Posts Tagged "hardware startup"

Harnessing 3D Printing Technology for Business

3d printing, additive manufacturingIt’s no secret that additive manufacturing, commonly referred to as 3D printing, is transforming the business landscape. Within the last decade we have witnessed this technology grow into what it is today, a way to disrupt supply chains and completely innovate the manufacturing landscape—from prototyping to production.

3D printing has been a favorite tool of makers and product design professionals alike because of its quick turnaround time and the fact that it is relatively cheap compared to all other manufacturing methods. 3D printing technology allows designers to quickly, easily and efficiently design and produce a product prototype for review within hours, instead of weeks. While prototyping is where additive manufacturing is most popular and widely used, the technology is beginning to mature and find its way into manufacturing for end-use parts as well.

3D Printing for Prototyping

Our design team regularly uses additive manufacturing technology during the product development cycle when we are working with entrepreneurs and startups on prototyping and finalizing a product design. 3D printing technology is still growing and maturing, it seems that every week new filaments are being developed and new uses for the technology are being discussed. However, as the technology stands today, its strength, its competitive advantage and its usefulness remain in the realm of prototyping. Visual and functional prototyping are imperative when designing a product and this is where 3D printing excels.

3D Printing for Manufacturing

When it comes to manufacturing, 3D printing technology has an advantage on short-runs, however, at this time, it is not able to compete with other traditional forms on a mass-manufacturing scale.

Due to the speed, quality and cost of additive manufacturing, “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. This technology 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” (Engineering.com).

The 3D printing metal segment is making great strides towards high volume manufacturing and McKinsey forecasts the industry to be worth as much as $10 billion by 2030 to 2035. Read more about developments in the metal 3D printing segment on our blog.

3D Printing Quote

At 3D Innovations, we offer 3D printing services to a range of startups, businesses and makers. If you have a design ready to be printed, and would like a quote, please visit our 3D Printing Quote Request page. We have made the quote process quick and easy. Whether you need a prototype or a short manufacturing run, we can help.

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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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Domestic v. International Manufacturing for Your Startup

manufacturingWhether you are considering having your product manufactured in your home country or overseas, you need to take into account the benefits and disadvantages of each before reaching a final decision. Each item on your list should be weighed based on your startup’s goals, mission, customers and timeline. Below you will find a preliminary pros and cons list to help you get started.

Domestic Manufacturing Advantages
  • Easier Communication. When you and your manufacturing partner share the same language, you are less likely to experience communication barriers and breakdowns. When communication is a challenge, it can be costly for your startup.
  • Visit the Facility. When your manufacturer is close, you are easily able to visit the factory and build a trusting relationship with your manufacturing partner.
  • Faster Fulfillment. When you don’t have to factor in international shipping, your product will most likely be available much quicker, which means that you can get it to market faster.
  • Production Flexibility. Domestic manufacturers are usually able to accommodate smaller production runs. While an international manufacturer might be able to offer a smaller production run, shipping can make it cost prohibitive.
  • Reduced Shipping Fees. If you intend to sell your product domestically, you will be able to save money on shipping costs.
  • Positive Press & Market Perception. The American public tends to view products made domestically as superior in quality and is therefore willing to pay more for your product.
  • IP Security. Intellectual property (IP) can make or break a startup. Copycat products not only hurt your brand, but they can also harm consumers. Manufacturing your product domestically may decrease the chance of intellectual property theft.
Domestic Manufacturing Disadvantages
  • Higher Costs. Manufacturing your product domestically usually means that you will be paying more for your product. U.S. labor laws require manufacturers to provide minimum wage for workers along with safe working environments.
  • High Volume Production Issues. Manufacturers are not as well equipped to produce high volume orders as their international counterparts.
International Manufacturing Advantages
  • Reduced Costs. Manufacturing a product overseas is almost always significantly less expensive than manufacturing domestically.
  • Increased Options. In the U.S. manufacturers tend to specialize in the products they can produce, whereas in China a manufacturer might be able to produce a wide range of products. There are also more factories in China which means you have options, helping to keep prices competitive.
  • High-volume Capability. International manufacturers excel when it comes to producing high-volume orders in a single production run.
International Manufacturing Disadvantages
  • Communication Barriers. By not sharing a language or native culture, navigating business can be a bit more challenging.
  • Challenging to Find. Not all international manufacturing facilities have a website, or keep up with the Google algorithm—which means that finding them on the internet can be a challenge. Also, the facilities that do have a website and provide contact information are most likely contacted very frequently by people “testing the waters”, so they may not respond to your email in a timely manner, or at all.
  • Limited Oversight. It is always a good idea to visit a facility before entering into a contract, however this can be a challenge with international suppliers. You might make the initial trip to visit the facility, but subsequent visits can quickly add up and could be cost prohibitive for your startup.
  • Increased Shipping Fees. When you intend to sell your product domestically, having your product shipped from their international facility to the U.S. can be costly. Increased tariffs and other political factors can make predicting shipping fees a bit challenging, and these fees can readily fluctuate.
  • Less Secure IP Rights. Without the protections of U.S. intellectual property rights, your product is vulnerable to IP theft and copycats flooding the market.

