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There is a lot of pressure and hype put on hardware startups to be “first-to-market”, however being first isn’t going to be worth it if you have to rush product development. Being first to market does indeed garner attention and initial praise, which can boost your company early on. The problems arise when you are first-to-market but your product design is flawed.
Case in point, Blackberry dominated the smartphone market until Apple released the first iPhone in 2007. Before the release of the iPhone, Blackberry held the market share because it was the first company to create a smartphone that was, relatively, user-friendly. For Blackberry, being first-to-market gave the company a boost for eight years and they set the standard for smartphones, however, their lack of innovation and market complacency left the company vulnerable.
While Apple wasn’t the first-to-market, their innovative product design and focus on the customer allowed them to quickly take over a majority of the smartphone market. They took their time to develop and test their phone design before releasing it to the public—and the rest is history.
The road from initial concept idea to commercialization is not something that startups can afford to rush through. By rushing through this critical development period, you risk manufacturing and releasing a product that is flawed, and manufacturing a flawed product is an expensive error.
A quick overview of the product development process: After you work on your product idea, you want to then get a 3D digital design of your idea. With a digital design you can simulate certain factors and see how a final product would look. Once you have a 3D design ready to go, you then move on to prototyping. The prototyping stage can take a few iterations to get everything working to your specifications—this is where 3D printing really shines. Once you have a functional prototype and a design ready for manufacturing, you can then start down the road to manufacturing and commercialization.
Whether you are a startup getting ready to launch your first product or a company working on a new product line, the advice is the same: don’t rush product development. Use the product development stage to create a flawless design, even if that means you are not first-to-market. Being the best-to-market drives staying power, while being first-to-market with a flawed product can provide initial success, it often drives being first-to-exit.
Have additional questions about product development? Contact us at email@example.com
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
Setting realistic expectations for your hardware startup and your customer base is one of the keys to a successful product launch and long-term sustainability. Hardware startups typically falter when they over-promise and under-deliver—this can be on anything from features to shipping dates. Unrealistic expectations leave customers disappointed, and that is not the way build a successful business. By establishing attainable goals and giving consumers realistic expectations about your product, you set the stage for success.
Your customer base and product design are two main components that can make or break your startup. If you have a misstep on either in the early-stages, it is often a death sentence for a hardware startup. This is why honing in on your specific target market is necessary. Once you have a very narrow and specific target market, you can then match your product design to their specific needs and build your marketing message around what they can realistically expect from your product. Below are three ways in which you can communicate expectations for your product.
Narrow product scope. It is tempting to fill your product with a ton of features to make your customer happy. Our advice, don’t. Focus your product on doing one thing well and expand your feature-set on this. Finding this single feature to focus in on takes time, prototyping and testing.
Communicate benefits, not features. More often than not, customers want to know how your product will benefit them and don’t necessarily need to know the intricate details of how it all works. Through your marketing campaign, share with them the wonderful benefits that can be expected.
Iterate often for customer feedback. Small batches of units will let you get your product into the hands of your customers for testing and feedback. As your product changes, because it will during product development, don’t be afraid to share these changes with your test market to gauge their response.
When it comes to your hardware startup, setting realistic expectations internally is also a great idea. This will reduce stress for you and your team, so you can focus on what really matters. Below are two areas in which setting realistic goals and expectations is crucial.
Product development timeline. It’s no secret that product development takes time. Don’t try to force a product through the development cycle, only to find out after manufacturing that it is flawed. Take the time to get customer feedback often to reassure yourself, and others on board, that you are on the right path.
Manufacturing and shipping dates. Once you have a finalized design, you are off to manufacturing. This is a big leap, and is almost certain to be met with its own set of challenges. As we have seen with many Kickstarter campaigns (i.e. The Coolest Cooler), manufacturing delays lead to major headaches and frustrations, which translate into missed shipping dates. From the onset, set reasonable shipping date goals and share this openly with your pre-order customers.
Building a startup requires hard work, tenacity and open communication (internally and externally). The more honest you are with your customers about your product and business goals, the more responsive they will be to your brand.
Have additional hardware startup questions? We are happy to help! Send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
A startup mindset focuses on innovation, creativity and curiosity—incorporate this mindset into your product design to push boundaries as well as the status quo.
A Startup Mindset is a different way of thinking—looking at a problem and finding a solution. The key to this mindset is creativity. Entrepreneurs know how to get creative, their startups depend on breaking the mold, so creativity is a way of life. Below are a few of the top characteristics of a Startup Mindset.
Curiosity. Startups thrive on being curious and looking for unique solutions to problems. Challenging conventional wisdom is what they do best.
Disregard for the State Quo. This is what pushes the boundaries of innovation. Entrepreneurs have no time to conform to the “status quo” and instead focus their energy on displacing those that are too complacent in their industry.
Overcome Fear. We all experience fear; it’s how we channel this emotion that sets us apart. Successful entrepreneurs understand that they need to forge ahead in the face of fear. As the common startup mantra goes, “Fear is temporary. Regret is forever.”
