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Less than ten years ago, the hype surround 3D printing technology was at an all-time high. The idea of each household having one led the news cycle. In hindsight, it is clear that this level of hype and the fever-pitch level of excitement was not sustainable or even realistic. There were far too many barriers for the technology to overcome, both technological and usability, before it could be in “everyone’s house”.
Over time the hype slowly diminished, and the technology began to steadily mature. Firms focused on 3D printing began to collaborate, merge and narrow their focus. Today, the future of the technology looks considerably different than it once did. Below are three areas of growth for 3D printing technology and a sign of where the technology is heading.
3D printing is making its way onto the manufacturing floor. A recent survey from Jabil, found that “81% of manufacturers are using 3D printing technology today”. It seems that additive manufacturing has found its niche in mainstream manufacturing.
The fact that 3D printing has become so prominent with manufacturers, shows that companies are looking for ways to incorporate this technology into their product designs. Companies are no longer standing on the sidelines waiting to see how the technology matures, but are instead harnessing its design benefits and finding ways to use it themselves.
Where once the only material available was plastic, today there is an ever-increasing range of materials to choose from. The most prominent is still plastic (PLA, ABS, PET, PVA, Nylon) however, metals (steel, gold, silver, titanium), ceramic, and wood options are also quickly coming to market.
New and improved metal 3D printing will make a splash this year. “Metal 3D printing will become more and more of a necessity when solving specific manufacturing challenges and creating customized, complex end-use products.” (Engineering.com) We expect to see the range of materials available to continue to grow as the technology continues to advance.
Companies, such as GE, are making great strides in advancing 3D printing and its ability to produce end-use products. However, before 3D printing can really take off in terms of end-use production, there are some major barriers that need to be addressed. “Material properties, high costs, complexity, time to a usable part and location of a production-capable machine relegated to an additive manufacturing lab are significant barriers to the use of additive manufacturing in production.” (3D Printing Industry)
Products produced for consumers with 3D printing will be required to meet the same material properties (strength, surface finish, color) that traditional manufacturing has mastered. While it is most likely that end-use production won’t come to fruition in 2018, we can expect to see more companies finding ways of making this happen with one-off parts.
It is clear that additive manufacturing is here to stay. As it is now, this technology continues to excel with its prototyping capabilities and is a great compliment to traditional manufacturing.
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
As a product development firm, we often work with first-time entrepreneurs—people who have a fantastic idea for a product, but need guidance on developing their idea and beginning their startup journey. We help entrepreneurs navigate the wild world of hardware startups.
Our team shares their in-depth knowledge on what it takes to get a project going, what a development plan looks like and what the path of product development entails. By assisting entrepreneurs through their product development journey, we aim to set them up for a successful product launch.
One thing we have learned over the years is that, no matter the industry, first-time entrepreneurs have some of the same questions and concerns when they first get started. Below we discuss three frequently asked questions.
It only takes a few things to get started. You may think that the littlest details may not make a difference as you start developing an idea, however, every detail matters. Provide as much detail about your product requirements as possible. A good development company will be able to ask you the right questions throughout the development process, to help you narrow down the requirements and focus on the functionality. You don’t need to know all of the technical details about the product, just how it needs to function.
As the adage goes, hardware is hard. However, it is not impossible. It can sometimes be a long and difficult process to develop your hardware project, but aligning yourself with a great development partner will help to make things easier.
Short answer: It depends. In most cases the answer is yes—you own all of the rights to the design and intellectual property (IP).
In other cases, clients have elected to share equity in their company with product development companies in lieu of paying for development costs, in which case the design and other IP becomes shared property.
Depending on the type of product, the initial prototype may be a proof-of-concept prototype. This is created to prove out your concept or idea. Some view the proof-of-concept prototype as a feasibility study versus the traditional functional prototype. The prototypes created will serve as a one-off design of your product for you to review, test, and make adjustments before the final production design is created. Be prepared that it may take several iterations to get to the final production ready design, but is an essential part of the development process and should not be skipped.
