Posts Tagged "entrepreneurs"

Product development basics for first-time hardware entrepreneurs.

Product Development Basics for Hardware Entrepreneurs

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.

Product development basics for first-time hardware entrepreneurs.

Document Your Idea

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.

Create Requirements

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.

Build a Prototype

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.

Solicit Feedback

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.

Head to Manufacturing

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.

Commercialize

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 info@3d-innovations.com

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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Tips to design environmentally friendly products.

How to Design Environmentally Friendly Products

Tips to design environmentally friendly products.Consumers are driving change and pushing companies to design environmentally friendly products. This has led to a real shift in the product development and manufacturing space towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly practices as well. “While poor packaging design, toxic materials, and disposable products can have a significantly negative ecological impact, the opposite is also true. Good packaging design, eco-conscious materials, and well-designed products go a long way toward reducing pollution and maximizing resources.” (CAD Crowd)

Incorporating eco-conscious design principals into your product is possible in a variety of ways. Below we explore ways to design environmentally friendly products.

The Design for the Environment (DfE) Approach

The DfE approach to product design covers the entire life-cycle of a product. Below are the four main principals to design environmentally friendly products that have minimal negative impacts on the environment.

Design for disposal or reuse.

All products reach the end of their life cycle at some point. When they are no longer useful they are often put in the trash and sent to a landfill. This means that the material it is made of is now sitting in a landfill. Environmentally conscious design will account for this and utilize materials that can decompose or that do not emit harmful contaminants.

Consider the environmental impacts of the constituent materials and how they might be disassembled and reused. (CAD Crowd)

Design for energy efficiency.

This concept applies primarily to electronic devices. The goal is to reduce, as much as possible, the overall energy consumed by the product over the course of its life cycle. Energy efficient light bulbs are the prototypical example of this principle in action. (CAD Crowd)

Design for environmental processing and manufacturing.

Consider how the raw materials that go into making the various components of your invention are extracted, processed, and manufactured. Whether and how they are mined, drilled, or grown and harvested will constitute a large part of the final product’s environmental footprint.

How were these materials processed? The nature of the raw materials will also determine whether the product will be recyclable, biodegradable, toxic, or otherwise dangerous to the environment. A major goal of this design principle is to minimize the amount of waste, pollution, and energy expenditure that goes into creating the product. (CAD Crowd)

Design for environmental packaging.

Using reusable or recyclable shipping and packaging products, eliminating any unnecessary paper and plastic packaging material, and making efficient use of space are the key strategies for creating environmentally friendly packaging. (CAD Crowd)

Most businesses today aim to produce goods at a low cost while maintaining quality, staying competitive in the global marketplace and meeting consumer preferences for more environmentally friendly products.

The design of environmentally friendly products benefits businesses in a number of ways: cost savings, reduced business and environmental risks, expanded business and market opportunities, and to meet environmental regulations.

Have additional questions about designing an environmentally friendly product? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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3d printing for manufacturing has challenges to overcome.

5 Challenges in 3D Printing Manufacturers Need to Overcome

3d printing for manufacturing has challenges to overcome.

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.

Quality Problems with 3D Printing

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.

Lack of Standardized Procedures

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.

Lack of Specialized Skills

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.

Capital Equipment and Material Costs

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.

Focus on Prototypes and not the Final Products

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, on Shark Tank Season 11 Premiere

The Baby Toon – From Science Fair to Shark Tank

Our client, The Baby Toon, on Shark Tank Season 11 Premiere

Image is from ABC Shark Tank

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.

From this entire startup journey, what valuable lesson did you walk away with?

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.

What was your favorite part about being on Shark Tank?

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.

During the product development process of The Baby Toon, do you have a favorite memory or experience?

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.

Collin Kobayashi at 3D Innovations, LLC

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 info@3d-innovations.com.

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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Questions to ask a potential manufacturing partner for your hardware startup.

The Search for a “Perfect” Manufacturing Partner

Questions to ask a potential manufacturing partner for your hardware startup.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.

Do you have experience manufacturing a product similar to mine?

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.

What is your minimum production volume?

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.

Will you be able to scale with my business?

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.

