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In this post we are going over the product development basics for our friends thinking of launching their dream in the new year. As one year ends and another begins, it’s time for many to look ahead to the possibilities of what a brand new year can bring. If you have been mulling over a hardware product idea in your head and are ready to take that next step, the new year is a great time to get going on it. Below we are sharing product development basics to help get you started.
Write your idea down in detail. Talk about the functionality of your product, what it looks like and what you want it to achieve. Writing the details down will ensure that you don’t forget anything and help clarify the idea for yourself.
The documentation process doesn’t have to happen at one time, but instead, may evolve over time as you continue to build upon your idea and narrow its scope.
Now that you have your idea documented, start creating a requirements list—functionality that your product “must” have. You are narrowing in on the main functionality of your product and why it will appeal to consumers.
Once you have this information, you can create a 3D design to virtually validate and test your product. 3D design testing and analysis is a great way to prove your concept and at this stage making changes is easy. This is also a good time to start thinking about IP protection for your hardware product.
Depending on the type of hardware product you want to develop, you might be able to make a prototype at-home with traditional household items. However, keep in mind that this prototype won’t suffice as you head into manufacturing. In the very early stages, a homemade prototype will help convey your idea to potential investors and customers. As you move towards manufacturing, you are going to need a functional prototype developed using DFM (design for manufacturability) methodology to ensure a smooth transition into manufacturing.
Using your prototype, it is time to reach out to those potential customers to get their feedback and insight. At this stage you want to know what customers like about your product and what they don’t. Keep in mind that you might have to re-evaluate the design of your product if you are receiving feedback indicating that change is needed—these design changes may deviate from your initial idea, but ultimately you want to meet your customers’ needs.
Once you have finalized your design and are happy with the feedback you are receiving from your target market, it’s time to manufacture. Finding the right manufacturing partner can be an intimidating process, but you want to be sure that you are comfortable with your manufacturer since this could be a make or break stage for your hardware product.
It’s time to launch! During the commercialization stage you will develop distribution channels and finally get to see your product on store shelves. With the hard work it took to get to this stage, seeing your product in the hands of your customers is extremely gratifying.
Now that we have gone over product development basics at a high level, you can dig further into these topics on our blog. If you have additional questions, we are happy to help. Please 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.
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 email@example.com.
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
When it comes to filing a patent for your invention, patent drawings are an absolute must. These drawings provide you with the ability to disclose all details and functions of your product in a way that neither words nor photographs can. When you are filing a patent application, you are defining your invention and being awarded a filing date for it, which means that every single detail of your invention needs to be included at this time.
“For applications filed on or after December 18, 2013, other than design applications , U.S. patent laws no longer require that an application contain a drawing to be entitled to a filing date. See 35 U.S.C. 111. Having said that, it is an extraordinary mistake for anyone to believe that drawings are no longer required, or that submitting drawings at the time of filing is not the absolute best practice. Furthermore, it should be understood that high quality drawings — and many of them — are the single best and most economical way to expand the scope of any disclosure filed.” (Gene Quinn of IP Watchdog)
While it might seem that since the passage of the Patent Law Implementation Treaty Act in December of 2013 that patent drawings are not required, it isn’t that simple. “35 U.S.C. 113 continues to require one or more drawings if necessary for the understanding of the subject matter.” (Gene Quinn of IP Watchdog)
Therefore, patent drawings should be viewed as required.
Patent drawings are a set of illustrations showing the detailed features of an invention submitted during the patent application process.
“Drawings with more details have more success. They often cover what inventors forget to describe in the written disclosure. The best way to get an adequate detailed drawing is to hire a professional patent illustrator. Greatly detailed, professional drawings have an increased possibility of approval during the application process.” (Upcounsel)
We have helped many inventors with their patent application drawings. Our skilled team is knowledgeable about the details required in patent drawings. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how we can help during the patent application process.
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
Update: Here is a link to the news segment that aired: 3D Innovations provides students with hands-on learning experience
President of 3D Innovations LLC, Collin Kobayashi, will sit down with Hawaii News Now to talk about the rapid growth of the 3D printing industry and how this industry is influencing major industries here in Hawaii and worldwide. The segment will air on Tuesday, September 24th at 7:20am HST.
