Category Archive for "Manufacturing"

Three Technologies Transforming the Hardware Startup Landscape

Over the last five years hardware startups have found it easier to find their footing, reach customers and develop a product without “breaking the bank”. The transforming business landscape for hardware startups can be attributed to advances in technology. Where it once took thousands of dollars for a digital design and prototyping alone, today it can be completed at a fraction of the cost. Below are three technologies that have increased in usability and popularity, and in doing so, transformed the way startups are built.

Digital Designs

3D digital designs are allowing startups the freedom of testing and design validation before building a prototype. While designing a product is a trial-and-error process, digital designs allow you to quickly navigate this stage and settle on a final design that meets both your customers’ needs and manufacturing requirements.

Digital designs speed up the product design process, and ensure a smooth transition into the manufacturing phase. With DFM (design for manufacturability) in mind you can design a product that will increase your manufacturing efficiency while saving you both time and money.

Additive Manufacturing

3D printingNo list related to technology would be complete without the mention of 3D printing. This technology is the “golden boy” of engineering and product design at the moment—and rightfully so. This single technology has shifted supply chains, disrupted the traditional manufacturing process and has allowed startups the freedom of iteration at a reasonable cost.

What exactly is 3D printing? It is defined as, “the action or process of making a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model, typically by laying down many thin layers of a material in succession.” As the material selection continues to expand, so does the application use for additive manufacturing. 3D printing at one time was used specifically for prototyping, and while this is still where it is the most popular, it is moving into the manufacturing domain with short-run production.


Starting a business once required bootstrapping or venture capital investment; however, crowdfunding has changed all of this. A well designed product, coupled with a carefully curated crowdfunding campaign, can garnish unprecedented funding to launch your business. Kickstarter and Indiegogo have helped launch some of the most innovative startups.

Crowdfunding might not be the right fit for every startup or every product, but if your idea is a nice fit for this type of funding support, you could be looking at significant help in manufacturing and commercializing your product idea.

The cost prohibitive nature of starting a business has been on the decline and now more than ever, people with an innovative idea can make their product dream a reality.

“When you find an idea that you just can’t stop thinking about, that’s probably a good one to pursue.” — Josh James, Omniture CEO and co-founder


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

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The Complex Relationship of Innovation and Commercialization

Innovation and commercialization are similar yet vastly different.  You can have an abundance of ideas, but having the structured process in place to bring them to fruition is key. The path to commercialization is littered with potholes and roadblocks, but you don’t have to navigate them alone.

Often the process of moving a product idea out of the “idea” stage is challenging, so many inventors tend to discard the idea and move on. However, with the right resources and structure in place, you can get your idea off the ground and headed towards commercialization.

“It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.” – Scott Belsky, co-founder of Behance.

Below are a few items to consider when developing the support structure for your business.
  1. Community Resources. Look around at your local community and see what resources are in place to help you develop your business idea. Depending on your idea you might be searching for a tech incubator, a business accelerator, mentoring, training programs or networking events. While many inventors dream of building a business in Silicon Valley, the truth is that your local community might be the best place for you to start.
  2. Service Providers. In line with community resources, your local tech incubator or accelerator will be able to put you in touch with professionals in your community. For example, product development experts, programmers, lawyers, CPAs etc. Incubators and accelerators will have knowledge and experience working with these service providers, and be able to guide you toward the ones that meet your specific business needs.
  3. Funding. Most startups need funding at one point. This assistance might come in the form of grants, venture capitalists, tax breaks or R&D funding. Research what type of funding makes the most sense for your business and your goals.
  4. Intellectual Property. Patent research should not be overlooked at the very early stages of forming your business. Before you get going and commit yourself to developing a product, you want to be sure that someone else does not hold the rights to it. (Take a look at how Herbavore, a startup client of ours, approached the entire patent process.)

Often times inventors and entrepreneurs are viewed as people who lock themselves away to develop an idea, but the truth of the matter is, it takes help from a wide range of people to get an idea on the road to commercialization. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. If you need a certain skill set that you don’t possess, find someone who does—asking for help might just be the thing that sets your idea on the path to success.


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Q&A with Rob Saito of Herbavore

We recently had the chance to talk with Rob Saito, Founder of Herbavore, along with Collin Kobayashi, 3D Innovations President and Chief 3D Officer, about the product development process and what it takes to design, protect and commercialize a product.