Ultimately the decision to manufacture either domestically or internationally is based on your budget, timeline and customer preferences. With our heightened political climate and a shift in attitude, many people now prefer to buy products that are made in the U.S., and are willing to pay more for these products.

Do you 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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Get Your Product Idea Off the Ground

product idea, hardware, entrepreneur, startups, product developmentComing up with a 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. Below we have gathered helpful advice and insight into the next stages of your product development journey.

Developing a Product Idea Isn’t a “One-Size-Fits All” Process

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, however in actuality, this process is more of a maze with twists and turns on your way to success.

Each product and each startup will face their own challenges on the way to market; by preparing yourself for any hiccups you encounter along the way, you will be in a much better position to successfully navigate them.

Consider and Research Intellectual Property Protection

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.

Add Value Through Product Design

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.

Understand Common Startup Roadblocks—Then Avoid Them

We can all learn from failure, we can even learn from other startup’s failures. Making yourself aware of the challenges associated with building and launching a product, you are more likely to make educated decisions that allow you to avoid failure altogether.

Diving into the product development process is an exciting time for an entrepreneur. With the right knowledge and information, you are setting yourself and your startup for success.

We would also suggest you check out these additional blog posts:

Have additional questions about developing your product idea and want to talk to an expert? Send us an email with your questions to 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 Innovations: Product Case Studies

We are sharing product case studies over on the 3D Innovations website. Within these case studies you will see the type of projects we have partnered on and how customers have leveraged our design and manufacturing expertise to reduce time to market. (Note: This is a small sample of our client projects, as many projects are required to stay confidential.)

The case studies on our website are from a range of industries. Below you can see some of the industries we support and have experience working with.

3D Innovations, product development, case studies, product design

Developing ideas from concept to product is where our expertise shines. With a knowledgeable team, we help bring products from initial concept to store shelves.

About 3D Innovations

3D Innovations provides product development services assisting companies with all stages of development. Our suite of services includes product design/engineering, prototyping, 3D Printing, additive manufacturing, supply chain management, packaging design, and production manufacturing sourcing. Using our experience in Design for Manufacturing (DFM) processes, we develop custom solutions for clients that accelerate their commercialization activities.

We provide 3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping services to quickly validate designs and make improvements for production manufacturing. Experience the benefits of 3D Design and see how 3D Innovations can develop innovative solutions to engineer, design, and manufacture your product.

Interested in learning more about our product development process? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com or give us a call 1.808.722.8667 so that we can schedule a meeting to talk about your project’s individual needs and requirements.

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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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3 Common Product Development Firm Misconceptions

product development firm, product development, hardware startupsFinding the right product development firm is a big step when it comes to developing your product idea. If you’re trying to decide on whether to work with a product development company, let us help clear up three common misconceptions that many first-time entrepreneurs often have.

They can only help during the early-stages of product development (design & prototyping).

False. While some product development companies may focus on one or two areas of product development, there are others that can help you from idea to commercialization. Having a product development team in place through commercialization means that there won’t be any interruption in the product development process. A full-service product development firm is invested in the success of your product and wants to see it on store shelves just as much as you do.

They can’t help with patents and licensing.

False. Often a product development firm is exactly what you need when it comes to intellectual property. Line drawings are necessary for design and utility patents, and your product development partner can produce these for your patent application. Also, experienced development firms work with IP attorneys and will be able to help answer or questions or setup meetings with experienced attorneys.

When it comes to licensing, your product development partner will be able to provide the technical aspects of the design to interested partners as well as their manufacturers. Licensing a product requires strategy and know-how, and this is exactly what a firm will be able to provide.

They all follow a similar process.

False. Successful product development companies have spent years honing their process. They have guidelines and clear steps in place to develop great products. With this knowledge and experience, they should be able to guide you around common pitfalls, in turn saving you both time and money.

With the assistance of a product development firm, you will be guided by knowledgeable experts throughout the entire development process. You can ask questions, share ideas and collaborate on all aspects of the product development process. A skilled product development firm will be able to guide you from design to manufacturing and beyond.

Now it’s time to get out there and meet potential product development partners. In this blog post we discuss what you can expect during your first product development meeting.