Speed. In today’s competitive business landscape it pays to be fast. The faster you develop your product and get it into the hands of consumers, the greater your chance of success. Startups are nimble and this gives them a distinct advantage over their competitors.
Dream. Entrepreneurs spend their time imagining what could be. They dream about the future and explore possibilities.
Anyone can apply the Startup Mindset to their business—whether you are an entrepreneur just starting out or work at a large corporation—this mindset is for everyone. The ultra-competitive product landscape of today demands that you encompass a startup mentality. Some of the most innovative breakthroughs in recent years have come from startups with little funding, experience or resources. Seize this startup mindset and apply it to the design of your next cutting edge product idea.
Do you have additional questions about product design? We are happy to help! Send your questions our way, email@example.com
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
Last week, 3D Academy had the privilege of participating in two student STEM enrichment camps. Below are short overviews of the camps and links to photos on our Facebook page from each event.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Hosted by the Maui Economic Development Board & Women in Technology, the goal of Excite Camp is to excite, educate as well as expose middle school students to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers. Excite Camp focuses on giving under-represented demographics priorities for their camps, such as: Native Hawaiians, girls and other minorities. This year we focused on design, 3D modeling and 3D printing with camp participants.
We partnered with Play-Well TEKnologies for this hands-on design-focused engineering camp. Students were introduced to CAD design, Spatial Environments and 3D printing in order to create their own custom and one-of-a-kind LEGO component.
3D Academy, a Division of 3D Innovations, specializes in developing and integrating industry technologies with STEM Education. 3D Academy promotes Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education programs that integrate 3D Technology into K–12, as well as university classrooms. Using hands-on and project-based learning strategies, we have been effective in providing students with opportunities to excel in the areas of STEM and to integrate industry applications into their learning experiences. Learn more about 3D Academy on our website.
If you have an upcoming camp and would like to inquire about the educational resources and hands-on activities we provide, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
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:
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)
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.
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 email@example.com
Additive manufacturing (commonly referred to as 3D printing) technology is altering the business landscape and changing the way products are made. Before additive manufacturing was available to the masses, designing, prototyping and manufacturing a product took time and was considerably expensive—the cost prohibitive nature of the product development process left many startups in the dust. However, this technology has reduced both product development timelines and expenses, which means that kicking a hardware startup into high gear is not as challenging as it once was. Below are three ways 3D printing technology is bending traditional business rules—and helping startups succeed.
Ideas and products that were once seemingly impossible to produce, due to design constraints, are now finding life with 3D printing. New designs are taking on geometric shapes that have never been produced before and the possibilities are endless. Product designers now have the ability to design a product in the most efficient way possible, instead of focusing solely on meeting manufacturing constraints. Limitless design is now at your fingertips.
While additive manufacturing is changing many facets of business, prototyping is still where the technology is used most frequently. Entrepreneurs with a great product idea are now able to prototype their design in mere hours and at a low-cost. With the ability to build and validate an idea within such a short time period, the world of hardware startups is shifting. Hardware startups are gaining momentum and major investors are starting to take notice.
Additive manufacturing is pushing the boundaries of innovative product design, but the technology in itself is undergoing major innovations. Where plastics once dominated the 3D printing scene – ceramics, metals, bio materials and even food are now viable options. New desktop 3D printers with customized capabilities are being designed at a rapid rate, and many can even be found on crowdfunding sites. The at-home consumer 3D printing market has not lived up to the hype that surrounded it a few years back, but industrial scale additive manufacturing technology is taking off.
Entrepreneurs and hardware startups are finding that designing a product has never been as easy as it is today—thanks in part to 3D printing. With 3D printing poised to disrupt manufacturing in a big way, we can only imagine how it will continue to revolutionize the entire business landscape in the coming years.
Ready to prototype your product idea? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.
Once you have developed your product idea as far as you can on your own, it’s time to meet with a product development firm—but how do you prepare for such a meeting? Below are a few suggestions on how you can prepare for your first meeting with a product development firm and/or product designer.
Whether you are able to draw your idea on paper or make a homemade prototype, bring a visual reference for your product idea. This will ensure that you and the product designer are on the same page from the get-go. (We have seen everything from napkin sketches to homemade prototypes, so don’t feel pressure to make a perfect prototype for the meeting).
What is the product’s functionality? By listing out the functional aspects of your product you are clarifying its goal and also preparing yourself with the information you need for a patent filing.
Become familiar with the patent process and decide whether or not you are interested in filing a patent for your invention—design or utility patent. This step does not have to be complete by the time of your meeting—product development firms can actually help you develop the design documentation.
If you have a co-founder or someone else helping you develop your idea, bring them to the meeting. They will be able to ask their own questions and provide additional answers to the product designer’s questions. Having all decision makers present for the initial meeting, as well as all subsequent meetings, is always a good idea to help speed the product development process along.
This seems simple enough, but in the excitement of the initial meeting you may forget to ask some questions that you need answered—writing them down will ensure that you remind yourself to ask them.
Bringing an idea to life takes both time and tenacity. Get the development of your product off on the right foot by making your first meeting count.