Product development with HerbavoreHerbavore is a recent graduate of the XLR8UH startup accelerator. XLR8UH is one of the first university investment programs in the nation, and is a nationally recognized program that educates, mentors, and invests in Hawaii’s top talent. Herbavore’s team was able to leverage the mentorship and industry expertise provided at the accelerator to design and refine their innovative horticultural hand tools.

Like most great startups, Herbavore grew out of a need—in this case, the need for better and less cumbersome gardening tools. Specifically, tools that would be comfortable for different hand sizes and that could accommodate both left and right-handed individuals. Herbavore’s patent pending tools aim to reshape the garden tool industry.

How did you initially approach the product design process?

(RS): Herbavore’s first prototype (homemade) was a great starting point in the design process. It was used as a baseline. This rough prototype was used as a building block for further iterations.

Prior to working with 3D Innovations we didn’t know about the manufacturing aspect of designing. We thought our designs were “ready to go”, but after consulting with Collin, we realized the designs needed to be modified further to meet manufacturing requirements, especially related to injection molding.  While working with 3D Innovations we learned more in-depth about the manufacturing process such as over-molding, which types of molds to use for cost effectiveness, and material capabilities.

(CK): Using Design for Manufacturing (DFM) early in the process creates a much more streamlined design and eliminates the need to rework or change the design to conform to the manufacturing method being planned.  It also allows the client to understand the limits of what can be designed versus what features are critical to the function of the parts. Discussing these options and designing for DFM early in the process allows all team members to be aware of what is necessary to accomplish a functional and manufacturable design.

The patent filing process can be challenging, how have you prepared for this step?

(RS): The initial drawings for our first two provisional patents were made using AutoCAD software. Our team’s strengths are not in mechanical engineering, so we did the best we could. However, we felt these initial drawings did not do our invention justice. We are currently in the process of filing a non-provisional patent, and the line drawings that 3D Innovations has made are top notch. They not only accurately depict our invention in a professional manner, but also will make obtaining a patent easier as these professionally made drawings are sure to impress the patent examiner.

(CK): Most patent applications contain “line drawings” that depict the claims of the patent.  Using professional drawings as opposed to ones that are hand drawn or created using other methods may cause issues when the application is reviewed by the patent office because particular features may not be present or not depicted correctly. Using drawings from the actual designs provide many benefits which include creating section views to show internal features, having all views created to the same scale, and having drawing views automatically update when changes to the design are made. Great control of the output of drawings can be managed when the patent drawings are created professionally.

How have you familiarized yourself with the entire patent process?

(RS): I learned a lot of things about the patent process consulting with IP attorneys, reading, and conducting a patent search of over 300 patents.

(CK): The patent application is very involved and requires a tremendous amount of research of prior art and adjusting the claims of the invention so that the design is unique.

Launching a startup is a team process, how has your team assisted in the development of Herbavore’s product design?

(RS): Input was received from team members throughout the design process. Based on our team members’ experiences and feedback coupled with customer discovery, decisions were then made. Collaboration between team members greatly aided this process.

(CK): It is critical to have all team members be active in the design process. Having everyone on board and in agreement with the design direction will make for a more efficient design process and reduces the amount of rework and wait time, getting to the prototype and manufacturing stages faster. Collaboration among all team members is paramount to ensure the product gets to market in the shortest amount of time possible.

What is one piece of advice you would give entrepreneurs just starting the product development process?

(RS): One piece of advice I would give to entrepreneurs just starting the product development process would be, “to enjoy it with others.” From the beginning to the end.  The importance of achieving an end goal or final product is very important, but more importantly is all the knowledge and networks that were created along the way. Product development, especially hardware, can have a long pipeline, so if you aren’t passionate about what you are doing it will take a toll.  Yes, it is a lot of work and at times can be a headache, but so personally fulfilling at the same time. You are creating something never seen before or a better mousetrap that will improve people’s lives. Enjoy the product development process with your team, customers, and investors.

(CK): Start by making sure team members have capabilities required for the company to succeed.  Fill in gaps by seeking external expertise when needed. Develop partnerships with companies that can add value to your company and/or internal skill sets.


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

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Three Common Product Development Myths

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

Myth 1: Product Development is Predictable

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

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

Myth 2: A Finished Design is Ready for Production

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

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

Myth 3: The More Features, The Better

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

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

Have additional questions about the product development process or other product development myths? Contact us at


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

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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.


