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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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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, email@example.com, if you have words of encouragement or wisdom to pass along to Joanne.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com.
When it comes to marketing your new hardware product, our best piece of advice is to start early. If you wait until your product is being manufactured, you are late to the game. Starting early, means that marketing and product testing often go hand-in-hand. You will simultaneously be able to gather feedback on your new hardware product, while also making your target market aware that it will be available to them soon.
While a minimum viable product (MVP) will allow you to talk about features and show aesthetics, a functional prototype will clearly convey what your product is all about. Once you have a prototype, you then want to get it to the hands of your target market.
A focus group will let you gauge reactions and gather feedback about your hardware product. You can ask this group questions, they can share their initial reactions and then you can go back and apply any changes.
It can be hard hearing that your product isn’t perfect, but that is the beauty of feedback. With feedback early on, you can modify your design so that it better suits the needs of your target demographic. Ultimately, you want to build a product that is going to sell.
Provide your product to a small test market to have them try your product in their daily lives. Follow this up with questions/interviews to gather feedback on how your product fares.
Crowdfunding has made this very popular, but you don’t need to have a crowdfunding campaign to start taking pre-order sales. Setup an area on your website for pre-orders to see how the market is reacting to your new hardware product.
As you can see, marketing and product testing are closely related early-on in product development. While marketing looks different when you start early, it is effective at building a group of loyal followers. The people that you have testing your product, providing feedback and taking pre-order sales—are going to not only be your first customers, but they are going to want to share your product with their network.
Have additional questions about product development? We are happy to help. Please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
There are some great STEM events coming up around Honolulu. Our 3D Academy and 3D Innovations team has had the pleasure of participating in these STEM education events and know what a great opportunity they are for students interested in STEM subjects.
Students will get a first-hand look at career options in STEM fields. Professionals will talk about their area of expertise and how they chose their careers. Learn more about ‘Hawaii World of Work Week’ here.
The 10th annual Hawaii STEM Conference is quickly approaching. This is a two-day conference that allows both students and teachers to immerse themselves in STEM education. Breakout sessions let students connect with industry professionals in STEM areas that really interest them. It is a hands-on conference that brings academia and industry together. Learn more about the ‘Hawaii STEM Conference’ here.
The Honolulu Mini Maker Faire is a gathering of fascinating, curious people who enjoy learning and who love sharing what they can do. From engineers to artists to scientists to crafters, Maker Faire is a venue for these “makers” to show hobbies, experiments, projects.
“We call it the Greatest Show (& Tell) on Earth – a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity, and resourcefulness. Glimpse the future and get inspired!” Learn more about the ‘Honolulu Mini Maker Fair’ here.
You don’t need a background in science, technology, engineering and math to participate in these STEM events. If you are curious and want to see what STEM education is all about, we highly recommend checking these events out.
3D Academy, a division of 3D Innovations, specializes in developing and integrating industry technologies with STEM education and custom programs. 3D Academy promotes Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education programs that integrate 3D Technology into K–12, as well as university classrooms.
Using hands-on and project-based learning strategies, we have been effective in providing students with opportunities to excel in the areas of STEM and to integrate industry applications into their learning experiences.
3D Academy has a range of programs that seamlessly transition into the classroom to expand and broaden students’ coursework. We provide an introduction to a range of engineering subjects—3D Printing, Robotics, Digital Media and Drones, just to name a few. The 3D Academy team works closely with teachers to create a custom curriculum that most benefits their students.
In partnership with HI FusionEd, Office of Naval Research (ONR), and Navatek, VPerch was created to provide students with the opportunity to learn about various STEM applications as they relate to underwater robotics. The emphasis of VPerch is to introduce students to engineering design through the virtual design (3D CAD) process where they can design and simulate (virtually test) their design and analyze the results before building the physical system. Using the virtual design and simulation process, students see first-hand how their design will perform under certain conditions. Once their virtual design is completed and have enough confidence that it will perform as designed, they migrate to the build phase where they can build their ROV based on their virtual design specifications.
Throughout the duration of the project, students will learn about robotics, marine engineering concepts, and science/math applications to build an underwater ROV while integrating problem solving, teamwork, and technical skills.
3D Academy STEM enrichment camps are a great introduction to STEM education. No prior engineering classes or skills are required to attend a camp. We start with the fundamentals and help students build upon those. [Note: Our STEM Enrichment Camps align with the Hawaii Public School calendar and occur during school breaks (i.e. Winter, Spring and Summer break).]
If you are interested in learning more about our 3D Academy, please send us an email at email@example.com so that we can talk about your specific STEM education needs and what type of program will work best for your students.
The key to a successful product launch and sustainable business success, is knowing the market segment you are launching your product into. An understanding of the market will provide insight into the competition, best distribution methods, customer acquisition and manufacturing methodology. According to the popular book, “The Startup Owner’s Manual” there are three types of markets.
Entering an established market means that the competition is strong. Often the best way for a hardware startup to make a splash in this market segment is by offering a premium product. “Companies succeed by building premium brands, having sustainably better technology, or being close to their costs of production. The headphone market is a great example here: Think Beats (premium brand) vs. Bose (better tech) vs AmazonBasics (closest to costs of production).” (Bolt)
Some of the most creative products of today started in a completely new market—think Apple iPod & iPhone. While competition is low, failure rate is high. When you are the first in a new market segment you have to pioneer new distribution channels, find your customer base, work hard to establish product/market fit and educate the market. According to “The Startup Owner’s Manual”, startups in this market won’t spend heavily on marketing and sales since you are not yet sure that a customer base exists yet.
You hear the term “pivot” quite a bit regarding startups, and that is what many startups find themselves doing when entering a completely new market. Your product is very likely to change to meet consumer demands.
This is the most common market segment for startups to launch a product into. Your product will either re-segment via low cost or re-segment via niche. If you are aiming for low-cost you have a product that has less frills yet still adequately meets customer demands but at a lower price point. “In other hardware markets, startups work in product categories that users already understand, but focus on a niche that really appeals to a small subset of users.” (Bolt) With a niche product, you are aiming to launch a product that is intriguing enough for brand loyalists to switch over to your product.
When it comes to the re-segmented market, you do not have to completely educate the market since your competition has spent time doing that. However, you do have to adequately educate them as to why your product is not only different, but why they need it.
Startups that have a clear idea on the type of market segment they are entering will be in a better position when it comes time to launch their product.