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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
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
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 Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
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
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
Before you take the “leap” into the early stages of product development, you first must decide if you have a viable product idea that is worth pursuing. There is quite a difference between coming up with a fantastic product idea and then coming up with a product idea that is completely unique and solves a universal problem while simultaneously igniting a passion within you.
If you have been mulling over a product idea, but are still on the fence as to whether it is commercially viable—here are four points for you to consider.
Chances are that if you came up with this product idea to solve a problem that you regularly face, others out there are dealing with the same issue. Finding and developing a solution to a common or universal problem is how most great inventions came to be.
Action: Take a minute to write down the problem that your product will be solving and how it would make life easier for its users. You can even start to casually ask family and friends if this is a problem they have experienced. You don’t have to go into details talking about your potential product yet, if you want to keep it in stealth mode, but you can get a feel to see if others are having this same reoccurring issue and would appreciate (and purchase) a solution.
Narrowing down a target market is one of your first tasks. If your product focuses on fixing a technological issue, perhaps your target market is geared toward a younger tech-savvy crowd. Likewise, if your product solves an issue for a specific industry (i.e. automotive, financial services, restaurants, etc.) you are going to want to make sure that it is easily integrated into daily operations.
Action: Compile a list of potential customers. Focus on age range, education, location, skill set and start to narrow your target market focus. Once you have this list, take a moment to think of the ways in which you can reach this segment of the population.
Brand new products are great—they are exciting and intriguing. Brand new products also come with a requirement—you must educate your audience and customer base first about the problem and your solution before they make a purchasing decision. While it is an additional step, it is nothing that can’t be overcome.
If there are already similar products on the market to your product idea, how are you going to make your product shine? What features will set yours apart? What does your pricing strategy look like in comparison?
Action: Do your research and get a comprehensive view of the industry landscape as well as potential competitors.
Products aren’t developed and launched overnight—though it may seem like that at times from an outsider’s perspective. Often though, weeks and months go into development. Many entrepreneurs are carried through the product development cycle by their passion—they have a strong passion and obsession with their product and know that it can make a difference.
Action: Ask yourself if you have the time to dedicate to developing this idea. Will you need help? If so, what type of help?
Have additional questions about product development? We are happy to help! Send us an e-mail at email@example.com
March is Women’s History Month—a time to celebrate the achievements of women and acknowledge the ways in which many have changed modern life through invention.
“The most dangerous phrase in the language is, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’” -Grace Hopper
Before the 1970’s, the topic of women in history was largely missing from general public consciousness. To address this situation, the Education Task Force on the Status of Women initiated a “Women’s History Week” celebration in 1978 and chose the week of March 8 to coincide with International Women’s Day. In 1987, the National Women’s History Project petitioned Congress to expand the celebration to the entire month of March.
Since then, the National Women’s History Month Resolution has been approved every year with bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. (Source: ThoughtCo)
Women have been at the forefront of invention for centuries. Their ideas, and subsequent inventions, have shaped the modern world as we know it. While there are countless women to celebrate, we discuss four women below that have made great strides in engineering.
The First Woman to File an American Patent. In 1809, Mary Dixon Kies received the first U. S. patent issued to a woman. Kies, a Connecticut native, invented a process for weaving straw with silk or thread. First Lady Dolley Madison praised her for boosting the nation’s hat industry. Unfortunately, the patent file was destroyed in the great Patent Office fire in 1836. Until about 1840, only 20 other patents were issued to women. The inventions related to apparel, tools, cook stoves, and fireplaces. (Source: ThoughtCo)
Inventor of the Paper Bag. Margaret Knight was an exceptionally prolific inventor in the late 19th century; journalists occasionally compared her to her better-known male contemporary Thomas Edison by nicknaming her “the lady Edison” or “a woman Edison.”
