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Technology development is happening astonishingly fast when you sit back and think about it. 3D printing, AI, VR and robotics made leaps and bounds within the last year and have experienced unprecedented growth within the last decade. Today, technology touches most aspects of our lives—from our ‘smart’ homes to our cars and everything in between.
It’s that time of the year where we start to look at what 2019 brought us and what we can expect in the new year. Below we are sharing five of our favorite technology development related ‘look back’ and ‘look ahead’ pieces.
What were the breakthrough technologies for 2019? The answer depends on who you ask. Several common themes have emerged such as cobots, emerging energy source, AI, and cybersecurity breaches.
We live in an age where new technologies hit the market almost daily. The question is will manufacturers find meaningful applications for latest advances? In some instances, it is just a matter of a new technology development hitting the market at the wrong time. In other cases, it may not make sense. When technology has staying power, it often has the ability to revolutionize how manufacturers operate.
As a snapshot of the market’s forecasted growth, the 2019 Wohlers Report — viewed by experts as a top source for the pulse of the 3D printing industry — forecasts that the market value for 2020 is $15.8 billion for all 3D printing products and services worldwide. That figure is expected to surge to $23.9 billion in 2022 and $35.6 billion in 2024. Likewise, a January forecast from Statista shows that global spending on 3D printing in 2019 is projected to be $13.8 billion, up 21.2% from a year earlier.
It’s been a busy decade in the tech space. New innovations emerged and older ones finally matured in ways that have had a major impact. The 2010s brought us the rise of 3D printing, the rebirth of VR, and an explosion in AI technologies. The health industry was all about wearables. And a digital currency gold rush made us rethink encryption.
One of the most consequential aspects of 3D printing is the capability to produce objects that often cannot be manufactured using any other existing technology. At a fundamental level, 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, can consolidate parts in a single assembly. That creates unprecedented design opportunities, but to take full advantage of them, design engineers need to retool their thought process.
What technology developments do you think will have a major impact in 2020 and the next decade?
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
Consumers are driving change and pushing companies to design environmentally friendly products. This has led to a real shift in the product development and manufacturing space towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly practices as well. “While poor packaging design, toxic materials, and disposable products can have a significantly negative ecological impact, the opposite is also true. Good packaging design, eco-conscious materials, and well-designed products go a long way toward reducing pollution and maximizing resources.” (CAD Crowd)
Incorporating eco-conscious design principals into your product is possible in a variety of ways. Below we explore ways to design environmentally friendly products.
The DfE approach to product design covers the entire life-cycle of a product. Below are the four main principals to design environmentally friendly products that have minimal negative impacts on the environment.
All products reach the end of their life cycle at some point. When they are no longer useful they are often put in the trash and sent to a landfill. This means that the material it is made of is now sitting in a landfill. Environmentally conscious design will account for this and utilize materials that can decompose or that do not emit harmful contaminants.
Consider the environmental impacts of the constituent materials and how they might be disassembled and reused. (CAD Crowd)
This concept applies primarily to electronic devices. The goal is to reduce, as much as possible, the overall energy consumed by the product over the course of its life cycle. Energy efficient light bulbs are the prototypical example of this principle in action. (CAD Crowd)
Consider how the raw materials that go into making the various components of your invention are extracted, processed, and manufactured. Whether and how they are mined, drilled, or grown and harvested will constitute a large part of the final product’s environmental footprint.
How were these materials processed? The nature of the raw materials will also determine whether the product will be recyclable, biodegradable, toxic, or otherwise dangerous to the environment. A major goal of this design principle is to minimize the amount of waste, pollution, and energy expenditure that goes into creating the product. (CAD Crowd)
Using reusable or recyclable shipping and packaging products, eliminating any unnecessary paper and plastic packaging material, and making efficient use of space are the key strategies for creating environmentally friendly packaging. (CAD Crowd)
Most businesses today aim to produce goods at a low cost while maintaining quality, staying competitive in the global marketplace and meeting consumer preferences for more environmentally friendly products.
