure testing compliance and approval. A production ready design was then delivered for manufacturing.

Results: A product ready design was delivered for manufacturing, while development costs were reduced by 230%, saving 3-4 weeks in lead time.

“Working with 3D Innovations, our sensor device was able to come to life and allowed for a quicker market introduction.”

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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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Product Design: FOG Safe [Case Study]

3D INNOVATIONS CASE STUDY

The challenge: Design and development of a prototype mold for final product testing and market integration.

The FOG Safe is an environmentally conscious product designed to keep fat, oil and grease from drains and ultimately our environment. By reducing fat, oil and grease waste material from our drains, we not only greatly reduce our carbon footprint, but protect our landfills, gardens, water sources, streams and oceans from harmful chemicals. With this waste reduction goal in mind, the FOG Safe was created.

FOG_Safe grease catchment_product design

Using our product design and 3D Printing process, prototype molds were created to produce a low volume quantity for final testing and marketing integration. The data obtained during this testing phase has allowed FOG Safe to receive several patents and other IP protections for the product. Utilizing 3D printed molds, as compared to traditional molding materials, saved our client more than $8,000 in tooling expenses and reduced the product development time from months to weeks.

Results: By creating less expensive tooling we were able to save our client over $8,000 in tooling expenses. The functional prototype has been effective in conducting testing and developing use cases. The overall product development cycle was reduced by months using 3D Printing technology over aluminum or steel molds during the prototyping phase.

With the assistance from 3D Innovations, a prototype part and tooling was able to be developed in a much shorter time period than traditional manufacturing and mold making methods. The assistance they provided helped to produce a design that was used for manufacturing, patent applications, and packaging design.”

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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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Product Design: Making Dental Care Fun [Case Study]

3D INNOVATIONS CASE STUDY

The challenge: Develop a product that makes dental care fun for children.

When SmileyRides™ approached our 3D Innovations team, the startup had an overarching goal: Make dental care fun and interactive for children, while promoting life long healthy oral hygiene habits. With an idea and rough sketch in hand, we were able to take our client’s vision and turn it into a functional prototype for product testing, manufacturing and patenting.

smileyrides dental product designAfter assessing this project we knew that 3D Design and 3D Printing technology would be the most flexible method for producing this product. 3D Printing is significantly cheaper than traditional manufacturing methods and with this savings, we were able to product multiple prototype concepts for consumer testing. Having these prototypes to validate the design and hand out to their target market for testing proved to be invaluable.

With our digital design process, we were able quickly produce mock-ups and validate the design, which helped reduce the product development timeline by two months. The detailed design we provided was manufacture ready and provided a seamless transition into the production manufacturing stage. Utilizing 3D Printing technology resulted in a cost savings of over $10,000 in machining and mold expenses.

Results: A functional prototype was developed using digital design and 3D printing technology, which resulted in a cost savings of over $10,000.

“3D Innovations is nothing short of amazing. From my initial consultation of an idea I had in my head and a novice drawing, they were able to bring my idea to reality better than I could have ever hoped for. 3D Innovations was detailed in every aspect, produced everything in a prompt, professional manner, and was extremely knowledgeable about the processes and the products. Honestly, I don’t know how I would have been able to get my business to where it is today without them. 3D Innovations is invaluable to me. They answered all my questions no matter how small or how big. 3D Innovations produces top of the line quality and is a pleasure to work with.

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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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Product Design: GoPro Mount Accessory [Case Study]

3D INNOVATIONS CASE STUDY

The challenge: Develop a hands-free GoPro mount accessory.

Our 3D Innovations team worked closely with a group of young entrepreneurs during Startup Weekend Honolulu 2015 in the product design and development of a hands-free GoPro mount accessory. With only 54 hours to develop and prototype the idea, time was of the essence.

go pro accessoryThe initial concept was to develop a clip that would attach a Go Pro camera to the front of your hat for hands free video action shots. Using our 3D Design process, we were able to take the initial idea and develop a functional design. Numerous factors needed to be accounted for throughout the product design phasesize, weight and materials. 3D Printing technology was utilized to accommodate the rapid product development cycle. Several versions of the prototype were produced in a short period of time, which allowed the team to test and conduct customer validation studies.

With the final design, this accessory can now replace over a dozen mounts for GoPros, iPhones, audio recorders and lights. The easy to use and compact hands-free mount design makes it easy to take along on your next adventure.

Using our 3D Design and 3D Printing process, we were able to save over $4,000 in prototyping costs while reducing the development time from weeks or months to just days. The utilization of 3D printing technology led to significant cost savings, which allowed the team to develop several versions that were validated through the customer discovery process and led to the final production-ready design.

Results: Designed and developed a functional prototype in 54 hours.

“Working with 3D Innovations allowed us to turn our concept into a prototype and help win the 2015 Startup Weekend Honolulu event. With the assistance from 3D Innovations, we have a concept that can be brought to life through crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter. This will help us raise the necessary funds to mass produce this product.”

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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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Upcoming 3D Academy Event: 3D Printing & CAD Design Using LEGO (October 10-14th)

September 14, 2016
3D Innovations

3D Printing and CAD CampPlay-Well TEKnologies and 3D Academy collaborate to create an in depth and immersive camp experience for your child through the “3D Printing and CAD Design using LEGO®” program.

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.

Visit www.play-well.org or contact Wrenn Okada at 808.221.4870 or wrenn@play-well.org for more information.

3D Printing and CAD Design using LEGO
  • Grades K-2nd & 3rd-6th (Two Age Groups)
  • Manoa Innovation Center (2800 Woodlawn Drive)
  • October 10-14 (M-F, Fall Break) / 9:00am-4:00pm
  • Price: $260 for 5 day Camp

Register online at www.play-well.org/hawaii

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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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