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It is a common misconception that building a hardware startup is a straightforward and linear process: Find a Problem—Design a Solution—Sell the Product—Make Money. In theory this is how it should work, but in actuality, this process is more of a maze with twists and turns on your way to success. What you don’t see in this high level linear description are the many challenges and pitfalls you and your startup must navigate before you “Make Money“.
Below are three challenges that first-time hardware entrepreneurs don’t always foresee.
Feedback is critical during product development. You aren’t going to know if you are on the right track without feedback from your target market. You are going to want people in your target market to test your product (not just family and friends). It is helpful to get feedback that is both honest and actionable.
By creating an inexpensive prototype, and gathering feedback from it, you will be in a much better position as you build your product. This feedback loop is important until the final design is ready.
Developing a hardware product takes time. Product development doesn’t happen overnight, especially if you are gathering customer feedback along the way and making the necessary adjustments. Depending on your product, product development could take months or even years before you are confident that it is ready to head into manufacturing.
Manufacturing is another area that has a long lead time. Whether you decide to manufacture locally or internationally, you are going to be playing the waiting game. The thing with long lead times is that if you know they are coming, expect them, and plan accordingly, they are less likely to derail your journey to success.
To understand your market, you need to research it. What products succeed in this space? Is there a similar product to yours that has found success in this product space? What did their journey look like? Has a similar product failed? What information can you glean from other startups’ success and failure in this space?
If possible, get out and talk to people already in this product space to see what they say about it. By understanding the market, you will get a better understanding of where your product will fit into it.
Each product and each startup will face their own challenges on the way to market; by preparing yourself for these twists and turns along the way, you will be in a much better position to successfully navigate them.
Have additional questions about bringing a product to market? 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.
Navigating the world of intellectual property is challenging for seasoned entrepreneurs, and even more stressful when you are working on designing and launching your very first product. Intellectual property (IP) is often moved to the bottom of the priority list because it is full of unknowns. When is the right time to file? Do I need a design patent? Is a trademark necessary?
With the spread of technology and globalization, a solid intellectual property strategy has never been more critical. Copycat products are popping up at an alarming rate—which is bad for business and dangerous for consumers. Having a strong intellectual property strategy early-on or having the patent process started, is a great way to protect your invention, attract or solidify partnerships and secure funding.
Below are links to help you get familiar with intellectual property terminology, resources, and strategies.
Intellectual property (IP) protection is an important consideration for any startup, and possibly even more so for hardware startups. Patents are a way to not only protect an idea, but to also minimize competition and act as a defense mechanism against infringement claims from others. Here are four considerations for your startup’s intellectual property strategy.
No two products are alike; therefore, a custom-tailored strategy is necessary when it comes to navigating these two areas of product development.
On the IP side, a decision must be made about what type of patent (design patent or utility patent) makes sense for the invention and budget. On the manufacturing side, everything about the design, even the smallest details, must be accounted for when selecting materials and where to manufacture the product. Having insight and answers early-on in the startup journey helps entrepreneurs understand the full spectrum of what it takes to bring a product to market.
A provisional patent application early-on can be very beneficial for a hardware startup if your business goal is to either license your invention or proceed with a patent filing.
If you are planning to manufacture your product abroad, considering a crowdfunding campaign, wanting to speak with potential investors or find yourself constantly worrying about someone copying your invention, then meeting with a patent attorney is a great idea.
Whether you are at the helm of a startup that plans on crowdfunding a product or a SME working on a new and innovative technology, securing and protecting your intellectual property (IP) rights to that invention is key to successful commercialization.
Some people confuse patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Although there may be some similarities among these kinds of intellectual property protection, they are different and serve different purposes.
Have additional questions regarding an intellectual property strategy for your startup? We are happy to help. 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.
In addition to our two June STEM Summer Enrichment Camps, our 3D Academy has added a third in July. For the July camp (July 30th – August 3rd), we have partnered with Bricks4kidz to provide a creative, hands-on, immersive STEM camp experience.
Let’s build a CITY! There are many different types of engineering jobs, and building is one of the most fun! What would a city be without the architects and engineers who come up with the ideas, plans and building skills to make it all come together?
Campers will put their engineering and architecture skills to work as they build city themed models using LEGO® Bricks. The sky’s the limit when campers are challenged to use their own ideas and skills to build a skyscraper taller than their heads! They’ll have a blast using custom-built cars to move the people of the city all around town – brick by brick! What an accomplishment to be able to proudly exclaim “We built this BRICK City!”
Students will learn the fundamentals of 3D Design, 3D Printing, CAD Design and Spatial Environments to create their own custom Lego design and part while learning about the various principles that integrate with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Students will be introduced to the world of 3D Printing, CAD Design, Engineering, and prototyping all while being in an immersive STEM learning environment.
