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When it comes to hardware product development the road to success is often winding and full of bumps and roadblocks, rarely is it linear. Navigating these unforeseen challenges can be overwhelming for many first-time entrepreneurs. To share some guidance, we have compiled a few of our top blog posts related to the early stages of hardware product development.
Coming up with a hardware product idea is exhilarating—knowing that you have an idea that will help not only yourself, but an entire segment of the population, is the very definition of exciting. So now you have an idea, but you aren’t exactly sure what to do next.
When it comes to product design, creativity can really make a difference in the success of a product. First time entrepreneurs can get caught up in the idea that their original idea is the best idea, however this is not always the case. There are many reasons that your product may shift during product design—it is not efficient for manufacturing, timing is off, it’s too difficult for customers to use, it doesn’t have a solid consumer base. There are numerous factors that can change a product, and that is okay. It is okay to end up with a product that is different than your original idea, because the goal is success.
Patents, copyrights and trademarks are all forms of intellectual property. For the purpose of this piece, patents — particularly design patents and utility patents — will be the focus of the conversation. While all three types of IP are indeed essential for success, hardware-focused products rely heavily on patents. Often times, proper patent protection can mean the difference between success and failure for a hardware startup.
In today’s connected world, these major tech hubs are becoming less and less appealing for entrepreneurs just setting out with their startup. It’s no secret that the cost of living in major tech hubs is astronomical and upfront costs to get your business going also come at a premium. So if you are an entrepreneur looking into hardware product development and starting a business, but have no desire to pick-up and move, below are a few ideas on how you can successfully launch your hardware startup from your home city.
Product development partners are a great way to team up with knowledgeable experts that can help make your product idea a reality. A hardware product development partner can work with you from product idea through manufacturing and can assist in a wide variety of ways. Here we share a few suggestions on questions to ask potential product development firm partners.
Have additional hardware product development questions? Send us an email, email@example.com
Our 3D Academy is a huge proponent of hands-on project-based learning to bring innovation and new teaching techniques into the classroom. Here at 3D Academy, we believe that as the landscape of the work environment changes to meet global demands, so should the way we teach in the classroom. Introducing innovation into a classroom can help students turn their passion into future careers. Below are five ways to help students develop an innovation mindset and build important life-long skills.
To help students cultivate an innovation mindset, first you must show them what one looks like. This mindset focuses on critical thinking and asking “why”. While, it is easy to apply this mindset to STEM subjects, it can, and should, be applied to every subject. Think about all the times you are reading material and ask yourself “why”—Why is that? Why did this happen? Now, let your students see you asking these questions and encourage them to do the same.
Curiosity leads to finding answers together as a team. Critical thinking and team building are both valuable skills in any workplace environment.
Instead of problem-solving, teachers can help students look at the world by finding gaps to fill using problem-finding. Problem-finding is equivalent to problem discovery. Teachers can use problem-finding as part of a more significant problem process that can include problem-shaping and problem-solving all together. Problem-finding requires an intellectual and imaginative vision to seek out what might be missing or should be added to something important. Using this strategy, teachers can provide students with the opportunity to think deeply, ask critical questions and apply creative ways to solve problems. (Forbes)
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” -Thomas Edison
Students need to experience failure to learn. In her 2017 paper “Learning from Errors,” psychologist Janet Metcalfe states that avoiding and ignoring mistakes at school is the classic rule in American classrooms. When we don’t let students fail, we are most likely holding back not only individual student growth, but we are also holding back the entire education system. (Forbes)
Give your students a real-world problem to solve and see where their creativity and problem-solving skills take them. Let them fail and try again. This resiliency is imperative in all aspects of life.
Technology is making leaps and bounds—3D Printing, 3D CAD, Augmented Reality/ Virtual Reality, Programming, all promote learning and engage students. These technologies have a ‘wow factor’ with students since they are not things they see every day. With our 3D Academy, we have seen how it really motivates and engages students to learn. Students who may otherwise not be actively engaged in the classroom, suddenly light up and want to participate when a new and exciting technology is introduced.
Students need to see real-world examples of people in a range of careers to know what is possible for them. It is hard to imagine a career as a product designer, engineer, nurse, marine biologist, etc. if you have never met one and are not quite sure what their daily work lives look like. Invite professionals in various stages of their careers to talk to your students. Entrepreneurship is often something that intrigues students, so call up an entrepreneur and let them talk to your students about their winding path to success.
Cultivating an innovation mindset is fun for both teachers and students. It is inviting a different teaching approach into the classroom and allows students to engage with material in a more hands-on way.
Interested in a personalized hands-on approach to STEM education in your classroom or school? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can talk about your program needs and how our 3D Academy can assist you.
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 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 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 box—way 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, email@example.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com and we are happy to answer your questions.
3D Innovations is hosting a summer intern through the STEMworks Internship program. We are thrilled to have Joanne as part of our team. She is currently attending Moanalua High School and we just know that she destined for great things. Take a minute to get to know her through this short Q&A.
Q: What sparked your passion for engineering?
A: I’ve always liked to build things. Last year, I had the opportunity to participate in the Innovation and Imagination Design Challenge and I designed and built a lamp with my team. That experience made me realize that I really enjoy seeing a project go from an idea to something real and tangible. It also made me realize that I liked designing and putting things together.
Q: What future career do you see yourself in?
A: Currently, I’m undecided because I like the medical profession and I like engineering.
Q: What are your favorite hobbies?
A: In my spare time I LOVE to catch up on some sleep and surf the internet.
Q: What inspires you?