Have additional questions about product development? 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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4 Tips for a Smooth Start to Manufacturing Your Product

manufacturing, baby toon, baby spoon, feeding, soft tip, bitingTaking the leap into manufacturing is a big milestone for a startup. Once you start to search for a manufacturing partner, suddenly it all seems real. Manufacturing is not cheap, and one misstep here can severely hurt or completely crush your business. Finding the right manufacturer is not easy, but with proper planning and research, it can be done. Below are four tips to keep in mind as you research potential partners.

Market Segment Experience

Start your search for a manufacturer that has experience in the industry your product is entering. 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.

Unit Scalability

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.

Multiple Open Partnerships

Depending on your product, one manufacturing strategy is to have multiple open partnerships with manufacturers. Your once very attentive and grateful manufacturer might put you on the back burner when a bigger customer comes along. A vendor list with manufacturers you can utilize or bounce between is a good idea. This keeps pricing between them competitive and the diversification minimizes your business risk.

Make a Visit & Check References

Your manufacturer is critical to your business, so open communication is mandatory. It is imperative that you know them, and trust them, 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.

Don’t forget to check their references. Make those phone calls and get your questions answered by people who have experience with this potential manufacturer.

Now here is what your future manufacturer wants you to know.

Have additional questions about manufacturing your product? We can help. Send us an email with your questions to 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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A Human-Centered Design Approach

When it comes to designing consumer products, the best approach is to consider your end-user throughout the entire design processwhich is commonly referred to as “Human-Centered Design”. This means that you are focusing on the problem that your audience is facing and designing a streamlined solution.  While additional features might be great marketing tools, most often than not less is more, the more streamlined your product and the more it addresses their current need, the better.

Famed design firm, IDEO, first coined the term, “Human-Centered Design” and have been using this approach to design many recognizable products, such as: the first computer mouse for Apple in 1980 and the Palm Pilot in 1998. IDEO’s main tenet is empathy for the end-user of their products. They believe that the key to figuring out what humans really want lies in doing two things:

  • Observing user behavior — Try to understand people through observing them. For example, if you’re designing a vacuum cleaner, watch people vacuum.
  • Putting yourself in the situation of the end-user — IDEO does this to understand what the user experience is really like; to feel what their users feel.

IDEO defines human-centered design as a creative approach to problem solving that starts with people and ends with innovative solutions that are tailor made to suit their needs. In their Field Guide to Human-Centered Design IDEO states, “When you understand the people you’re trying to reach—and then design from their perspective—not only will you arrive at unexpected answers, but you’ll come up with ideas that they’ll embrace.” Below is the central philosophy of human-centered design.

human-centered product design, product development, Human-Centered Design

Image from: User Testing Blog

The Six Phases of a Human-Centered Design Approach

Phase 1: Observation

The first phase is about observing the target audience or end-user going about the activity you are aiming to design a solution for. You are identifying patterns of behavior, pain points, and places where users have a difficult time accomplishing a task—this is where your opportunity lies.

Phase 2: Ideation

This is the brainstorming phase. Come up with solutions to the problem you have identified. Think of solutions that directly address the needs and desires of the people you are designing for. Maybe you already have a solution in mind, but are there any other options out there as well?

Phase 3: Rapid Prototyping

This phase is to make sure that the solution you have in mind is right on target. Your prototype at this phase doesn’t need to be a finished product. You need a prototype that makes your idea tangible and allows you to gain valuable target audience feedback.

Phase 4: User Feedback

This is the most critical phase of the human-centered design process. You want to get your prototype into the hands of your target audience. Without input from your end-user, you aren’t going to really know if your product solution is on target or not.

Phase 5: Iteration

The insight collected during the user-feedback stage is now implemented and it either impacts your design, where you need to make changes, or it validates your original design.

Keep iterating, testing, and integrating user feedback until you’ve fine-tuned your solution. This may take a few rounds, but don’t get discouraged. With each iteration you’ll learn something new.

Phase 6: Implementation

At this point you have thoughtfully and carefully design a product that solves a real need for your target audience, now it is time to launch it into the marketplace.

When it comes to developing and designing your product, don’t forget the “human” aspect. To build a truly innovative product you don’t need to start with fancy technology, you can start by simply understanding people.

Have product design 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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Hardware Entrepreneurs: A Big Picture Mentality

hardware, startups, product design, technology, small business, hawaiiWhen it comes to developing a hardware product, it is easy to get bogged down in the design details during product development. While the details certainly do matter, if you focus solely on them from the start it could spell trouble for your startup later on. Having a big picture mentality allows you to get a complete grasp on product development as well as other major decision milestones, such as: manufacturing, sales, partnerships and marketing.

Developing a Preliminary Design Plan

Planning ahead is always a good idea when it comes to building a hardware product and launching a startup. A preliminary design plan is a good first step to help you get a firm grasp on the “big picture”. With a preliminary design you clarify budgets and timelines—which leads to better decision making as you head towards commercialization.