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
Product design is a delicate balance between what the entrepreneur wants the product to be and what the end-user actually needs. Need v. Want comes up in our everyday life, and it is no different when you are designing a product for consumers. Often, the entrepreneur will think that they know what the customer needs, but without actively asking potential customers they could be missing the mark.
Recently we came across the Design Hierarchy of Needs, from Stephen Bradley, (writing for Smashing Magazine) which is based on the same concept as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. “Abraham Maslow’s, the American psychologist, is most famous research examined human motivation. In 1943 he published his paper; A Theory of Human Motivation. In this paper he revealed his understanding of human needs and proposed that they formed a hierarchy from the most basic to the most complex. He suggested that in order for a human being to be satisfied they must meet of all their needs. However, the most basic needs must be fulfilled before higher level needs can be met satisfactorily.” (Interaction Design Foundation)
Stephen Bradley took Maslow’s concept and amended it to provide a useful guide for developing products which deliver high-levels of value to the customer.
Functionality. Before anything else, a product must be functional. It must meet the most basic needs of the customer. “Designs that meet only basic functionality needs are considered to be of little to no value. A design is expected to meet basic functionality needs; doing so isn’t considered anything special.” (Smashing Magazine)
Reliability. Once your product design has fulfilled the basic functionality requirement, it can now move up to reliability. At this level your product is expected to successfully preform a function, over and over again without failing. Your product should exhibit stable and constant performance. If you have a product that works 90% of the time but fails the other 10%, it is not meeting the customers reliability needs.
Usability. Now that your design is reliable, it is time to examine its usability. Can a customer pick up your product and easily figure out how to use it? For example, are the buttons easy to navigate, is it easy to understand, is the product design forgiving if an incorrect button is pushed? “Usable designs are perceived to be of moderate value. We do have some basic expectations of usability, but we recognize that many things don’t quite work as we expect or would like.” (Smashing Magazine)
Proficiency. “Designs regarded as proficient are perceived to function at a high level. A design that allows people to do things not previously possible and to expand on basic functionality is considered to be great.” (Smashing Magazine) Is your product allowing your customer to do things that they once were unable to? If your product is adding value to their everyday life and making things easier, you are on the right track.
Creativity. Once the lower-level needs have been met, your product design can focus on creativity. An iconic corporate example of success at this level is Apple. Their products meet all of the basic needs and then excel when it comes to innovation and creativity. Designs that meet creative needs are perceived to be of the highest level.
Just like in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the Design Hierarchy of Needs can be looked at with a critical eye. Will consumers buy a product that useable but not necessarily reliable all the time? Or a product that is highly creative but not exactly proficient?
The Design Hierarchy of Needs is a good starting point during the product development process. As an entrepreneur, you can look at your product, or product idea, through this lens and determine where your product excels, and which areas need a little more help before your product design is finalized.
Register today for a Summer STEM Enrichment Camp. Summer is drawing near—the end of the school year is approaching, kids are counting down to their last day of school before summer break and parents are panicking about how to keep their kids occupied and learning during this time off. Take a deep breath parents, we have you covered.
We have brought back our popular Summer STEM Enrichment Camps this year and are partnering with Kalvio, a local electrical engineering and electrical contracting company. In the month of June we will be offering two different camps that are sure to excite your child’s inquisitive mind.
3D Academy and Kalvio collaborate to create an in-depth and immersive camp experience for your child through the STEM Summer program. Students will learn the fundamentals of 3D Design, 3D Printing, CAD Design and Spatial Environments and be able to build their own Drone while learning about the various principles that integrate with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Students will be introduced to the world of 3D Printing, CAD Design, Engineering, Electronics, and prototyping all while being in an immersive STEM learning environment.
3D Academy and Kalvio collaborate to create an in-depth and immersive camp experience for your child through the STEM Summer program. Students will learn the fundamentals of 3D Design, 3D Printing, CAD Design and Spatial Environments to create their own custom Co2 mini rocket while learning about the various principles that integrate with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Students will be introduced to the world of 3D Printing, CAD Design, Engineering, and prototyping all while being in an immersive STEM learning environment.
We have streamlined the registration process and you can quickly register for these camps over on our website: 3D Academy STEM Enrichment Camps
*For both camps, all campers must bring a peanut free lunch, snack and drink. Visit www.3d-innovations.com/3dacademy or contact Collin Kobayashi at email@example.com or 808.722.8667 for more information.
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.
Technology is transforming the landscape of our lives—in today’s global marketplace there is no substitute for a strong STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) background as you enter the workforce. “STEM workers tend to earn 26% more than non-STEM workers and yearly growth for STEM workers is projected to be almost double that of non-STEM workers.” (Florida State University) Industry is shifting and to help our students keep up with the demand, a STEM education is imperative.
