Category Archive for "Manufacturing"

Questions to ask a potential manufacturing partner for your hardware startup.

The Search for a “Perfect” Manufacturing Partner

Questions to ask a potential manufacturing partner for your hardware startup.Manufacturing a new product is a challenge but finding the right manufacturing partner doesn’t have to be. Finding the perfect manufacturing partner for your hardware startup is going to take a bit of upfront research but, trust us, it will make the entire process much smoother later on.

Below are five questions to ask potential manufacturing partners on your search for the perfect match.

Do you have experience manufacturing a product similar to mine?

All manufacturers have experience, but your goal is to find a manufacturer that has experience building a product similar to yours in your market segment. 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.

For instance, if you are manufacturing a baby spoon find a manufacturer that has a great deal of experience in the baby product consumer market segment. Having a manufacturing partner that is knowledgeable about the industry you are entering means that they will be up-to-date with best practices, safety standards, and will have the ability to offer helpful insight.

What is your minimum production volume?

Traditionally, startups need to start with small production runs and then scale up. You may find that some manufacturers 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, they may be willing to work with you on scope and budget because they understand the long-term potential you have as a client.

Will you be able to scale with my business?

Not all manufacturers will be able to scale with your business. As your startup grows, the number of units you need will increase as well. Your initial manufacturing partner might be great at prototypes and low volumes, but higher volumes may pose a problem. Minimize production delays by meeting with other potential manufacturing partners that are able to adequately meet higher volume needs. You don’t have to stick with just one manufacturer.

What is your preferred method of communication?

Open communication is key with any successful business partnership. You want to feel comfortable that your manufacturing partner will reach out to you when there is a question, issue or the need for clarification. Whether they prefer phones calls or emails, make sure that you are also comfortable with their preferred communication method.

When is the best time for a factory visit?

Your manufacturer is critical to your business’ success, so open communication is mandatory. It is imperative that you know and trust your manufacturer, before working with them. This is true whether you are manufacturing close to home or in another country. Phone calls and emails are great, but a visit to their location is highly recommended. Visiting the facility lets you meet the factory workers and see the facility. You want to feel comfortable that your product is in the right hands, and an on-site visit will do just this.

Other items to consider: check their client references, understand your startup’s cash flow and be prepared to compromise on the manufacturing timeline.

Doing your research early-on will help make the transition to manufacturing much smoother and less stressful.

Now here is what your future manufacturing partner wants you to know.

Have additional questions about manufacturing your product? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

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Intellectual property protection for startups during the manufacturing phase is necessary.

Intellectual Property Protection During Manufacturing

Intellectual property protection for a startup during manufacturing is necessary.Protecting intellectual property (IP) is important to any business, but especially so when you are launching a startup. Often your IP’s security can mean the difference between a viable business and a startup failure. That is why protecting your IP during the manufacturing phase of product development is critically important. Below we examine the IP security pros and cons of domestic v. international manufacturing for your hardware startup.

Domestic Manufacturing

When it comes to manufacturing your product in the U.S. there are many benefits, such as: ease of access, clear communication, fast fulfillment, reduced shipping fees and IP security.

When you hold a patent in the United States and decide to also manufacture here, you are guaranteed a certain level of security that your startup’s IP won’t be stolen. However, if for some reason this security breaks down, you have legal recourse for the damages.

International Manufacturing

When it comes to manufacturing your product abroad there are certain advantages that can make monetary sense for your startup: reduced costs, high-volume capacity and increased manufacturer partner options. However, IP protection is not one of the benefits.

If your invention is protected in the U.S. with a patent, trademark or copyright, these protections are not guaranteed overseas. Patenting an invention in the U.S. is not necessarily quick and it can be costly—the same goes for international patents. Often startups don’t have the funds to allocate to international patent protection. However, there are other ways to protect your IP in a foreign market.

  • Contractual Security

A well written and carefully constructed non-disclosure agreement (NDA) can protect IP from the onset. Clauses covering IP security can be included to establish clear ownership.