What is your preferred method of communication?

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.

When is the best time for a factory visit?

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.

Now here is what your future manufacturing partner wants you to know.

Have additional questions about manufacturing your product? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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Early-stage hardware product development advice.

The Early-Stage of Hardware Product Development

Early-stage hardware product development advice.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.

Get Your Product Idea Off the Ground

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, Let Creativity Shine

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.

Design Patents and Utility Patents for Startups

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.

Building A Hardware Startup Outside of a Major Tech Hub

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.

Questions for Potential Product Development Partners

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, info@3d-innovations.com

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When it comes to product design let creativity shine.

When it Comes to Product Design, Let Creativity Shine

When it comes to product design let creativity shine.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. In a recent article we read on Entrepreneur, 8 Funny and Relatable Experiences That All Entrepreneurs Go Through, their third point really stood out to us: “Your end product is very different from the idea you started with”. Time and again we have seen this—the final product is not the exact original product idea.

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. You want to launch a product that resonates with consumers and successfully launches your startup.

To harness your creativity and be open to where product design can take you. If you are working with a product development firm, be open to design ideas. There are new manufacturing methods and design technologies available today that might be just what your product needs to take it to that next level.

Two technologies that will help you during the product design phase are:

3D Design

3D design will give you a feel for your product before it is even in your hands. You will be able to see your product in 3D and test your design to validate it all before you have a physical object to hold.

3D Printing

3D printing technology allows you to design and develop a product that breaks the confines of traditional design. Complex designs that break traditional constraints are now manufacturable thanks to this innovative technology.

Depending on the size of your product, your first physical prototype might be 3D printed. This technology will let you design, refine and re-print your product until you land on a final design.

When it comes to product design, think outside the boxway outside the box. Don’t get in your own way and stifle your creativity. With the technology available today, you are able to let your design imagination run wild, and the craziest part is that what you imagine can actually be made.

Have additional product development questions? Send us an email, info@3d-innovations.com

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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Questions to ask potential product development partners.

Questions for Potential Product Development Partners

Questions to ask potential product development partners.Product development partners are a great way to team up with knowledgeable experts that can help make your product idea a reality. Often, entrepreneurs don’t have all the skills or knowledge necessary to bring their product to market on their own—this is where a product development firm can help. Product development partners can work with you from product idea through manufacturing and can assist in a wide variety of ways. Below are a few suggestions on questions to ask potential product development firm partners.

Do you have experience relevant to my project?

Potential product development partners will most likely not have built your exact project before, however they should have relevant experience. You want to know that they have experience and knowledge in this space. You don’t necessarily need a partner that has worked solely in this space, because you want to have a product development partner that thinks “outside the box” and is focused on new and innovative design methods.

Can you work from idea through manufacturing?

Working with a single product development firm through product manufacturing is going to streamline the entire development process. You want a firm that can handle prototyping, functional prototyping, testing, product analysis, design documentation, intellectual property support, and manufacturing expertise. Each of these areas requires extensive experience and knowledge.

In addition, having a single point of contact at the firm means that you can build a comfortable working relationship with your development partner, minimize frustrations and get all of your questions answered in a timely manner.

 What prototyping services do you offer?

3D printing is a very popular prototyping technology that is widely used. You can print initial prototypes in hours, refine the design and print again until you reach a final design. However, that doesn’t mean that it is the best technology for your project. See what other types of prototyping capabilities they have and if those match with what you had in mind.

Do you offer manufacturing assistance?

Manufacturing can be quite challenging, and you want a partner that has experience in this area along with good working relationships with manufacturers. Whether you decide to manufacture internationally or domestically, product development partners should be able to help guide you through this process and offer assistance.

In addition, be sure to check out past client reviews of any potential product development partners. You want a product development partner that will be with you every step of the way and cheering you on as you launch your product into the marketplace.

Have additional product development questions? Send us an email, info@3d-innovations.com

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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3D printing, or additive manufacturing, allows for complex designs.

