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President of 3D Innovations LLC, Collin Kobayashi, will sit down with Hawaii News Now to talk about the rapid growth of the 3D printing industry and how this industry is influencing major industries here in Hawaii and worldwide. The segment will air on Tuesday, September 24th at 7:20am HST.
3D printing is a technology that lets you create a physical object from a digital model. This technology originated in 1983 and since then has seen a steady rise in popularity. The original function of 3D printing technology, and still its most popular use today, was to rapidly create, develop and test product prototypes. One of the original terms for the technology was in fact, ‘rapid prototyping’. However, as the technology has evolved and matured, so has its name—today it’s most commonly referred to as 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing.
The benefits of 3D printing are numerous: speed, complexity, customization, personalization, simplified manufacturing and ease of access to name a few. For entrepreneurs, these benefits translate into faster product development and quicker product launches. For businesses, these benefits open a completely new way of imaging product designs, expanding product offerings and streamlining the manufacturing process.
The aerospace, automotive, manufacturing, robotics, medical and dental industries are the top industries helping to propel 3D printing forward. These industries have been able to successfully utilize the technology for end-use parts and in turn, have sped up the way they design, build and manufacture—saving companies significant time and money. According to the industry leading Wohler’s Report, the 3D printing industry is forecasted at $15.8 billion for 2020. The forecast continues to climb to $23.9 billion in 2022, and $35.6 billion in 2024.
While 3D printing is making its mark on startups and businesses, it has also found a niche in education. Schools are eager to bring this technology into the classroom as a way of providing hands-on learning experiences. The landscape of education, particularly STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, is shifting and 3D printing is at the forefront. By engaging students in hands-on learning, students are now designing and 3D printing their creative solutions to real world problems, bringing math to life and exploring subject matter in a new and innovative way.
Here at 3D Innovations LLC we utilize this technology frequently throughout the product development process and in our 3D Academy workshops. Head on over to our website to see the various ways we are able to help entrepreneurs, in Hawaii and beyond, develop and launch their startups.
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
3D printing, also referred to as additive manufacturing, has captured the imagination of consumers, product designers and manufacturers alike over the last decade. We have witnessed the technology go through a hype cycle and come out the other side a more mature and grounded technology. No longer are people predicting a 3D printer in every home; however, product development engineers and the manufacturing industry have seen widespread use of the technology grow as material selection has increased and test use-cases in the aerospace and automotive industries have proved wildly successful.
During the major 3D printing hype cycle of the mid 2010’s, 3D printing technology was being touted as a green technology that was on the cusp of revolutionizing the way we build products and conduct business. At the time there were green components to the technology, but as a whole, it could not necessarily be considered environmentally friendly. Fast forward a decade, and we now see the technology heading towards a more sustainable future through advancements.
Plastic pollution is a global problem. Microplastics can be found in nearly everything—from the food we eat to the deepest depths of the ocean. Plastic, specifically ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), is a top material used in 3D printing; however, there has been a push to develop more environmentally friendly materials, such as PLA ((Polylactic Acid). “PLA is manufactured out of plant-based resources such as corn starch or sugar cane, making PLA much better for the environment because they are made from renewable resources.” (Fabbaloo)
“PLA plastics are more environmentally friendly. Unlike other thermoplastics that are petroleum-based, they are made from renewable resources such as corn starch, tapioca roots, or sugar cane. PLA is also much easier to print with compared to ABS; printing can be completed at higher speeds without a heat controlled surface or harmful emissions. Not only do they tend to have a smoother and more appealing appearance, but they can also be used for food packaging being that they are made from food-based materials. However, there are some major limitations to using PLA plastics. Primarily, they are less sturdy then ABS plastics and can become deformed from heat, making them unsuitable for high stress applications.” (Fabbaloo)
While the materials used in 3D printing aren’t 100% sustainable yet, there is an alternative that many people have turned to, filament recyclers. Whether you purchase a filament recycler or use a service, you are reducing waste and recycling materials that should not be in a landfill.
The concept of 3D printing is to produce a part on demand thus reducing shipping and warehouse costs. The aerospace industry has been successful in producing highly customized parts locally that can be used in airplanes. These customized parts often have highly specialized and complex designs that can reduce weight, thus lowering fuel consumption and greenhouse gases.