3D printing is a technology that lets you create a physical object from a digital model. This technology originated in 1983 and since then has seen a steady rise in popularity. The original function of 3D printing technology, and still its most popular use today, was to rapidly create, develop and test product prototypes. One of the original terms for the technology was in fact, ‘rapid prototyping’. However, as the technology has evolved and matured, so has its name—today it’s most commonly referred to as 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing.
The benefits of 3D printing are numerous: speed, complexity, customization, personalization, simplified manufacturing and ease of access to name a few. For entrepreneurs, these benefits translate into faster product development and quicker product launches. For businesses, these benefits open a completely new way of imaging product designs, expanding product offerings and streamlining the manufacturing process.
The aerospace, automotive, manufacturing, robotics, medical and dental industries are the top industries helping to propel 3D printing forward. These industries have been able to successfully utilize the technology for end-use parts and in turn, have sped up the way they design, build and manufacture—saving companies significant time and money. According to the industry leading Wohler’s Report, the 3D printing industry is forecasted at $15.8 billion for 2020. The forecast continues to climb to $23.9 billion in 2022, and $35.6 billion in 2024.
While 3D printing is making its mark on startups and businesses, it has also found a niche in education. Schools are eager to bring this technology into the classroom as a way of providing hands-on learning experiences. The landscape of education, particularly STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, is shifting and 3D printing is at the forefront. By engaging students in hands-on learning, students are now designing and 3D printing their creative solutions to real world problems, bringing math to life and exploring subject matter in a new and innovative way.
Here at 3D Innovations LLC we utilize this technology frequently throughout the product development process and in our 3D Academy workshops. Head on over to our website to see the various ways we are able to help entrepreneurs, in Hawaii and beyond, develop and launch their startups.
The Crowley family came to us with the idea for The Baby Toon. Their daughter, Cassidy (age 7), had come up with the idea and the design for the Honolulu District Science and Engineering Fair.
“I was instructed to identify a problem. When I went home, I noticed that my mom always got scared when my baby sister put the back of a long, hard, plastic spoon in her mouth. I didn’t want anything to happen to her and I didn’t like seeing my mom so worried, so I came up with… The Baby Toon!”
We worked with the Crowley family on finding the optimal design for The Baby Toon, we used 3D printing to test prototypes and worked with their manufacturing partner on the molding. The Baby Toon also holds a patent, in which we were able to assist as well.
3D Innovations was efficient, current with technology during the design and engineering process, and aware of staying within our financial budget. Our family was not only educated and received expert advice through the process, but we gained a friend who we enjoyed working with.
-Lori Crowley, The BabyToon
The Baby Toon is a safer option for a baby spoon that eliminates the long sharp design of a traditional spoon. It is made of soft FDA grade silicone with rounded corners and edges (gentle on the baby’s gums) and it’s BPA/PPA free. Babies can also teethe on this soft spoon as well. The Baby Toon is easy for babies and parents to hold with a short neck that protects babies from choking. It also works great for big sisters or brothers to assist with feedings.
The Crowley family was notified recently that they would be on the Season Premiere of Shark Tank and below is their daughters’ reaction to the news!
Head on over to the Case Study section of our website to see a range of products where we have worked closely on many aspects of the product development and helped entrepreneurs launch their businesses.
3D printing, also referred to as additive manufacturing, has captured the imagination of consumers, product designers and manufacturers alike over the last decade. We have witnessed the technology go through a hype cycle and come out the other side a more mature and grounded technology. No longer are people predicting a 3D printer in every home; however, product development engineers and the manufacturing industry have seen widespread use of the technology grow as material selection has increased and test use-cases in the aerospace and automotive industries have proved wildly successful.
During the major 3D printing hype cycle of the mid 2010’s, 3D printing technology was being touted as a green technology that was on the cusp of revolutionizing the way we build products and conduct business. At the time there were green components to the technology, but as a whole, it could not necessarily be considered environmentally friendly. Fast forward a decade, and we now see the technology heading towards a more sustainable future through advancements.