Have additional product development questions? Please e-mail them to us at email@example.com
Recently our very own Collin Kobayashi, 3D Innovations President and Chief 3D Officer, was interviewed by Pacific Business News regarding the additive manufacturing industry along with the challenges of starting your own business. Below are a couple excerpts from the interview:
Regarding the 3D printing industry growth:
“The market with 3D printing now is so wide and deep. It can be applied to almost any type of industry… People want to be able to build parts on demand and not have to wait on parts from the Mainland or China. We have to ship everything here in Hawaii, so there’s big value in 3D printing.”
Discussing our top service:
The 3D printing is sort of a secondary process. Most times the customer wants to get a new product to market, get it developed. The 3D printing comes after that. Sometimes a customer will have their own 3D file, made on their own or downloaded from the internet. Other times we assist in the design process. The first step is the design and prototype and then you get into the production and manufacturing environment.
Read more of this interview on the Pacific Business News website, “Printing Innovation on Demand”.
This year’s theme for National Engineers Week is ‘Dream Big’, and it really embodies what the engineering profession is all about. Engineering is about taking a small idea, building upon it and transforming it into a reality. Engineers engage their creativity and technical know-how to transform dreams into reality.
Here are three ways that you can encourage the students of today, and our engineers of tomorrow, to Dream Big.
While at first glance, this suggestion sounds simple enough, the truth is that many students do not know an engineer. How can they be motivated to pursue a profession without any exposure to it? So whether you are a teacher or parent, take the time to not only explain the engineering field, but introduce your child or students to an engineer. An engineer will be able to explain what they do and answer any field-specific questions.
Engineering by nature is a hands-on field. While there are indeed many theories to learn, the most engaging way of teaching engineering is to let students get their hands “dirty”. Hands-on activities engage different parts of the brain, help foster a love of the discipline all while encouraging a growth mindset.
Get outside and go for a walk. This gives you a chance to glance up at those tall buildings, gaze upon the city parks and revel in all things engineering. Without engineering all of the things you walk by would not exist. Engineers constructed those skyscrapers, they designed the cars zooming by and built those bridges you walk across. Examples of engineering can be seen everywhere you turn. Engage your child during the walk by asking leading questions and encouraging discussion.
Children are inherently creative and have many ideas floating around in their heads. Discuss the ideas that they have. Narrow their list of ideas down until you come to a single idea, and then pursue it. You don’t have to be an engineer yourself to do this.
For example, if your child has an idea for a cool and innovative product, you can:
You never know, you might also learn something along the way.
The spirit of engineering is built upon curiosity and determination. Whether your child is currently interested in engineering or not, always encourage them to Dream Big. The bigger the dream, the fiercer the passion.
3D printing has undoubtedly become a tool-of-choice for makers and educators alike. The rapid growth in 3D printing technology and its popularity has manufacturers worried that at-home 3D printers may one day soon replace traditional manufacturing. From our experience though, a maker or entrepreneur is going to benefit the most from a convergence of these two manufacturing methods.
Below we will discuss the benefits and pitfalls of both 3D printing and CNC milling.
CNC milling machines “take a block of solid material (e.g. aluminum or wood) and use sharp rotating tools or cutters to remove all parts that are not needed. Milling is a subtractive method. CNC mills are computer-controlled. The computer feeds the machine-specific code that controls the cutting tools (just like the G-code used by 3D printers). The models for CNC mills are created using 3D modeling software, so-called CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) software applications.” (All3DP.com)
3D Printing starts from scratch and builds a three-dimensional product layer by layer. This technology is referred to as additive manufacturing. Just like with CNC milling machines, a computer feeds the machine specific code that controls the design process.
CNC mills can work on a “huge variety of materials: metal alloys (e.g. aluminum, steel alloys, brass, copper), softwoods and hardwoods, thermoplastics, acrylic, modeling foams, machining wax (for creating a positive model for casting). You may need different cutting tools for different materials, but the tool-to-machine interfaces are usually standardized—so the tools can easily be exchanged.” (All3DP.com)
At-home desktop 3D printers are usually restricted to a few materials, typically thermoplastics or resins. Thermoplastics can be mixed with other materials such as ceramics, wood, metal, but the workpieces produced on a 3D printer will not be as robust as workpieces cut from a block of metal or wood. Commercial or specialty 3D printers can print with more exotic materials (i.e. bioprinting and food).
With the range of applications for these two technologies, there is a lot of overlap. (Here we will focus on the applications either technology supports, while the other does not.)
CNC milling is the better solution when you need to manufacture extremely robust, precise and/or heat-resistant products. 3D printing is the better solution when you need quick prototypes to test designs, small batch runs or are interested in exotic application fields—bioprinting, architectural purposes and printing food.
By design, there is less waste with 3D printing. The technology only requires the material needed for building the product. With CNC milling, you need a block of material that is the size of the product it will produce—a great deal of material is then removed, and often times the excess material cannot be recycled.
Both technologies have their place in the manufacturing landscape. Where one technology falters, the other excels. When designing your product, keep in mind that using both technologies during product development might be just what you need.
Have questions about the manufacturing process? Send us your questions, firstname.lastname@example.org,we are happy to help.