A: My older sister, Jeanna, and my HOSA State Advisor, Mrs. Toyama, inspire me. They’re both very confident and skilled individuals and I hope to make them proud.
Q: What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
A: I was digging through my old photos on my phone and I found a video clip of my two friends testing whether or not their phones were waterproof. They both dunked their phones into the nearby pool where we were studying for chemistry finals. I think maybe the stress of finals made us a little delirious. Don’t worry, the phones survived, and our final exams went smoothly!
Please feel free to reach out to us, firstname.lastname@example.org, if you have words of encouragement or wisdom to pass along to Joanne.
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.
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.
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.
Protecting intellectual property (IP) is important to any business, but especially so when you are launching a startup. Often your IP’s security can mean the difference between a viable business and a startup failure. That is why protecting your IP during the manufacturing phase of product development is critically important. Below we examine the IP security pros and cons of domestic v. international manufacturing for your hardware startup.
When it comes to manufacturing your product in the U.S. there are many benefits, such as: ease of access, clear communication, fast fulfillment, reduced shipping fees and IP security.
When you hold a patent in the United States and decide to also manufacture here, you are guaranteed a certain level of security that your startup’s IP won’t be stolen. However, if for some reason this security breaks down, you have legal recourse for the damages.
When it comes to manufacturing your product abroad there are certain advantages that can make monetary sense for your startup: reduced costs, high-volume capacity and increased manufacturer partner options. However, IP protection is not one of the benefits.
If your invention is protected in the U.S. with a patent, trademark or copyright, these protections are not guaranteed overseas. Patenting an invention in the U.S. is not necessarily quick and it can be costly—the same goes for international patents. Often startups don’t have the funds to allocate to international patent protection. However, there are other ways to protect your IP in a foreign market.
A well written and carefully constructed non-disclosure agreement (NDA) can protect IP from the onset. Clauses covering IP security can be included to establish clear ownership.
Restricting the number of individuals that have access to your product’s IP and conducting background checks on key personnel can help keep your IP safeguarded. Encrypting all digital files and communication that contain IP is another measure you can take to protect it.
You can transfer some of your IP risk by acquiring insurance. Intellectual Property Insurance typically protects against the significant legal costs that will need to be paid if an organization pursues its IP claims through the court system. It can cover both enforcing and defending claims. (Source: Trade Ready)
As President Lincoln once remarked, the patent system adds “the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.” IP rights, which include patents, trademarks, trade secrets and copyrights play an essential role in monetizing innovation. (Inc.)
Have additional IP and manufacturing related questions? Send us an email at email@example.com
The startup mindset is a powerful thing. Being at the helm of a business is exhilarating—there are ups and downs but the uncertainty of it all can be quite exciting. For people with a startup mindset they find the unknown to be an exciting challenge. Often the conversation around the startup mindset is focused on how it pertains to entrepreneurs, however, this mindset can be applied to students, individuals starting a new job or those looking for a new perspective in their daily lives.
Does uncertainty motivate you? Do you like to find creative solutions to a problem? Entrepreneurs look at uncertainty as though they have control of their future. They understand the problem they are facing and take control of solving it on their terms. Often this trait can come across as unshakable confidence. Solving a tough problem to them means they are in control of their future.
Children and students are great at asking ‘why?’, but as adults our constant curiosity can slowly diminish. The fear of the unknown can cause us to look for certainty in all situations. With a startup mindset our curiosity is reinvigorated. This mindset allows us to constantly ask questions and ultimately shake up entire industries by developing revolutionary ideas and businesses.
“That is just the way things are done” does not work with a startup mindset. Established wisdom does not mean that is how it must be done going forward. “Disruptive success comes from thinking in a different way than others have done, not just from following in their footsteps.” (Brainscape)
Starting a business is a risk—it is both a financial and time commitment risk. People with a startup mindset look at risk as an opportunity to create something bigger than themselves. No business is guaranteed success, and in many cases, failure is more likely. However, the challenge of launching and scaling a business is a risk worth taking for those with the right mindset.
Mistakes are part of being human, it is how we learn from them that sets us apart. Roadblocks during product development, manufacturing and product launches are all normal. How we decide to tackle these roadblocks is what matters. As we have all heard time and again, often we can learn more from failure than we can from success.
These are five elements of a startup mindset that you can take with you into any school, career or startup. The flexible, fast-moving and curiosity-driven mindset of the startup world can transform your approach to every aspect of your daily life.
A product development firm should be your partner in this startup journey. Having a great product idea is exciting—executing that idea though can be a bit tricky since the road to product commercialization to fraught with obstacles. Often, startup founders turn to a product development firm to help make their idea a reality. Here we look at ways that a product development partner can help you beyond the design and prototyping phases.
A product development firm should be by your side from idea to store shelves. Having a single team in place throughout the entire product development process means that there is less room for error and that you can count on consistency. A full-service product development firm is invested in the success of your product and wants to see it on in the hands of your customers just as much as you do.
Intellectual property is no longer a “should have”, in today’s globalized world it is a “must have”. A product development firm will be able to help you navigate the world of patents, trademarks and copyrights along with your IP attorney.
Line drawings are necessary for design and utility patents, and your product development partner can produce these for your patent application. Since product development firms work with a range of IP attorneys, they will also be able to help you connect with one that fits your specific product needs.
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.
Manufacturing your hardware product is no small task. Whether you decide to manufacture at home or abroad, there are certain unavoidable challenges. A product development partner will help you navigate the manufacturing process and connect you with potential manufacturing partners.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.