  • Implementing Security Measures

Restricting the number of individuals that have access to your product’s IP and conducting background checks on key personnel can help keep your IP safeguarded. Encrypting all digital files and communication that contain IP is another measure you can take to protect it.

  • Intellectual Property Insurance

You can transfer some of your IP risk by acquiring insurance. Intellectual Property Insurance typically protects against the significant legal costs that will need to be paid if an organization pursues its IP claims through the court system. It can cover both enforcing and defending claims. (Source: Trade Ready)

As President Lincoln once remarked, the patent system adds “the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.” IP rights, which include patents, trademarks, trade secrets and copyrights play an essential role in monetizing innovation. (Inc.)

Related articles of interest:

Have additional IP and manufacturing related questions? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

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This is what inventors need to know about licensing agreements.

Licensing Agreement Basics for Startups

This is what inventors need to know about licensing agreements.For many inventors a licensing agreement is often a great option since it lets them develop a product, but then puts the expenses associated with commercialization on a more experienced manufacturer.

What is a licensing agreement?

A licensing agreement is a deal between the owner of a patent, brand, or trademark and someone who wants to use the patented or trademarked goods and services. (Upcounsel)

With a licensing agreement, an inventor (the licensor) develops an invention and then protects that invention through a patent, copyright, trademark, or trade secret, and thus creates intellectual property (IP). The inventor—the owner of the intellectual property—then licenses the invention to a second party (the licensee) whose responsibility is to commercialize the invention. As compensation for allowing another party to use its intellectual property, the licensor will receive a royalty.

There are many types of licensing agreements: trademark licensing, copyright licensing, patent licensing, software licensing and merchandise licensing. Intellectual property licensors use three main types of licensing agreements: exclusive license, non-exclusive license and sole license. (Read about each type on Upcounsel)

The Main Benefits of a Licensing Agreement

Globalization has made licensing agreements a very popular option for businesses and inventors. Often, licensing is a strategic way of entering international markets. A foreign company will obtain rights to produce and/or sell another company’s product in its home country.

Below is a list of the top benefits of licensing your invention/IP.

  • The licensor (inventor) does not have to finance the commercialization process.
  • The licensor avoids the need to create and operate a company.
  • The invention will most likely get to market faster because a larger, more experienced company is handling the manufacturing and commercialization.
  • The invention may reach more markets if the licensee is a large, well-funded enterprise.
  • The licensor retains ownership of the intellectual property.
  • It creates passive income for the licensor.

Overall, licensing agreements minimize risk for both parties involved. The licensor doesn’t have to setup a business and incur those additional expenses and the licensee doesn’t have to spend time on product development and testing.

Suggestions for Securing a Licensing Agreement
  • Assess the complexity of your product. Is there a way to get a working version developed without extensive costs? 3D printing/additive manufacturing is a frequently used method to get a functional prototype ready because of its speed and the reduced costs associated with the technology.
  • Identify manufacturers. Find out which manufacturers currently sell product lines to large retailers where you can see that your product would be a good fit.
  • Create a functional prototype. Create a functional prototype of your product and pitch retail buyers. The goal is to get a commitment before you actually launch. You can possibly even offer them a few months of launch exclusivity. The mock-up of your packaging is also critically important. Your product must look as retail ready as possible.
  • Setup a meeting with an IP attorney. The attorney will be able to go over the legal aspects of the licensing agreement with you and help come up with a plan that best suits your needs.
  • Approach the identified manufacturers. If you want to get the attention of a manufacturer, before you even talk about your product, pitch the prospect your new customer, growing sales or the commitment from a major buyer. You’ll get an appointment, and your product has a better chance of moving to the front of the line in the new product development funnel.

Read our Case Study that details how our team worked on turning a consumer product idea into a manufacturable product for licensing to a large international retailer.

Have additional questions about licensing agreements for inventors? Please send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

Articles Referenced:

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3D design and 3D models are critical for efficient manufacturing.