After seeing a fellow worker injured by a faulty piece of equipment, Knight came up with her first invention: a safety device for textile looms. She was awarded her first patent in 1871, for a machine that cut, folded and glued flat-bottomed paper shopping bags, thus eliminating the need for workers to assemble them slowly by hand. This machine and method is still in use today. Knight received 27 patents in her lifetime. (Source: Biography)
Inventor of Transparent Glass. Katherine Blodgett (1898-1979) was a woman of many firsts. She was the first female scientist hired by General Electric’s Research Laboratory in Schenectady, New York (1917) as well as the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in Physics from Cambridge University (1926). Blodgett’s research on monomolecular coatings led her to a revolutionary discovery.
She discovered a way to apply the coatings layer by layer to glass and metal. The thin films, which naturally reduced glare on reflective surfaces, when layered to a certain thickness, would completely cancel out the reflection from the surface underneath. This resulted in the world’s first 100% transparent or invisible glass. Blodgett’s patented film and process (1938) has been used for many purposes including limiting distortion in eyeglasses, microscopes, telescopes, camera and projector lenses. (Source: Biography)
Computer Science Pioneer. Grace Hopper (1906-1992) was one of the first programmers to transform large digital computers from oversized calculators into relatively intelligent machines capable of understanding “human” instructions. Hopper developed a common language with which computers could communicate called Common Business-Oriented Language or COBOL, now the most widely used computer business language in the world.
In addition to many other firsts, Hopper was the first woman to graduate from Yale University with a Ph.D. in Mathematics, and in 1985, was the first woman ever to reach the rank of admiral in the US Navy. Hopper’s work was never patented; her contributions were made before computer software technology was even considered a “patentable” field. (Source: Biography)
We encourage you to share the stories of these women along with other notable women inventors with your students, colleagues, children and classmates. By acknowledging and celebrating the women innovators of the past, we encourage the women innovators of the future.
Other women inventors that have made an impact are: Stephanie Kwolek (inventor of Kevlar), Melitta Bentz (inventor of the coffeemaker), Ann Moore (inventor of the Snugli baby carrier) and Martha Coston (inventor of pyrotechnic flares).
Building a startup from the ground up is hard work—it takes total commitment, sheer determination and a great deal of research. To help you on the last aspect, we have gathered a few of our most popular blog posts related to starting, managing and running a hardware startup for your reference.
For first time entrepreneurs, the product development journey may seem challenging and fraught with obstacles. With so much information available it can be confusing as to what needs to be done first and who you can turn to. In this post we discuss the first five steps of product development to help you dig in and get to work.
Yes, hardware startups fail and no, that doesn’t mean that yours will. By making yourself aware of the common reasons hardware startups fail, you are preparing yourself, your team and your startup to avoid these roadblocks. The adage may say that “hardware is hard”, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible—we would even dare say that launching a hardware product has never been easier than it is today.
Newcomers to an industry have fresh ideas, new perspectives and innovative ideas. These newcomers are not weighed down by industry norms and the mentality of “it’s always been done this way”. These fresh faces often see opportunities that industry veterans miss.
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. In this post we discuss three frequently asked questions related to product development.
First-time entrepreneurs, and even seasoned entrepreneurs, have questions when it comes to protecting their intellectual property (IP) and moving forward with manufacturing. No two products are alike; therefore, a custom-tailored strategy is necessary when it comes to navigating these two areas of product development.
It doesn’t matter what industry you are going into or if you are a first-time entrepreneur or serial entrepreneur, you are bound to encounter one or more of these challenges along the way. By understanding what lays ahead as you start your product development journey, you will be better equipped to successfully navigate it.
Hardware startups have many moving parts and are exponentially harder to launch than a typical software startup. Between product prototyping, testing, material selection, manufacturing and quality control (just to name a few), many days it seems like there just isn’t enough time to get it all figured out. There is a lot of time and energy that goes into launching a product before it hits store shelves.
These articles will help you get started and answer many of your preliminary questions as you begin your startup journey. You can also find additional information related to starting a business over on our blog. As always, if you have a specific question and want to chat with an expert, we are happy to help! Send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, we look forward to talking with you.