Plastic pollution is a global problem. Microplastics can be found in nearly everything—from the food we eat to the deepest depths of the ocean. Plastic, specifically ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), is a top material used in 3D printing; however, there has been a push to develop more environmentally friendly materials, such as PLA ((Polylactic Acid). “PLA is manufactured out of plant-based resources such as corn starch or sugar cane, making PLA much better for the environment because they are made from renewable resources.” (Fabbaloo)
“PLA plastics are more environmentally friendly. Unlike other thermoplastics that are petroleum-based, they are made from renewable resources such as corn starch, tapioca roots, or sugar cane. PLA is also much easier to print with compared to ABS; printing can be completed at higher speeds without a heat controlled surface or harmful emissions. Not only do they tend to have a smoother and more appealing appearance, but they can also be used for food packaging being that they are made from food-based materials. However, there are some major limitations to using PLA plastics. Primarily, they are less sturdy then ABS plastics and can become deformed from heat, making them unsuitable for high stress applications.” (Fabbaloo)
While the materials used in 3D printing aren’t 100% sustainable yet, there is an alternative that many people have turned to, filament recyclers. Whether you purchase a filament recycler or use a service, you are reducing waste and recycling materials that should not be in a landfill.
The concept of 3D printing is to produce a part on demand thus reducing shipping and warehouse costs. The aerospace industry has been successful in producing highly customized parts locally that can be used in airplanes. These customized parts often have highly specialized and complex designs that can reduce weight, thus lowering fuel consumption and greenhouse gases.
Many researchers think the capability to make such complicated parts, and resulting gains in energy efficiency, may offer the greatest environmental benefits from additive manufacturing. (Fast Company)
Traditional manufacturing methods take a piece of material and cutaway at it until the final product is formed—there is a great deal of waste that comes with subtractive manufacturing. On the other hand, additive manufacturing produces a product layer-by-layer until the final product is complete, leaving substantially less waste. Yes, large designs will require supports that will need to be cleared away in post-processing, but on average less waste is produced.
As the additive manufacturing industry continues to grow and mature, we suspect that new ways to reduce material waste will be of concern.
As consumers and businesses start focusing more on sustainability, we know that 3D printing materials and waste reducing methods will take center stage. While the technology is not currently a “green technology” with research and advancements it can certainly become more environmentally friendly.
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
When it comes to hardware product development the road to success is often winding and full of bumps and roadblocks, rarely is it linear. Navigating these unforeseen challenges can be overwhelming for many first-time entrepreneurs. To share some guidance, we have compiled a few of our top blog posts related to the early stages of hardware product development.
Coming up with a hardware product idea is exhilarating—knowing that you have an idea that will help not only yourself, but an entire segment of the population, is the very definition of exciting. So now you have an idea, but you aren’t exactly sure what to do next.
When it comes to product design, creativity can really make a difference in the success of a product. First time entrepreneurs can get caught up in the idea that their original idea is the best idea, however this is not always the case. There are many reasons that your product may shift during product design—it is not efficient for manufacturing, timing is off, it’s too difficult for customers to use, it doesn’t have a solid consumer base. There are numerous factors that can change a product, and that is okay. It is okay to end up with a product that is different than your original idea, because the goal is success.
Patents, copyrights and trademarks are all forms of intellectual property. For the purpose of this piece, patents — particularly design patents and utility patents — will be the focus of the conversation. While all three types of IP are indeed essential for success, hardware-focused products rely heavily on patents. Often times, proper patent protection can mean the difference between success and failure for a hardware startup.
In today’s connected world, these major tech hubs are becoming less and less appealing for entrepreneurs just setting out with their startup. It’s no secret that the cost of living in major tech hubs is astronomical and upfront costs to get your business going also come at a premium. So if you are an entrepreneur looking into hardware product development and starting a business, but have no desire to pick-up and move, below are a few ideas on how you can successfully launch your hardware startup from your home city.
Product development partners are a great way to team up with knowledgeable experts that can help make your product idea a reality. A hardware product development partner can work with you from product idea through manufacturing and can assist in a wide variety of ways. Here we share a few suggestions on questions to ask potential product development firm partners.
Have additional hardware product development questions? Send us an email, firstname.lastname@example.org