The Importance of 3D Design for (Efficient) Manufacturing

3D design and 3D models are critical for efficient manufacturing.When you are ready to take your prototype and turn it into a real-world product, be sure that your 3D design files are also ready to go. A CAD file is either a digital 2D or 3D model of your product. When you start reaching out to manufacturers, most of the time they will ask to see your 3D design before moving forward with a manufacturing consultation and quote. “Without some idea of size, number of cavities, complexity, shape, and design, a manufacturer cannot accurately advise on the manufacturability of your product or help you choose the right materials and color.” (Extreme Molding)

3D Design Saves Time

Making sure that the manufacturer has the most detailed information possible about your product helps ensure that you are receiving an accurate quote and that there are fewer potential manufacturing issues down the road.

“Not only does a CAD file help save time when figuring out all the finer details of a part by looking at the 3D model, but it also allows a model to be magnified and even rotate on any axis to get a full three-dimensional concept of the part, which allows the manufacturer a greater sense of the product. It can even reveal internal features of a part if it cannot be seen clearly on a manufacturing drawing. Aside from these benefits, using CAD makes it possible to simulate the movement of a part through production processes.” (Vista Industrial)

3D Design Reduces Material Waste

“CAD files enables the manufacturer to check tool paths before any material is cut. The ability to run a simulation and so verify the complete machining process in a virtual environment is critical for keeping waste and scrap to a minimum. This may be crucial on some jobs, such as those using expensive alloys, large material-intensive components, or for those with complex geometry. Other verification advantages that result from less scrap include less energy consumption and reduced tool wear.

CAD simulations also enable you and the manufacturer to identify how long the production run time will take. Clearly this is useful for scheduling, as well as the planning of throughput, material supply and delivery. As the 3D model is the source of the manufacturing data, the design intent is preserved, and the dimensional accuracy is retained.” (Advice Manufacturing)

3D Design Allows for Ongoing Communication

If your product design needs to be adjusted to meet design or manufacturing needs, this can easily be accomplished within a digital CAD file. Since the CAD files are transferred electronically, you are assured that both you, your product design team and the manufacturer all have the same information moving forward.

“CAD systems also facilitate communication among those involved in design, manufacturing, and other processes. This is of particular importance when one firm contracts another to either design or produce a component.” (Inc.)

In today’s manufacturing environment, CAD files are a necessity. A 3D design allows you to evaluate the form, fit, and functionality of your product. The design will also verify tolerance, loads, stresses and optimize manufacturability. If you plan on filing for IP rights or patent protection, a CAD file will help clearly communicate the design to your attorney and those reviewing your patent application.

Have additional product development questions? Please send them our way, info@3d-innovations.com

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Wishing You a Happy Thanksgiving

thanksgiving, thank you, 3D InnovationsOur 3D Innovations team would like to wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

 “Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.” ― W.J. Cameron

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, we would like to send a big ‘thank you’ to our valued clients. Our clients are the driving motivation and the reason we do what we do. Each project we work on is unique, just like each client. Seeing the excitement build as we assist in the development of taking an idea and turning it into a real-world product fuels our desire to keep helping entrepreneurs launch their dreams.

We are incredibly grateful for our support network and know that our business would not be where it is today without you.

Thank you.

-The 3D Innovations Team

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Domestic v. International Manufacturing for Your Startup

manufacturingWhether you are considering having your product manufactured in your home country or overseas, you need to take into account the benefits and disadvantages of each before reaching a final decision. Each item on your list should be weighed based on your startup’s goals, mission, customers and timeline. Below you will find a preliminary pros and cons list to help you get started.