As a nation, our education industry has recognized that our students are not receiving the best hands-on, STEM-focused, education possible for a myriad of reasons. This means that our students are falling behind in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math subjects, and that they are missing out on other valuable lessons as well. Below are some of the areas in which STEM helps students thrive.
Problem Solving Skills
Hands-on lessons for STEM subjects often revolve around solving real world problems. Students are required to assess a situation and develop a solution. Problem solving skills are immensely beneficial both inside and outside of the classroom. Having the ability to stop, assess, analyze, hypothesize and solve a problem is a skill every individual needs at every age level.
We are all aware of the benefits of “thinking outside the box”, however, this does not always come naturally. Learning to ask questions and develop diverse solutions helps to instill an inquisitive mindset.
Teamwork and Collaboration
Working as part of a team starts from a young age and continues on into the workplace. Learning how to collaborate and work together is a necessity. Teamwork helps students learn about different perspectives, respecting other ideas and coming up with a solution together.
Scientific linear methodology requires organization—there is a set manner in which to approach a problem. All STEM subject areas require a step 1, step 2, step 3 and so on; you can’t solve a math equation by skipping steps. Students learn the importance of being organized and why it is important to their everyday lives as well.
STEM education can be taught through lectures; however, it has been proven time and again that hands-on learning is the best method for teaching and instilling these concepts. Giving students an opportunity to use technology, use their hands, ask questions and see concepts in action sparks excitement in them as well as a desire to learn more.
STEM Enrichment Camps
This summer our 3D Academy is offering two STEM Enrichment Camps, “3D Design and Drone Building” and “3D Printed Rocket Building”. Students will learn the fundamentals of 3D Design, 3D Printing, CAD Design and Spatial Environments and be able to build their own Drone/custom Co2 mini rocket while learning about the various principles that integrate with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Students will be introduced to the world of 3D Printing, CAD Design, Engineering, Electronics, and prototyping all while being in an immersive STEM learning environment. Learn more about both camps and easily register, over on our website: 3D Academy STEM Enrichment Camps.
We had a great time connecting with students at the 2018 Hawaii STEM Conference earlier this month. At this year’s conference, our main area of participation was hosting an onsite ‘Product Design & Pitch’ competition, where students were given a challenge that they had to complete within 24 hours. (Read more about the challenge here.) As always, the students impressed us with their creativity and ability to turn an idea into a marketable product.
After the competition we caught up with a few of the students to get feedback about their competition experience. See what these fantastic STEM students had to say:
“The product design and pitch competition was a fun and beneficial competition that allowed me to cooperate with others, especially with the amount of work we had to put within a day. It allowed me to gain knowledge on CAD and designing because I had to create a detailed product within a few hours. This Hawaii STEM Conference competition will help me in designing other products or concepts in the field of engineering.”
“I wanted to enter the Product Design and Pitch Competition because of my past experiences in problem solving and designing through competitions and assignments in my STEM classes at school. I am familiar with the process of product design competitions; and joining this pitch competition was another opportunity to apply my problem solving and critical thinking skills.”
“Taking Engineering Tech 1 really helped with completing the competition, since we learned how to use the applications required to do the competition such as using Autodesk Inventor and things as simple as how do I present my idea/design to a panel of judges.”
Receiving this kind of feedback is exactly why we like to connect with students early-on to help bridge the gap between academia and industry. Hands-on learning really engages students and brings abstract STEM concepts to life.
3D Academy, a division of 3D Innovations, specializes in developing and integrating industry technologies with STEM Programs and 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.
Our core program utilizes 3D CAD and takes students through the entire design process (design, prototyping, manufacturing, etc.). When integrated into the school curriculum, our STEM education programs provide students with opportunities to solve real world design problems, engage with industry standard technology, and transform concepts into reality.
Education programs are available statewide and have been integrated with many robotics programs such as FIRST, UROV, BotBall, and First Lego League. Programs are both customizable and scalable to meet various applications and grade levels.
If your classroom or school is interested in a personalized hands-on approach to STEM education, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can talk further about your program needs and how our 3D Academy can assist you.
We don’t often like to disappoint our hardware startup friends, in fact our entire business is built around making our clients happy by exceeding expectations. When it comes to the secret of hardware startup success, however, we don’t have some profound hidden away piece knowledge to impart upon you, in fact, we bet this secret is something that you have heard at least a hundred times. Maybe you jotted down a quick reference note for it or maybe it went in one ear and out the other. This secret gets thrown around in conversations and presentations, but it is not always given the respect it deserves or the attention it needs. The secret we are referring to is “find a solution to a common problem experienced by many”.