With a multitude of technologies available to build prototypes, 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing will be the front runner in prototyping your design. It is cost effective and provides a quick turnaround, which is why it is also commonly referred to as ‘rapid prototyping’. The design will be prototyped in order to test the form, fit, and function and to make sure that the manufacturing process is attainable.
In a subsequent blog post, we will dive into intellectual property and manufacturing, discussing the top questions entrepreneurs have about these subject areas as well. Starting your product development journey with the right information at hand can make all the difference.
We are happy to help answer any additional product development questions you have, please email us at email@example.com
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
Quick recap: Our President, Collin Kobayashi, accompanied a client, FOG Safe, on a production manufacturing trip to China. They have returned to Hawaii, and are now discussing their recent trip to find the right manufacturing partner for the FOG Safe product, as well as the expectations of the trip versus what happened in this “Part 2” production manufacturing blog post. (View ‘Part 1’ here.)
[C. Kobayashi]: Traveling to the various factories was an exciting adventure for both myself and our client. Meeting factory management and touring the different factories is always exciting—no two factories are identical, so really getting to dive in and see the different manufacturing methodologies is a great experience.
[Client]: Seeing each of the factory’s capabilities really made a difference in deciding which factory is most capable of producing our product. Each had pros and cons, but at the end of the day, the one selected was based on 3D Innovations’ recommendation and my own impression of the visit.
[C. Kobayashi]: We had the opportunity to visit with a handful of factories, both for product manufacturing as well as packaging manufacturing facilities.
[C. Kobayashi]: Improvements in manufacturing have come a long way. It was quite evident that manufacturing companies need to constantly upgrade their technologies to be efficient and competitive. During a few of the visits, we saw some advanced manufacturing systems that made them not only efficient, but able to handle large scale projects and track every stage of the process until the items were shipped out.
[Client]: I haven’t been to a factory before, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. It was an entirely new experience for me. Visiting the various factories gave me a real comparison and I was able to see the differences, strengths, and weaknesses between each.
[C. Kobayashi]: Pricing will always affect the bottom line, but other factors are equally as important. All of these factors were taken into account when the final manufacturing partners were selected.
[Client]: A face-to-face meeting with these potential manufacturing partners really opened my eyes to see what goes on with the manufacturing process and what happens behind the scenes. Without these meetings taking place, it would have been a shot in the dark and hoping that the right manufacturer was selected.
[C. Kobayashi]: A few takeaways from this trip for me were seeing the various departments and logistics that handle the production process from start to finish. Being able to observe the entire process from machinery to quality assurance was an amazing conclusion to the project and development cycle.
[Client]: Trying to do this process without the assistance of manufacturing experts is impossible. If doing this on my own, it would have been not only difficult, but there is a chance that I could have made the wrong decisions and ultimately sacrificed, time, money, and quality. I was fortunate enough to have 3D Innovations support the project from start to finish, and continually advising on the best way to bring our product to market.
[Client & C. Kobayashi]: Once molds are made, we will await the first samples and start full production quantities.
Have questions related to manufacturing a product internationally or locally? We are happy to help! Please send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
The manufacturing phase of product development is one of the stages that causes hardware startups the most stress. By the time you reach the manufacturing phase, you have a solid design in place, funding efforts are either underway or nearing completion and you now find yourself with the (daunting) task of securing a manufacturing partner. Keep in mind that manufacturing, either locally or abroad, comes with obstacles—however, these obstacles don’t have to be a crushing deal breaker for your startup.
If you have decided to manufacture your product abroad, there are a few additional obstacles that need be accounted for. Below we discuss five challenges your hardware startup will face while manufacturing your product abroad.
It’s no secret that business is done differently all over the world. In one country a handshake can seal the deal, while in another a deal may quickly vanish if you find yourself late to a meeting. Before you start connecting with manufacturers, learn the culture. Research cultural etiquette and, if possible, talk to others that have done business in the country before. A little research ahead of time, can save you major heartache later on.