The design of environmentally friendly products benefits businesses in a number of ways: cost savings, reduced business and environmental risks, expanded business and market opportunities, and to meet environmental regulations.
Have additional questions about designing an environmentally friendly product? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
We cannot underestimate the power of 3D printing as it pertains to manufacturing. It has allowed us to create complex parts with pinpoint accuracy, lowered the cost of production and expanded our imagination beyond historical limitations. The technology is poised to revolutionize the manufacturing industry in the future. Despite all these benefits, there are still several weaknesses that we have not been able to conquer in 3D printing. While the technology is still evolving, 3D printing firms like Geomiq will have to overcome several challenges to ensure quality, cost reduction and drive innovation. Here are five such challenges.
This is the most basic of the challenges that many printers have to contend with. The quality-related problems can be subdivided into few issues like available materials, low-resolution output and fused deposition modelling parts that are fragile. A combination of these three makes most 3D printed parts to be of an inferior quality to those manufactured with traditional means.
First, the material choices are limited to those that can be melted, squirted or extruded. This puts away lots of other materials that can produce better quality items. There have been strides in creating multi-materials, but there are only two at a time. Intelligent machine design may eventually solve problems with human error in complex printing, while improvements in output may help solve low output problems.
While 3D printing provides cheap items compared to traditional printing methods, it takes too many parameters, adjustments and juggling formats. It has been joked that the reason 3D printers are transparent is to enable engineers to determine if the printing is going on right. It is up to the printing firm to come up with clear processes when undertaking the printing work so that each output is similar to the rest.
Besides, professional organizations are also tasked with creating standardized processes for most of the 3D printing projects so that printing across various industries can result in quality and standardized products just like the case of traditional manufacturing. The overall goal is to have one-click printing reliability, just like the 2D printers.
As 3D printing technology continues to infiltrate various industries, there is a lack of enough skilled employees who can design, use software, computer-aided design and operate 3D printers. For the technology to live to its promise, companies need to invest resources and time into training staff members on emerging innovations in 3D printing. This may be a challenge as many seasoned engineers and companies are reluctant to incorporate new technologies. On the same note, technology institutions must also start investing in the technology and giving their students hands-on experience in 3D printing. The training will become easy if there is standardization, as explained in the section above.
The cost of owning an industrial-type 3D printer is prohibitive. Unlike many disruptive technologies where the cost of owning the technology is fairly low, with 3D printing, the company must have deep pockets for the capital equipment. Materials used in the printing are also not widely available and, therefore, do not come cheap. This makes it hard for most firms to invest in several printers or expand their production using 3D printers. If the technology is to gain traction in manufacturing, the cost of assembling the printers should go down so that many can own the piece of equipment.
Sadly, many 3D printing efforts are aimed at the wrong target. Most organizations would be happy to use the technology in creating replacement parts, tools and prototypes with the technology and not think of wholesome solutions or final production parts. The reason for this myopic view is because many engineers do not see the technology from a holistic view of solution building.
Any additive manufacturing technology should have a process, materials, parts and a system. It may be okay to separate the four ideas in manufacturing. However, when building a solution, all these parts must work together. For example, if you are creating springs for a piece of equipment, you should not see it just as parts but should look at the relationship with other parts. You can re-engineer the whole engine so that you produce smaller or better parts and result in high-performing, low-cost equipment. This way, 3D printing will have lived to its promise.
As we refine 3D printing technologies, manufacturers are likely to meet several challenges on the way. Most challenges can be dealt with to acceptable levels. However, manufacturers must also be dynamic enough to incorporate innovations in the technology as they come.
Guest post from Jessica Harper at Geomiq.
Plastic is a popular go-to material for many new products and inventions—however, there are many more material options to choose from based on your product design, product specifications, intended use and performance maximization. Over the years our team has developed various products, and their packaging, in a variety of industries using a wide range of materials.