We bet you just read that sentence and thought to yourself, “Yes, I have definitely heard that before”. The thing about the secret to startup success, is that it is not a secret at all. We work with countless hardware entrepreneurs that have an abundance of product ideas, and often one of our first pieces of advice comes in the form of two questions, “What problem are you solving?” and “What segment of the population faces this problem regularly?” The answers to these questions can help determine if your product idea is poised for success.
If you are currently mulling a product idea around in your head and deciding if it is worthy to pursue, ask yourself the following three questions.
If you are personally experiencing this issue, there is a good chance that others are as well. Casually ask friends and family if they notice this problem and if they have ever thought of a solution to it. You might be surprised at how many people experience this issue, but have probably just decided that “this is the way it is” and haven’t given any real thought to a solution.
The thing with startups, is that they can, on average, act quickly and pivot just as fast. Large corporations undoubtedly have the funds, but moving fast is not something they can do. So are you in a position in which you can quickly and efficiently design a solution and launch it into the marketplace? Moving fast gives you a head start, and often, it is before the big industry players even notice the problem.
Do you have the skillset necessary to act quickly? Think about your network, do you know others that can help or offer advice as you get going? Keep in mind that no one has all the skills necessary to succeed. This is what teams and product development partnerships are for. Understanding your skills and limitations will help you know where you need assistance and where you can take on a majority of the responsibilities.
Have additional questions about developing and launching a product into the marketplace? We are happy to help! Send us an email at email@example.com
We are proud sponsors once again of the Hawaii STEM Conference taking place April 10-11th. This is an event that showcases the many talents of our students here in Hawaii, while giving them an opportunity to delve deeper into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects with hands-on learning and activities.
Our main area of participation this year will be hosting an onsite ‘Product Design & Pitch’ competition where students will be given a challenge on the first day and will have 24 hours to complete the project.
The project will involve taking the design challenge and coming up with a detailed design and business plan. Students will focus on developing a design, product prototype, business/marketing plan, financials, manufacturing plan and then present their research to a panel of judges.
The presentation will be held in a ‘Shark Tank’ style and the students will present the design and business information they have researched and developed to the judges.
We are always amazed at the ingenuity and creativity displayed by students during these entrepreneurial competitions.
See you there!
3D printing, also commonly referred to as additive manufacturing, is a technology that has grown exponentially over the last five to ten years. It has been a favorite tool of makers and product design professionals alike. 3D printing technology allows designers to quickly, easily and efficiently design and produce a product prototype for review. While prototyping is where 3D printing is most popular and widely used, the technology is beginning to mature and find it’s way into manufacturing for end-use parts as well.
“When it was invented, 3D printing was referred to as rapid prototyping, a method for automating and reducing the labor required to create a prototype model for design validation. Since then, it has found use in a number of other applications, but the technology is still widely implemented to create visual models and functional prototypes.”
A visual model of your product lets you get a better idea of how the product will look and feel. With the rapid expansion of 3D printing materials and colors available, you have more options than ever when it comes to product design materials. Most hardware entrepreneurs start with a visual model and then move forward with a functional prototype for design validation and testing.
A functional prototype allows you to test the form, fit and functionality of your product. Testing and validating your product design with a functional prototype is highly recommended so that any potential errors can be fixed before heading into manufacturing.
The benefits of a functional prototype extend beyond your design. With a functional prototype you can also gather critical market feedback, rally financial support from venture capitalists and your community as well as file for a patent.
A major misstep that can derail your hardware startup is to skip the development of a functional prototype.
As a design moves from the concept phase to the production phase, a manufacturer might implement 3D printing for the fabrication of custom tools that aid in the production process. “This can include anything from guides for precise drilling, dies for forming or cutting raw material into a specific shape and measurement tools, like gauges, to jigs and fixtures that hold a part in place while other operations are performed.”
3D printing is a flexible tool that can be used either directly or indirectly in the creation of tooling for manufacturing. In the case of indirectly, a tool may be made by coating a 3D-printed component in rubber, which is then used to cast the tool itself.
Currently, due to the speed, quality and cost of 3D printing, “the technology is best suited for the production of specialty parts in smaller batches, rather than mass-manufactured goods. However, there is an industry shift towards expanding 3D printing technology to take a more prominent role in mass manufacturing”.
“3D printing brings some important qualities to the world of manufacturing that make it ideal for certain jobs. For instance, parts can have complex geometries impossible with traditional manufacturing processes. It is also possible to 3D print goods on demand, allowing for easy creation of custom parts.”
Because of these intrinsic benefits, businesses that need to create specialty or custom parts in shorter runs will often turn to 3D printing to manufacture their products. The benefit is that they don’t have to invest in costly tooling to mass produce goods that will only see a limited release.
Have additional questions about 3D printing or how the technology can benefit your business? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org