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


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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Manufacturing Facts Hardware Entrepreneurs Need To Know

June 15, 2016
3D Innovations

Developing a product is exhilarating, however when the time comes to start the manufacturing phase of the product development process, many entrepreneurs aren’t exactly sure where to begin. Below are some pieces of advice that every hardware startup should know about the manufacturing process.

mfg3Understand your cash flow.

Many startups are strapped for cash—especially during the early days—that is why understanding your company’s cash flow is crucial. Depending on your hardware product, you may be required to purchase certain components six months to a year before your launch. Work with your manufacturer to setup a realistic payment option that won’t leave your startup in the red.

Find an experienced manufacturer.

All manufacturers have experience, but your goal is to find a manufacturer that has experience building a product similar to yours. Chances are that if they have experience building a similar product, the number of challenges that arise will diminish. Also, ask to see product samples so that you can get a feel on the quality of work they produce.

If your goal is to manufacturer your product in the U.S., prepare to pay a little bit more. However, some entrepreneurs don’t mind paying more for the comfort of being able to visit the manufacturing facility on a regular basis. During the early production runs you are going to want to be on-site to talk with the engineers to make sure things are running smoothly.

Be prepared to compromise.

You might have visions of making your product from recycled materials, or certain sustainable materials, however, these may not be the best options for your product. Your product is going to need to meet certain thresholds and tolerances, which means that using the correct material is imperative. Be prepared to compromise on things such as materials, the manufacturing timeline and other variables that will undoubtedly arise.

Start with small production runs.

While you are putting final touches on the design and working out the “kinks”, it is a good idea to start with small production runs. The minimum (around 5,000 units) run will give you a chance to fix any issues that come up without experiencing potentially dire financial consequences.

If you are planning on running a crowdfunding campaign, a small production run might not be feasible if you have a wildly successful campaign. In that case, you can consider the option of running multiple manufacturing lines. While this can complicate the manufacturing process, it will help you stick to the timeline you laid out for customers. If you would rather stick with the small product run method, let your customers know that you plan on starting with small batches and scaling up gradually, which will mean a longer wait time—keep in mind that most customers are willing to wait when the startup is transparent about their timeline from the get-go.

Do you have additional questions about 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.


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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Prototyping: Bringing Ideas Into Existence

November 19, 2015
3D Innovations

The startup community is flowing with fantastic ideas, but if you want investors to take your pitch serious then you need a prototype. Investors have figured out that asking for a functional prototype is one way to separate the ‘wannabe’ entrepreneurs from serious players. As the old adage goes, “talk is cheap”. Entrepreneurs who are prepared to show a prototype to investors, whether angel investors or a crowdfunding community, demonstrate that they know how to execute.

3D Printing Services | Rapid Prototyping Services | 3D-innovationsHaving a prototype shows that you have already tested the idea, worked out the design challenges and researched manufacturing partners. Completing all of this before seeking funding brings a new level of credibility to you and your startup.

If you find yourself sitting on the fence as to whether or not you should go ahead and develop that prototype, here are a few points to consider…

  • Show your commitment. Demonstrating that you are willing to move this product past the idea phase lets investors know that you are serious and should be taken seriously. The process of designing, building and validating a prototype does take time, but it also greatly reduces risks and challenges later on.
  • Test your idea in the real world. When your idea is brought to life, you are able to validate the idea and garner consumer feedback. Let potential customers get their hands on the prototype to test its functionality and decide whether it does in fact fit their needs. When you talk about your idea, each person imagines it in their own manner, but a functional prototype is a concrete way of bringing your idea into existence.
  • Implement design feedback without dire consequences. Make pre-production design changes without losing inventory. Nothing is worse than having inventory that you cannot sell. Investors and consumers will have design modification ideas, and testing them out with prototypes is much more cost effective.
  • Reduce costs and time-to-market. Time is money. Validating your design before it heads to manufacturing lets you get the product out of the door while staying on schedule. A three-dimensional prototype will also allow you to effectively negotiate contracts with manufacturers.

The benefits and advantages of a physical prototype should not be underestimated. Building a prototype will help you validate your product early-on and gain credibility.