When you are not in the same country as your manufacturer it is very easy to lose product quality. Things usually start off well, yet as days turn into weeks and weeks turn into years, quality can fade without your awareness. To protect yourself and the integrity of your product, be sure to include quality clauses in your contract and continuously examine and test your product.
Most of the time you will need to order large quantities to receive a price break and make it worth while for your business. Quantities of this size can cause a bit of a cash crunch for a hardware startup just gaining its footing. With larger quantities also comes longer wait times. You may find yourself waiting months for your product to make it to the United States.
Whether you are manufacturing abroad or at home, this is always a challenge. Ideally you want a manufacturing partner that has experience manufacturing similar products to yours who is easy to communicate with. Vet prospective manufactures and select a factory that has the best reputation. If you are not able to inspect the manufacturer and factory on your own, consider outsourcing an audit. Before the contract is signed, do your due diligence so you can be confident that your product is in the right hands.
If you are manufacturing your product in another country there will be the additional costs associated with logistics. These fees can vary widely and become shockingly high if not researched properly. Before finalizing your decision of manufacturing abroad, take this cost into consideration to be sure that it isn’t a deal breaker for you.
Manufacturing abroad comes with certain trade-offs. Do your research and reach out for experienced expert advice before you delve into this phase of product development.
As news of the latest advancement in experimental 3D printing of tissue and organ regeneration gains attention, it would be easy to believe that 3D printing in the medical field only happens in the lab. However, new equipment and devices are being 3D printed now and in real world settings.
After years of feasibility studies, 3D printing for medical equipment and prostheses is becoming reality.
Reports have continually shown that 3D printed devices are both practical and less expensive than traditional options. For example, a University of South Florida study[i] related to prosthesis molds found that “Owing to the similarity of the 3D printed materials and the traditional materials, the 3D printed molds are easily integrated into current processing procedures.” And a UK study[ii] observed that 3D printed sensors added onto a prosthesis could help medical professionals increase comfort levels for the prosthesis wearer. In addition to better comfort, these sensors improved overall patient care.
Alan Louie, research director for IDC’s Health Insights Life Sciences Practice, which helps investors with business decisions, has this to say about 3D printing technology: “There is a lot of investment in 3D printing at the moment because there are some very clear ways that the technology can be used to improve existing processes.”[iii]
Louie sees 3D printers as a way to revolutionize medicine. “There are areas where you can determine that using a 3D-printed replacement for the current methodology can actually save money, improve healing, reduce pain, and improve overall patient care—all positive driving factors that are helping the industry move forward.”
An example of how 3D printing medical tools reduces costs is with this bone drill that required an update to better suit the needs of both the patient and surgeon. The existing drill needed a redesign that would consistently keep its temperature low in order to avoid having to pause the procedure to let the tool cool down. The only solution available prior to the 3D printed upgrade was to pause drilling. However, with the assistance of 3D printing technology, a new drill was made using a biocompatible material “designed with their own integrated cooling ducts”. This new drill could be used for longer periods of time during a surgery. “The tests of the 3D printed bone drill determined that its use had reduced the temperature produced by drilling up to 70%”. This upgraded device has shortened the time required for surgery, saving both time and money.
The design process for medical devices and tools begins with patients, doctors, nurses, and other medical staff. They are at the forefront of the industry and keenly aware of the challenges, limitations and frustrations with existing devices. From their daily observations, efficient product re-designs and new medical device designs can, and will, transform the entire medical support field. These innovative ideas create an opportunity to improve care and support, while reducing costs.
3D printing is quickly reshaping the medical device landscape and creating more efficient tools for the medical community. Rapid prototyping brings to life product ideas that support patient care while keeping innovation at the forefront of design.