While the advancements of 3D printing and the popularity of product customization rely heavily on plastic—it is not the only option out there for your product. Below are a number of materials to consider when it comes to product design and your product’s intended use.
An area that is easy to overlook when you are deep in product development is packaging. In product packaging there have been strides in moving away from plastic in favor of sustainable materials and more resource-efficient designs.
Consumers have a growing interest in businesses and brands that focus on sustainability.
The following are some of the packaging materials that are biodegradable and recyclable.
*The above list of packaging materials is from “6 Eco-friendly, Sustainable Packaging Ideas for your Products”
Our team has experience working with a large variety of materials for both your product design and packaging. When it comes to developing a product, tailoring every aspect to both your product and business’ goals is our main focus.
Have additional questions for our product development team? Please send us an email at email@example.com
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
Our client, The Baby Toon, was featured on the Season 11 Premiere of Shark Tank and was able to successfully secure a deal with Lori Greiner. Inventor of The Baby Toon, Cassidy Crowley (age 10), and her family have been on this startup journey for three years now and watching it culminate with a deal on Shark Tank was certainly a highlight for them and us. We had a chance to talk with Cassidy and her mom, Lori, to discuss the entire experience and share their favorite memories with us.
Cassidy C.: I learned to just go for it because you never know unless you try! It was super exciting to go through the whole Shark Tank process. I know not many kids or adults get this opportunity in life so I am very thankful. It was fun to get to see behind the scenes of my favorite TV Show and meet the Sharks!
What are the chances you’ll get on “Shark Tank”? On average, the show receives 35,000 to 40,000 applicants each season, some of whom are reapplying after earlier rejections. Of those, about 1,000 advance to a second round of vetting. But this season 10, the show filmed just 158 pitches, and will air only 88 of them, four each episode. So even getting into the tank is no guarantee of TV glory. -USA Today
Lori C.: I learned how with the power of the internet, and Google, you could learn how to do and approach things you know absolutely nothing about! I also learned that your kids can inspire you to never give up! There were many times that I felt defeated and wanted to give up simply because we didn’t know how, had no experience, and didn’t have a friend we could ask to point us in the right direction. However, in those difficult times, it was the kids who said, “we can’t give up”. Their drive, perseverance, and determination to push through even when we didn’t know the answers is something I as a parent will always admire and remember. It really is because of them that we were able to take this journey from science fair to Shark Tank and I am so proud of their commitment to this.
Cassidy C.: My favorite part was showing The Baby Toon to these super successful Shark entrepreneurs.
Lori C.: Cassidy was amazing and handled herself with grace, energy and poise that I could never do at 10 years old or even now at 40! I’m so proud of her strength. I am proud of my other daughters for the never-ending positive support they gave their sister. They were right there every step of the way. We met the most wonderful people along the journey who became our friends and taught us so much.
“We met the most wonderful people along the journey who became our friends and taught us so much. We really knew nothing about how to design and start a business and the experts we met were completely open, knowledgeable, and kind enough to educate our family (with 3 kids!) about their area. Thank you so much for being kind and patient. 3D Innovations and Collin, you set the tone and caliber so high from the start everyone else we worked with had to match up to you!” -Lori C.
Cassidy C.: I loved learning about 3D printing, how you could design on a computer and actually 3D print it! I liked going to Albany, NY at Extreme Molding because we got to see our mold and how silicone is made, injected into the mold, and see how the product comes out of the machine. I loved selling our product and sharing our story live with people at the Baby Expo and craft fairs. And finally Shark Tank, like I mentioned above, pitching to the Sharks then actually talking to Lori Greiner about The Baby Toon’s future.