 Do you have additional questions about the prototyping process? Please feel free to contact us at


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2015 Advanced Manufacturing Conference

October 23, 2015
3D Innovations

This week we were in attendance at the inaugural Advanced Manufacturing Conference here in Honolulu. The focus of this event was on advanced manufacturing technologies and companies that represent this growing industry. Below is a short summary of our experience at the conference with some of our thoughts on the subject sprinkled in.

Advanced manufacturing is reshaping the current manufacturing landscape. Industry leaders in Hawaii understand that major manufacturing shifts are taking place, and want to assist the local manufacturing community in harnessing and implementing these emerging technologies.

Focusing on Infrastructure

Currently the manufacturing community in Hawaii is still relatively small, but with a heightened focus on economic development, workforce development, energy infrastructure and policies there is significant growth potential. However, with growth comes challenges; high energy costs make it cost prohibitive to run power hungry equipment and without high-speed broadband manufacturing productivity is significantly hindered. These are certainly a couple issues that need to be addressed before Hawaii experiences a manufacturing “boom” per se.

Our local aerospace, aquaculture, astronomy, biomedical, robotics and scientific industries have a clear and defined path towards utilizing advanced manufacturing technologies. The internet of things (IoT), big data and additive manufacturing are just a few of the technologies that would not only increase efficiency for these businesses, but would enhance competitive advantages on a local, national and global scale as well.

Developing a Skilled Workforce

While we know that the manufacturing community here can grow, another major factor in that growth is workforce development. Access to skilled professionals is vital.

Supporting future workforce demands means that an increased focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, at all grade levels, is necessary. Fostering children’s innate curiosity and encouraging them to search and discover on their own, develops the necessary STEM centered mindset. Access to STEM resources and technology in the classroom will also provide invaluable hands-on experience that over time translates into a high-tech workforce.

Skilled STEM professionals will be require to support advanced manufacturing technologies such as Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), Product Lifecycle Management solutions (PLM), automation/programming, design, robotics, software, and maintenance support.

High Technology Development Corporation (HTDC) has a plan to support and increase the human infrastructure by introducing a strategic plan called 80/80. This plan seeks to have 80,000 high technology jobs that pay $80,000+ per year by 2030.

Harnessing Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) Technology

There is no doubt that additive manufacturing is synonymous with advanced manufacturing. Stratasys was in attendance and brought various samples of parts made with their wide array of additive manufacturing machines. With the continuous development of new materials and finishes, the application of 3D printing can continue its transition to additive manufacturing, and have a profound impact on product development, prototyping, and manufacturing sectors.

Businesses and leaders in Hawaii have the drive and desire to grow our local manufacturing and technology sectors. With continued support and focus on initiatives at all levels, these industries will not only grow but thrive, making Hawaii a technology and manufacturing hub.

We are eager to see what the future holds!


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

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Protecting Your Company’s Intellectual Property

February 11, 2015
3D Innovations

The intellectual property of your business is a serious matter and must be protected. Product Design & Development (PD&D) recently shared an article, 5 Ways to Protect Intellectual Property, that provides helpful insight into the main topics that need to be covered in a strategic alliance agreement.

There are five topics that should be covered in any agreement where intellectual property is involved:

  1. ip-3d-printing-innovations-100Ownership of Intellectual Property: Frequently, one or more of the parties is bringing pre-existing intellectual property to the partnership. It is important to specifically identify and reserve its ownership within the contract.
  2. Licenses to Intellectual Property: Commercializing the new development will also require some cross-licensing of intellectual property rights and should cover both pre-existing and new intellectual property. These licenses need to be carefully tailored to the particular rights that the licensee needs.
  3. Responsibility for Obtaining and Maintaining Patents: Patents are an important part of intellectual property protection. Joint development agreements should include detailed provisions about which party will take the lead in obtaining and maintaining them.
  4. Responsibility for Prosecuting Infringers: It is often easier to agree to the allocation of responsibility and cooperation prior to an infringement, rather than after the infringement has occurred.
  5. Term and Termination: It is tricky to unwind a product collaboration if intellectual property is jointly owned. So careful thought during negotiations and drafting can prevent problems if the agreement terminates.

All strategic alliance agreements are unique in their own way but, when intellectual property is involved these five points are critical and should be included in the final agreement.

We invite you to read the full article on the PD&D website.

Below are a few additional articles that provide helpful intellectual property and patent information…

If you have additional intellectual property or patent questions please feel free to contact us at


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