Domestic Manufacturing Advantages
  • Easier Communication. When you and your manufacturing partner share the same language, you are less likely to experience communication barriers and breakdowns. When communication is a challenge, it can be costly for your startup.
  • Visit the Facility. When your manufacturer is close, you are easily able to visit the factory and build a trusting relationship with your manufacturing partner.
  • Faster Fulfillment. When you don’t have to factor in international shipping, your product will most likely be available much quicker, which means that you can get it to market faster.
  • Production Flexibility. Domestic manufacturers are usually able to accommodate smaller production runs. While an international manufacturer might be able to offer a smaller production run, shipping can make it cost prohibitive.
  • Reduced Shipping Fees. If you intend to sell your product domestically, you will be able to save money on shipping costs.
  • Positive Press & Market Perception. The American public tends to view products made domestically as superior in quality and is therefore willing to pay more for your product.
  • IP Security. Intellectual property (IP) can make or break a startup. Copycat products not only hurt your brand, but they can also harm consumers. Manufacturing your product domestically may decrease the chance of intellectual property theft.
Domestic Manufacturing Disadvantages
  • Higher Costs. Manufacturing your product domestically usually means that you will be paying more for your product. U.S. labor laws require manufacturers to provide minimum wage for workers along with safe working environments.
  • High Volume Production Issues. Manufacturers are not as well equipped to produce high volume orders as their international counterparts.
International Manufacturing Advantages
  • Reduced Costs. Manufacturing a product overseas is almost always significantly less expensive than manufacturing domestically.
  • Increased Options. In the U.S. manufacturers tend to specialize in the products they can produce, whereas in China a manufacturer might be able to produce a wide range of products. There are also more factories in China which means you have options, helping to keep prices competitive.
  • High-volume Capability. International manufacturers excel when it comes to producing high-volume orders in a single production run.
International Manufacturing Disadvantages
  • Communication Barriers. By not sharing a language or native culture, navigating business can be a bit more challenging.
  • Challenging to Find. Not all international manufacturing facilities have a website, or keep up with the Google algorithm—which means that finding them on the internet can be a challenge. Also, the facilities that do have a website and provide contact information are most likely contacted very frequently by people “testing the waters”, so they may not respond to your email in a timely manner, or at all.
  • Limited Oversight. It is always a good idea to visit a facility before entering into a contract, however this can be a challenge with international suppliers. You might make the initial trip to visit the facility, but subsequent visits can quickly add up and could be cost prohibitive for your startup.
  • Increased Shipping Fees. When you intend to sell your product domestically, having your product shipped from their international facility to the U.S. can be costly. Increased tariffs and other political factors can make predicting shipping fees a bit challenging, and these fees can readily fluctuate.
  • Less Secure IP Rights. Without the protections of U.S. intellectual property rights, your product is vulnerable to IP theft and copycats flooding the market.

Ultimately the decision to manufacture either domestically or internationally is based on your budget, timeline and customer preferences. With our heightened political climate and a shift in attitude, many people now prefer to buy products that are made in the U.S., and are willing to pay more for these products.

Do you have additional questions about manufacturing your product? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

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FOG Safe Product Development Process – Pacific Business News

product development process, FOG Safe, FOG Safe Drain GuardsRecently Pacific Business News sat down with our client, Shawn Santos, inventor of FOG Safe Drain Guards to talk about the product development process and launching his idea. FOG Safe Drain Guards are a way to responsibly dispose of fats, oils and grease after cooking a meal, instead of rinsing these harmful contaminants down the kitchen sink. Once the fat, oil and grease has cooled in your cooking pan, you simply pour the contents into the FOG Safe Drain Guard and wait one minute while the drain guard absorbs the FOG, then you dispose of the entire drain guard into the trash. No drips, no mess.

We have had the pleasure of working with FOG Safe from the beginning. We have assisted with designs, prototyping, patents, manufacturing and distribution. Below are excerpts from the Pacific Business News article that discuss our product development assistance (read the full article here).

The Product Development Process

We had several stages of printing for prototyping. I worked with a local product development company, 3D Innovations, through the process. He had resources for using the [3D] printer, so after coming up with designs and going through the process, the finished product is very different than the original idea.