“A preliminary design (pre-design) focuses solely on the decisions that impact the big picture for your product. This includes your product’s cost, profit margin, performance, features, development feasibility and manufacturability. A pre-design ignores any details that don’t impact the big picture for your product. You can worry about those later. After you complete the pre-design you need to accurately estimate all of the costs required to launch your product. This includes the cost to develop, prototype, certify, scale, and most importantly the cost to manufacture your product. Knowing these costs ahead of time will allow you to plan the best strategy forward” (Predictable Designs).

The Benefits of Planning Ahead for Your Hardware Startup

By starting with a preliminary design, you will be able to focus on the big picture and the overarching goals you have established for your startup, as well as:

  • Make informed financial decisions;
  • Talk knowledgably with potential investors;
  • Have a clear idea on your development and product launch timeline;
  • Develop a product that is manufacturable;
  • Understand your break-even point and at what point your startup begins to make a profit;
  • Build a realistic business plan.

Take the time now to plan ahead—your startup will thank you in the end.

Have questions about your preliminary design plan? 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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Marketing Your Hardware Product

startups, hawaii, honolulu, hardware, 3D InnovationsIdeally, marketing your hardware product should come before your product launch. You want to find and connect with your target market as early as possible. “Early” often means before your product design is even finalized. Building this relationship early-on is beneficial for both your product design and product launch.

Below are three reasons why you should be thinking about marketing throughout the early stages of product development.

Receive Customer Feedback

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; thus, 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.

Build a Community

Around every successful product is a community rallying around it. In today’s global competitive marketplace, having a strong network and community interested in your product cannot be overlooked or overstated. A community will share your product launch information, help you create a buzz and end up being your first customers.

Crowdfunding has grown to be extremely popular because of the sense of community it gives hardware startup founders. Using a crowdfunding campaign for your startup lets you build this community before you even have a product ready to be shipped. While crowdfunding does have its drawbacks, its ability to build a community and rally support is a primary benefit for your hardware product.

Create a Buzz

Have you ever found yourself on a website that said something along the lines of, “Launching soon! Join our mailing list to be the first to know about our launch”? We all have the desire to be the “first to know” and inevitably add our email to the mailing list. This is an example of a startup building their community and creating a buzz. Creating a buzz gives customers a sneak peek about what’s to come and builds that sense of anticipation.

When you use customer feedback early-on, you start to create a buzz with your product testers. From there you want to build on this interest and loyalty. Social media is a great way to start creating a buzz for your product.

Thinking about your marketing strategy early-on, and developing a marketing plan, will help ensure that you have a supportive community by the time you launch your product.

 

Have additional questions about product development or marketing? We are happy to help. Please send an email to 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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What to Expect from Your First Product Development Meeting

product development, hardware startupsComing up with a product idea is exciting, but making the decision to pursue and develop it, is truly exhilarating. Many first-time entrepreneurs want to jump right in and get to work building their product, only to realize that they may not have the exact skillset necessary to develop the product all the way. This is where a product development firm is brought in to aid in the process. It can be nerve-wracking sharing your idea with someone else, and we all like to have a general idea of what we can expect in initial meetings.

While each product development firm has their own template for initial meetings. You can expect a variance on the below.

Get to Know You

Just as you are eager to get to know the product designer, they are eager to know more about you. This goes beyond your product—they want to know the backstory of how your product idea came-to-be. They want to know what you are passionate about. They want to know your skillset, where do you excel (sales, marketing, accounting)? This information will allow them to get a better idea on where their services will be utilized the most efficiently.

Discuss Your Product Idea

In your first meeting you are going to want to get as detailed as possible when discussing your product idea. You may think that the littlest details may not make a difference as you start developing an idea, however, every detail matters. Provide as much detail about your product requirements as possible. A good development company will be able to ask you the right questions throughout the development process to help you narrow down the requirements and focus on the functionality. You don’t need to know all of the technical details about the product, just how it needs to function.

Talk About the Product Development Timeline

While TV and the internet can make you believe that products are designed, manufactured and launched overnight, this isn’t how it works. Developing a product takes time. While the exact amount of time to develop your product depends on the idea and the intricacies of it—in general expect to be spending weeks to months on product development.

 Discuss Your Intellectual Property Strategy

Just like you, product development firms want to make sure your product is protected from copycats, so they will want to discuss IP and what your initial feelings on it are.

Most hardware startups find themselves thinking about intellectual property early-on and wondering if it is truly necessary for their invention. 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. In many cases, having a design or utility patent will be beneficial for your startup in the long-run.

Have questions about developing a product idea? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

Additional Information about Product Development

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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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