[i] Jairo Chimento, M. Jason Highsmith, Nathan Crane, (2011) “3D printed tooling for thermoforming of medical devices”, Rapid Prototyping Journal, Vol. 17 Issue: 5, pp.387-392
[ii] Development and validation of a 3D-printed interfacial stress sensor for prosthetic applications. Laszczak, P. et al. Medical Engineering and Physics, Volume 37, Issue 1, 132 – 137.
About the Guest Author:
Becky Wilson writes about the applications of additive manufacturing and 3D printing, highlighting the heart in the tech. Known as Writing by Becky, she lives in Nova Scotia with her family, including two cat overlords, along with various tech gadgets – maybe adding a 3D food printer someday. You can connect with Becky on Twitter (@WritingByBecky).
A one-size-fits-all approach can be utilized for a lot of things however, product development is not one of them. Throughout development, the stages of the “Product Development Cycle” will remain relatively unchanged (Concept, Design, Prototype, Test/Validate, Manufacture and Commercialize), but the approach and time spent in each stage will fluctuate based on the individual needs of your product.
When it comes to the development of a product, there is a great deal of time, energy and effort that goes into both the specialty design and product launch. Just like the fact that each product is unique, product development needs to be unique and customized in order to be successful.
Below we discuss three examples of why the “one-size-fits-all approach” just doesn’t work.
Chances are that if you are working on a highly specialized product, a one-size-fits-all approach would be detrimental to its outcome. Medical equipment, custom manufacturing tools and prosthetics are examples of products that need specialized attention and where precision and accuracy are of the upmost importance. When it comes to the development of these products, your product design will need to be extremely detail oriented and there is no room for error.
With the help of 3D printing technology, one-of-a-kind products are now feasible and quickly gaining in popularity. In a world full of customers, individuals want to stand out and have their unique style recognized. Customers are shying away from the “big box retailer” approach to purchasing products and instead opting for products that suit their specific needs. Hardware products that are highly customized range from in-ear headphones, replacement car parts to orthopedics. With the onset of mass customization, the phrase “one size fits none” is becoming more of a reality for hardware startups and manufacturers alike.
When it comes to licensing and intellectual property, a highly customized product development plan needs to be in place. Often times the product development cycle will also be slightly altered if you are aiming for a licensing agreement or focused on obtaining a patent.
With a license agreement, you will not focus as much on the commercialization stage of product development, since this will be taken care of by the licensee. Instead, your energy will be on developing a product that meets the needs of customers while simultaneously appealing to potential licensees.
If obtaining a patent is your goal, you are going to need to focus more energy early in the development cycle on items such as: patent research and line drawings. Depending on the type of patent you are trying to get, the process can take months or even years, so from the start you will need to communicate to your team what your goals are after obtaining your patent.
Developing a product is a very personal journey for many entrepreneurs—nurturing an idea and seeing that idea take form and eventually a place on store shelves is no easy undertaking. With the right product development approach and team by your side, reaching your end goal can be both feasible and enjoyable.
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is one of the most buzzed about technologies of the past five years. The hype around the technology has certainly diminished since its fever pitch in 2014, in which Forbes published, “3-D Printing Is About To Change The World Forever”—and now the genuine potential of the technology is emerging. Certain industries have taken to the technology quicker than others and have been able to successfully implement it into their supply chain. Below we discuss three areas in which 3D printing technology really shines.
It’s no secret that customers are evolving and their preferences are changing. Where once customers were happy with the “Big Box” store approach, this mentality is starting to shift and customers are looking for more customizable products that meet their specific needs and preferences.
Customization is one of the major benefits of 3D printing. Companies are able to print one-of-a-kind products. One industry that has had great success implementing 3D printing for customization purposes is the designing of prosthetics. Companies and patients have found that they are able to create custom prosthetics at a fraction of the cost with the use of 3D modeling and 3D printing technology.
Like anything, traditional manufacturing has its limitations. Until recently certain designs could not be manufactured simply because they were deemed “not possible” or the expense was too exorbitant to be justifiable. However, 3D printing allows for greater design flexibility.