Deciding on a Manufacturer

3D Innovations assisted with sourcing and manufacturing. We looked at several locations, we tried the U.S., and eventually we went overseas. We looked at a lot of paper pulp manufacturers and settled on doing it in China. In order for the product to work and relieve the problem, its gotta be worth it for the consumer. People are not going to want to spend a lot, so we needed to keep the cost down as much as possible.

Then there was the whole tooling process, which is preparing the molds — it’s another upfront cost that comes right out of pocket. We have to provide the schematics for the tooling, and once we approve it it’s all on us, we pay that amount even if that mold doesn’t work, so it’s a bit of a gamble. So we have to be 100 percent, and that’s where the 3D printing comes in. We do the printing, and the manufacturer uses those to make the mold.

Patenting FOG Safe Drain Guards

I have five issued patents. It started with getting a patent attorney and doing a patent search. The hope is that whatever they find is different enough in design, and we felt it was worth the try and we were different.

For my first patent to get issued was well over 24 months, probably closer to 30 months. After that, there were deviations of the design. One of the challenges of an inventor is that you can’t come up with a single design, there needs to be variations, because someone can easily copy off of your original design work. And the patent office is very particular, you can’t be broad, you have to be very specific on a type of design. You can’t just think in one dimension, you have to think about how this can be manipulated and changed. It’s a collaboration between the engineer, myself and my attorney, everyone having input.

Interested in learning more about our product development process? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

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4 Tips for a Smooth Start to Manufacturing Your Product

manufacturing, baby toon, baby spoon, feeding, soft tip, bitingTaking the leap into manufacturing is a big milestone for a startup. Once you start to search for a manufacturing partner, suddenly it all seems real. Manufacturing is not cheap, and one misstep here can severely hurt or completely crush your business. Finding the right manufacturer is not easy, but with proper planning and research, it can be done. Below are four tips to keep in mind as you research potential partners.

Market Segment Experience

Start your search for a manufacturer that has experience in the industry your product is entering. For instance, if you are manufacturing a baby spoon find a manufacturer that has a great deal of experience in the baby product consumer market segment. Having a manufacturing partner that is knowledgeable about the industry you are entering means that they will be up-to-date with best practices, safety standards, and will have the ability to offer helpful insight.

Unit Scalability

Not all manufacturers will be able to scale with your business. As your startup grows, the number of units you need will increase as well. Your initial manufacturing partner might be great at prototypes and low volumes, but higher volumes may pose a problem. Minimize production delays, by meeting with other potential manufacturing partners that are able to adequately meet higher volume needs. You don’t have to stick with just one manufacturer.

Multiple Open Partnerships

Depending on your product, one manufacturing strategy is to have multiple open partnerships with manufacturers. Your once very attentive and grateful manufacturer might put you on the back burner when a bigger customer comes along. A vendor list with manufacturers you can utilize or bounce between is a good idea. This keeps pricing between them competitive and the diversification minimizes your business risk.

Make a Visit & Check References

Your manufacturer is critical to your business, so open communication is mandatory. It is imperative that you know them, and trust them, before working with them. This is true whether you are manufacturing close to home or in another country. Phone calls and emails are great, but a visit to their location is highly recommended. Visiting the facility lets you meet the factory workers and see the facility. You want to feel comfortable that your product is in the right hands, and an on-site visit will do just this.

Don’t forget to check their references. Make those phone calls and get your questions answered by people who have experience with this potential manufacturer.

Now here is what your future manufacturer wants you to know.

Have additional questions about manufacturing your product? We can help. Send us an email with your questions to 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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Developments in the Metal 3D Printing Segment

IP Licensing, metal 3d printingAs Terry Wohler’s put it best, this is the year of metal 3D printing. At trade shows globally, metal 3D printing has been a main focus for both speakers and attendees. 3D printing with plastics has advanced to the point where individuals can purchase a small, affordable and pretty compact desktop printer for their home and get to printing out their designs almost immediately. 3D printing with metals is not to this point yet, the current methods are not that simple or affordable. However, metal 3D printing is making strides this year and below we have gathered a few of the notable developments in this small, yet quickly growing, market segment.