Lori C.: Learning with my kids! You’re never too old to learn! Traveling to see a working US manufacturing company and bringing home the first suitcases of Baby Toons hot off the press! And of course, auditioning for Shark Tank, getting a call back, and actually making it to the Season Premiere! Really, who would have ever thought a little 7-year-old from Hawaii with a dream of sharing her school science project with the Sharks would be there, pitching The Baby Toon 3 years later. It was truly one of those just try and see what happens—and a memory we will all never forget. It was just so cool to see the Sharks right in front of us asking Cassidy questions and seeing how she would respond. There is a lot going on and lots of questions that are asked. She was fearless, it was so fun to watch.
The Baby Toon has been a truly special project to work on. From the start, Cassidy and her family have been eager to learn about all aspects of product development and open to ideas.
You are never too young or old to invent. If you have an idea or passion that you think can change the world, go for it! Many first-time entrepreneurs often think that they need to have all of the answers figured out before reaching out to us—you don’t. As a product development partner, we help guide you through each step of the product development process and help you connect with the right industry partners.
If you have questions about developing your product idea, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In recent years the conversation around 3D manufacturing and traditional manufacturing methods has shifted—no longer are these viewed as competitors, but instead as complimentary manufacturing methods. Each method, additive manufacturing and subtractive manufacturing, has its own benefits and shortcomings, they are not mutually exclusive.
Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is a manufacturing method that builds an object layer by layer, with each layer of material the object is closer to completion.
A CAD file feeds the 3D printing machine the information that it needs to create the object. “Depending on the technology, the 3D printer deposits material, selectively melts and fuses powder, or cures liquid photopolymer materials to create parts based on the CAM data. The 3D printed parts often require some form of cleaning and finishing to achieve their final properties and appearance before they’re ready to use.” (Formlabs) Currently, the most common materials used for additive manufacturing are plastics and metals. There are a range of other materials that have been developed, but are not as widely used (i.e. ceramics, wood and glass).
Additive manufacturing is ideal for a range of product development and manufacturing applications—prototyping, tooling, highly customized parts and short-run productions to name a few. 3D manufacturing technology excels when it comes to product design. Complex geometries offer a high degree of design freedom that traditional manufacturing methods just can’t reach.
“Subtractive manufacturing is an umbrella term for various controlled machining and material removal processes that start with solid blocks, bars, rods of plastic, metal, or other materials that are shaped by removing material through cutting, boring, drilling, and grinding. These processes are either performed manually or more commonly, driven by computer numerical control (CNC).” (Formlabs)
As with additive manufacturing, a CAD file is used to feed the design data to the manufacturing tool. These instructions tell the tool where to make cuts, holes and channels until the unnecessary material is chipped away and the object is complete.
Subtractive manufacturing is suitable for prototyping, tooling and end-use parts. This technology shines when it comes to high-volume production runs for end-use parts.
Since these manufacturing methods are not mutually exclusive, they are often used together during the product development process.
Additive manufacturing is used to make initial prototypes and functional prototypes at a reduced cost with quick turnaround times. Small parts and complex geometries are not a problem for this technology.
In the final stages of product manufacturing, it makes sense to utilize subtractive manufacturing methods for large volume production runs. This technology is much faster when it comes to making large parts and end-use products.
“In manufacturing, subtractive and additive processes often complement each other in the production of tooling, jigs, fixtures, brackets, molds, and patterns. Manufacturers often use plastic 3D printed parts for fast, custom, low-volume, or replacement parts and opt for subtractive metal processes for higher volumes or parts that are subject to more extreme mechanical stress and strain.
Utilizing both additive and subtractive manufacturing results in a hybrid process. This allows product designers and manufacturers to combine the versatility and quick turnaround times of additive manufacturing with the strength of subtractively produced parts.” (Formlabs)
Today’s manufacturing landscape is much different than it was even five years ago, using both technologies during product development is often best practice.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Have additional questions about manufacturing your product? Send us an email at email@example.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
Have additional IP and manufacturing related questions? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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)
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.
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.
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 email@example.com
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)
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)
“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)
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, firstname.lastname@example.org