The US Luge Team tapped 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) technology for the XXIII Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Stratasys played a role in helping the US Luge Team go for gold by incorporating additive manufacturing into the sleds being used in this year’s games. However, this is not the first time that 3D printing technology has made an appearance at the Olympic Games.
From the Stratasys blog: “The US Luge Team quickly realized the immense potential for additive to gain a competitive advantage and worked with Stratasys engineers to develop an entirely new process for fabricating their composite sleds. In a matter of days, they were able to design, print, and test prototype sled designs, which would normally take weeks or months using their existing processes. This allowed the team to drastically reduce the design cycle, which in turn, allowed for continuous improvement to create the fastest sled possible.”
One of the main competitive advantages of additive manufacturing is its ability for customization. The team saw the value in this, and had sleds developed that fit each of their bodies. “The design freedom from additive manufacturing enabled the team to create customized sleds that were tailored to each athlete’s body, which in turn, drastically improved comfort, ergonomics and most importantly, final performance. It’s really exciting to see how this technology will push the limits of human endurance for Olympic athletes.”
3D printed apparel was in the spotlight during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. These apparel pieces were designed to be lightweight, reduce the amount of wasted energy given off by the athletes and enhance overall performance through custom designs. Examples of where 3D printing technology was used:
BMW also made a splash at the 2016 Rio Olympics with its ability to track Olympic swimmers in the pool. The renowned car company, stepped off the road a dove into the pool with its LED driven motion system.
“The LED trackers will attach to a swimmers’ wrists, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles and toes through a 3D printed mounting system. The stroke and kick motion received by the coaching staff is an incredibly valuable performance tool as the data will aid in breaking down specific limb and joint angles to optimize performance.” (Sport Techie)
During the 2012 Olympics in London, customized gear through 3D printing was just starting out.
“The British team was noted for wearing customized helmets, bespoke to each Olympic cyclist. Each of these helmets was based upon a 3D scan of the rider’s head and then 3D printed to verify that the fit of the final helmet would be perfect.” (Stratasys Blog)
Renowned swimming company, Speedo, used 3D printing to create goggles that have transparent parts and rubber-like parts printed in a single step. Optimizing design and streamlining the entire design process are just two of the major advantages of additive manufacturing.
As 3D printing technology continues to grow and advance, we expect to see athletes using it more and more to enhance performance and gain a competitive advantage.
Failure is hard and certainly no one goes into building a startup thinking that they are going to fail—however, it happens. While failing is in no way enjoyable, that doesn’t mean that it does not have its benefits—in terms of learning what not to do. We can all learn from failure, we can even learn from other startup’s failures. Below are four areas where hardware startups have faltered. Making yourself aware of the challenges associated with each of these areas, you are more likely to make educated decisions that (hopefully) allow you to avoid failure altogether.
Entrepreneurs are designers at heart—they want to design a product, methodology or experience for their target market. They have a brilliant idea and want to introduce it into the marketplace. Design failure can arise rather quickly if the startup founder is not willing to modify their original design idea to meet the needs of customers or manufacturing.
If your customers are asking for your product to function a certain way, feel a particular way or look a specific way, you are going to want to modify your design. At the end of the day, you want people to both purchase and enjoy your product.
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—DFM (Design for Manufacturability) works to do just this. With DFM you work out any potential issues before manufacturing planning which saves both time and resources. If you fail to design your product with manufacturing in mind, you are making your startup extremely vulnerable to hefty manufacturing costs and even the potential that it is not able to be manufactured at all.
Plenty of hardware startup founders refuse to let anyone see their product until it’s time to launch. Many are afraid that someone will steal their idea, that potential customers won’t like it until it’s perfect, or they want to get a big head start against the competition. Whatever the reason, failure to get feedback is often fatal for a startup.
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.