Biomimicry has grown in popularity among product designers and architects, however, these designs are usually manufacturing headaches. “The purpose of biomimicry is to learn from the way nature has optimized structures, designs and objects for maximum performance so that we can use them to create better solutions.” The curvature and delicate nature of the designs are very organic, which poses a challenge when it comes time for production. 3D printing has enabled designers to step out of the traditional way of designing and focus more on what makes the most sense for the product.
High variability, low demand products cannot be effectively served by traditional manufacturing methods. If you are a collector of any type of vintage item, then you understand the issues that arise if something breaks or you need to restore a piece. “3-D printing readily solves the challenge of manufacturing rare replacement parts, while also overcoming the obstacle of distribution: a plant exists wherever a printer does.”
Certain components cannot simply be bought, and this is where 3D printing comes into play. With a 3D digital design and a 3D printer, a piece that once was impossible to find can now be produced and put into use in record time.
3D printing technology has found its place in the business landscape. With the continued developments of the technology, it is poised to continue to grow and become even more valuable to businesses.
The manufacturing phase of product development poses unique hurdles, no matter if you are a first time hardware startup or you are a well-known corporation. Most recently and notably, Tesla Inc. CEO, Elon Musk, warned of the production challenges that still lie ahead for the Model 3. No company is immune to production challenges. Whether you have decided to manufacture locally or internationally, you are bound to face one or two hiccups before your product is ready to hit store shelves.
Before you dive into the manufacturing phase, we have compiled four of our top manufacturing and commercialization related articles for you. These articles touch on everything from “what to expect from a manufacturing partner” to “how to design for manufacturing from the start”.
“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. Here are some pieces of advice that every hardware startup should know about the manufacturing 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.”
“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—Design for Manufacturability (DFM) works to do just this. With DFM you work out any potential issues before manufacturing planning which saves both time and resources.”
“When the time comes to manufacture your hardware product, having the right 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.”
“If you don’t manufacture a quality product, all you’ve got at the end is a bunch of expensive mistakes.”-Eliyahu M. Goldratt
Have additional questions about the manufacturing process? Send them our way, at email@example.com
Our second ‘3D Printing and CAD Design using LEGO’ Camp of the summer is a little over a month away and in honor of it, we wanted to share ways in which 3D printing technology can be incorporated in the classroom. By now, people understand the practical uses of the technology in a business setting and the benefits of designing and prototyping with 3D printing, but what might be a bit more abstract is how this technology can transform a variety of subjects in the classroom for both students and teachers.
Many K-12 schools and higher education institutions are adding 3D printers to their classrooms and incorporating the technology into lesson plans. 3D printing allows students and teachers to explore, invent and innovate together while promoting a growth mindset. In every step of the 3D printing process students must push the boundaries of traditional thinking and create something entirely new. Critical analysis, critical thinking, design, sketching, prototyping with physical objects, creating a prototype in a CAD software and creating the correct file formats to transfer the finished file into the 3D printing slicer software are the skills students develop and hone when learning to use 3D printing technology.
As noted by the University of Pittsburgh, “3D printing empowers more authentic exploration of objects that may not be readily available. For example, students can print and handle objects such as fossils, prototypes of extinct animals, prosthetics, hardware, buildings and architecture, drones and much more. Students can improve physical objects by 3D scanning the item, uploading the file in a CAD program and tweaking certain aspects to re-invent an object. Flexible filament or filament infused with conductive metals, magnetic metals, or wood allows for more specific applications for certain projects. The possibilities are endless.”
These are just a few ways in which 3D printing can bring hands-on learning to traditional subjects. If you are interested in learning more about 3D printing in the classroom and how to get started, we are happy to help. Our 3D Academy can get you up to speed on 3D printing technology and help devise a lesson plan to integrate the technology.
If you have further question or would like to learn more about 3D printing in the classroom, please send us an email, firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 1.808.722.8667.
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.
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.
No 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