Metal 3D Printing industry expected to be worth as much as $10 billion by 2030 to 2035.

Today, 3D printing is a very small part of the metals industry, but it is growing rapidly and this market is expected to be worth as much as $10 billion by 2030 to 2035. Already, a number of healthcare and aerospace companies have adopted the technology. Some are running pilots to see how 3D metal printing can contribute to their operations while others are using 3D printers to produce metal prototypes in-house. (McKinsey & Company)

High volume parts product arrives.

Tech giant HP Inc on Monday, October 10th, launched the worlds most advanced 3D printing technology for the mass manufacturing of production-grade metal parts.

Called HP Metal Jet, the technology is up to 50 times more productive — delivering low-cost, high-quality mechanically functional parts for the auto, industrial and medical industries to begin with. (Machinery)

Researchers appear to have found a simpler method for 3D printing metal.

Jan Schroers, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Yale University and Desktop Metal, Inc., in Burlington, Massachusetts, USA and colleagues think they’re onto a simpler way of additively manufacturing metal using bulk metallic glasses (BMGs). These can be continuously softened when heated and have a “super-cooled liquid region in their thermodynamic profile”.

“We have shown theoretically in this work that we can use a range of other bulk metallic glasses and are working on making the process more practical- and commercially-usable to make 3D printing of metals as easy and practical as the 3D printing of thermoplastics,” said Schroers. (All 3DP)

Flood of new entrants to the market segment.

Many new metal technologies have already been announced this year, and there are even more on the way. If you’re thinking about investing in a very high cost metal 3D printer today, it might be wise to wait a couple years. The market is moving so fast that any equipment purchased today might be obsolete in only a few years. (Fabbaloo)

The metal 3D printing industry is on the rise. Manufacturers, businesses and researchers are working hard to push the technology forward. While it won’t eliminate the needed for traditional manufacturing methods, it will be one very powerful tool in your toolkit when it comes to manufacturing.

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Visit Us at the Honolulu Mini Maker Faire — June 23rd

The 5th annual Honolulu Mini Maker Faire is this Saturday, June 23rd from 12pm to 5pm at ‘Iolani School. Our President, Collin Kobayashi, will be at our 3D Innovations booth answering your 3D printing, prototyping and product commercialization questions. This is a great chance to talk with Collin about the product development process and learn more about what it takes to bring a product to life.

The Honolulu Maker Faire is open to all ages and encompasses a wide range of interests and technologies. This is a family-friendly event where people can share their interests and knowledge and spark the Maker spirit in others. Tickets to the event are free, however we do suggest that you register for a ticket ahead of time to speed up the entry process.

Honolulu Mini Maker Faire, Maker Faire 2018

Maker: Collin Kobayashi

WHAT I DO: I help companies in all industries bring new products to market, reduce prototyping costs, ensure requirements and quality are achieved, and develop manufacturing and go-to-market strategies.

WHY IT WORKS: I’ve spent almost 20 years in Design/Manufacturing sectors and understand the challenges and needs of companies doing R&D. Using our expertise in prototyping and manufacturing along with industry standard software and equipment, we will accelerate your development process and bring products to market faster.

HOW IT WORKS: The first step in the process is to schedule a consultation to discuss your project goals, objectives and challenges. Through this initial session, we will be able to outline a high level strategy and plan for bringing your product to market. I’ll also make a professional recommendation for the next steps that should be taken to ensure you can take your product to market!

What is a Maker Faire?

Maker Faire is a gathering of fascinating, curious people who enjoy learning and who love sharing what they can do. From engineers to artists to scientists to crafters, Maker Faire is a venue for these “makers” to show hobbies, experiments, projects.

We call it the Greatest Show (& Tell) on Earth – a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity, and resourcefulness. Glimpse the future and get inspired!

To learn more about the Honolulu Mini Maker Faire, head on over to the official website.

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.

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