It doesn’t help your startup if you have a beautiful product that works flawlessly if the market for it just isn’t there. For example, if you are positioning an electronic gadget for the 65+ year old crowd you are going to have a hard sell if they are not well versed in the latest technology trends, or if you are targeting the 18-25 year old crowd with a gadget that is overly cumbersome you are going to face an uphill battle. The solution to this is to find out what appeals to the target market you are aiming to capture and design/modify your product to grab and hold their attention.
This list would not be complete without the mention of funding. Funding is the primary stumbling block for a majority of startups. Developing, manufacturing and launching a product takes time and money. Whether you are turning to crowdfunding or looking for investors, you are bound to face a hurdle or two.
If your goal is to raise capital from investors, be prepared for rejection (a number of times) before you succeed. The process almost always takes longer than you think it will, so start early in your quest to find an investor.
If crowdfunding is your plan, be sure that you show up with a nearly flawless campaign. Your video, content and prototype need to be ready to go. Your goal is to show potential investors that you have a plan laid out, it is well researched and that you are ready.
Starting a hardware company comes with a unique set of challenges. If you can navigate these four common roadblocks, you will be in a much better position for a successful product launch.
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.
Below we discuss four common design challenges facing hardware startups today. It doesn’t matter what industry you are going into or if you are a first-time entrepreneur or serial entrepreneur, you are bound to encounter one or more of these challenges along the way. By understanding what lays ahead as you start your product development journey, you will be better equipped to successfully navigate it.
The marketplace today is vastly different than it was ten years ago. Consumers today not only want originality and authenticity in the products they purchase, they demand it. However, the thing about originality is that it’s hard. The rise of counterfeit goods, shows just how hard it can be to not only come up with an original business idea, but execute it correctly.
Hardware startups today are relying more and more on the experience and knowledge of their product designers to develop a product that is both externally and internally unique, completely original and visually appealing—so that it outshines the competition and stands out in the marketplace.
It is no secret that the one-size-fits-all approach to product design is losing its luster. Take the Futurecraft 4D shoe from Adidas for example. Adidas is known for its top-of-the-line athletic gear, and have shown that they understand that innovation is necessary with their recently unveiled 3D printed shoe. “3D printing allows the shoe company to unlock performance-enhancing design modifications that would have been impossible with other materials like foam.” (TechCrunch) By incorporating this cutting-edge technology into their design and manufacturing process, Adidas is introducing a truly unique and customizable running shoe into the marketplace.
Consumers care about design—hardware startups need to focus in on their product’s physical form, properties and materials. As technology advances, products are becoming slimmer, more light weight and exceptionally durable—in turn, consumers are expecting these characteristics from the products they purchase, not just electronics anymore.
Along with advancing technology, material selection is also advancing. The material expansion with 3D printing alone is ever increasing, today you can expect to see a variety of plastics available for your design (PLA, ABS, PET, PVA, Nylon) however, metals (steel, gold, silver, titanium), ceramic, and wood options are also quickly coming to market.
As a startup your main goal is to design, manufacture and launch a product as quickly as possible to turn a profit. However, the vast technological advancements that help throughout the development process, can also be a double-edged sword. You must also design your product with future technologies in mind.
For example, the recent introduction of the Internet of Things (IoT), has created a vast network of interconnected consumer products that work and communicate with one another. Entrepreneurs that incorporate this type of technological foresight into their product design will no doubt have a clear advantage over those who disregard it and look at it as if it’s a passing fad.
It can be a challenging enough for well-known companies to create buzz over a new product. For a hardware startup navigating a new industry, these challenges increase exponentially. Not only are you creating awareness around your product, but your company and brand as well.
The internet is a great place to start working on this buzz. Between your website design, social media, partnerships, and customer engagement, it is possible to grab the attention of your target market. More and more entrepreneurs are turning to creative mediums, such as podcasts, videos and interactive websites, to build their brand and launch their startup.
While launching a hardware startup can be intimidating, it is not impossible. Knowing and understanding the challenges facing startups, allows you to have a better idea of what to expect and plan accordingly.