3D Printing: Discover New Design Possibilities

3D printing, or additive manufacturing, allows for complex designs.3D printing technology, also referred to as additive manufacturing, allows you to explore design possibilities without typical design constraints. This means that new shapes and figures that are not easily manufactured, or that are impossible to manufacture with traditional manufacturing methods, are now within the realm of possibility. Complex geometries, quick turnaround times and customization are a few of the main reasons that 3D printing has risen to popularity among a number of top industries: aerospace, automobile, dentistry and medical industries have all embraced additive manufacturing technology.

If you are wondering if 3D printing could benefit your project or business, here are a few points to consider:

Do you have a complex product design?

One of the primary advantages of 3D printing is that you can break traditional manufacturing barriers with your product design. With 3D printing technology, complex geometries, internal features and built-in interlocking objects with no assembly required are all possible. With these additional design capabilities, additive manufacturing creates new product design opportunities.

Do you need a highly customized part?

Customization is the “sweet spot” for additive manufacturing. If you need a one-off customized part, 3D printing will most likely provide you with the quickest turnaround and best cost efficiency—depending on size of course.

Are you looking for small batch manufacturing?

3D printing isn’t quite at the mass manufacturing scale yet, but it can certainly help with small batch manufacturing. If you need just a few parts or pieces for a project, 3D printing can certainly be of assistance.

Are you at the prototyping phase of product development?

Additive manufacturing is an excellent option for initial prototypes. You can get a physical prototype in hours, refine the design and print again. It will take a few iterations to get it just how you are imagining it. Startups all over the globe are now turning towards additive manufacturing technology at various stages of product development—low cost and quick turnaround times make it ideal for budget-conscious hardware startups.

The additive manufacturing industry is continuing to grow and mature. Metal 3D printing, increased productivity and material selection are all areas that have seen rapid growth in recent years. Businesses of all sizes can benefit from the technology and take advantage of what it has to offer.

Have additional questions about 3D printing for your product or business? Please send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com and we are happy to answer your questions.

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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Design patents and utility patents help protect a hardware startup.

Design Patents and Utility Patents for Startups

Design patents and utility patents help protect a hardware startup.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.

Patent Basics

A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). U.S. patent grants are effective only within the United States, U.S. territories, and U.S. possessions. There are three types of patents: utility, design and plant patents.

  1. Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof;
  2. Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture; and
  3. Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.
Conducting a Patent Search

Once you have decided that you are interested in patenting your product, the next step is to conduct a patent search. A proper patent search will tell you if your invention, or its likeness, has been patented before or if your invention is indeed one-of-a-kind. There is nothing more time consuming, financially draining and demoralizing than filing for a patent, only to find that someone else already holds the patent to your invention.

The USPTO makes it possible to conduct a preliminary patent search on your own; however, it is highly recommended that you consult with a licensed patent search firm to assist with the bulk of the research. These firms have vast experience researching and are extremely knowledgeable in the classification systems.

Exploring Design Patents and Utility Patents

Design patents are often overlooked and underutilized compared to the more common utility patents. “Five percent of all patent applications (more than 30,000 per year) are design patents.” (Upcounsel) Design patents focus on the exterior design, features and overall aesthetics of the product. Utility patents focus on the functionality and features of your invention.

Design patents extend to what is exactly shown in the line drawings, nothing more. “Some products might need multiple design patents. Each would cover a specific physical feature of the proposed product. Cars, for instance, require many design patents.” (Upcounsel) Having high-quality professional line drawings by a CAD designer is extremely advantageous. With a design patent, you are able to use the coveted phrases, patent pending and patent issued on all marketing material, and have confidence that your invention is protected for the next fourteen years. Also. when it comes to cost, design patents are considerably cheaper to file than utility patents.

Utility patents focus solely on the inner workings of your invention, its unique functions and overall usefulness. “While a utility patent is harder to get, it offers better coverage. The utility patent has stronger protections built into the patent system.” (Upcounsel) An invention is deemed useful if it provides an identifiable benefit and is capable of use. People often refer to utility patents as “patents for invention”. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, ninety-percent of the patent documents issued by the USPTO in recent years have been utility patents. With a utility patent your invention will be protected for the next twenty years.

A design patent coupled with a utility patent provides overlapping protection for both the inner workings and exterior design of your product, and is a powerful tool in your IP arsenal.

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