Many researchers think the capability to make such complicated parts, and resulting gains in energy efficiency, may offer the greatest environmental benefits from additive manufacturing. (Fast Company)
Traditional manufacturing methods take a piece of material and cutaway at it until the final product is formed—there is a great deal of waste that comes with subtractive manufacturing. On the other hand, additive manufacturing produces a product layer-by-layer until the final product is complete, leaving substantially less waste. Yes, large designs will require supports that will need to be cleared away in post-processing, but on average less waste is produced.
As the additive manufacturing industry continues to grow and mature, we suspect that new ways to reduce material waste will be of concern.
As consumers and businesses start focusing more on sustainability, we know that 3D printing materials and waste reducing methods will take center stage. While the technology is not currently a “green technology” with research and advancements it can certainly become more environmentally friendly.
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
In recent years the conversation around 3D manufacturing and traditional manufacturing methods has shifted—no longer are these viewed as competitors, but instead as complimentary manufacturing methods. Each method, additive manufacturing and subtractive manufacturing, has its own benefits and shortcomings, they are not mutually exclusive.
Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is a manufacturing method that builds an object layer by layer, with each layer of material the object is closer to completion.
A CAD file feeds the 3D printing machine the information that it needs to create the object. “Depending on the technology, the 3D printer deposits material, selectively melts and fuses powder, or cures liquid photopolymer materials to create parts based on the CAM data. The 3D printed parts often require some form of cleaning and finishing to achieve their final properties and appearance before they’re ready to use.” (Formlabs) Currently, the most common materials used for additive manufacturing are plastics and metals. There are a range of other materials that have been developed, but are not as widely used (i.e. ceramics, wood and glass).
Additive manufacturing is ideal for a range of product development and manufacturing applications—prototyping, tooling, highly customized parts and short-run productions to name a few. 3D manufacturing technology excels when it comes to product design. Complex geometries offer a high degree of design freedom that traditional manufacturing methods just can’t reach.
“Subtractive manufacturing is an umbrella term for various controlled machining and material removal processes that start with solid blocks, bars, rods of plastic, metal, or other materials that are shaped by removing material through cutting, boring, drilling, and grinding. These processes are either performed manually or more commonly, driven by computer numerical control (CNC).” (Formlabs)
As with additive manufacturing, a CAD file is used to feed the design data to the manufacturing tool. These instructions tell the tool where to make cuts, holes and channels until the unnecessary material is chipped away and the object is complete.
Subtractive manufacturing is suitable for prototyping, tooling and end-use parts. This technology shines when it comes to high-volume production runs for end-use parts.
Since these manufacturing methods are not mutually exclusive, they are often used together during the product development process.
Additive manufacturing is used to make initial prototypes and functional prototypes at a reduced cost with quick turnaround times. Small parts and complex geometries are not a problem for this technology.
In the final stages of product manufacturing, it makes sense to utilize subtractive manufacturing methods for large volume production runs. This technology is much faster when it comes to making large parts and end-use products.
“In manufacturing, subtractive and additive processes often complement each other in the production of tooling, jigs, fixtures, brackets, molds, and patterns. Manufacturers often use plastic 3D printed parts for fast, custom, low-volume, or replacement parts and opt for subtractive metal processes for higher volumes or parts that are subject to more extreme mechanical stress and strain.
Utilizing both additive and subtractive manufacturing results in a hybrid process. This allows product designers and manufacturers to combine the versatility and quick turnaround times of additive manufacturing with the strength of subtractively produced parts.” (Formlabs)
Today’s manufacturing landscape is much different than it was even five years ago, using both technologies during product development is often best practice.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Have additional questions about manufacturing your product? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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
For many inventors a licensing agreement is often a great option since it lets them develop a product, but then puts the expenses associated with commercialization on a more experienced manufacturer.
A licensing agreement is a deal between the owner of a patent, brand, or trademark and someone who wants to use the patented or trademarked goods and services. (Upcounsel)
With a licensing agreement, an inventor (the licensor) develops an invention and then protects that invention through a patent, copyright, trademark, or trade secret, and thus creates intellectual property (IP). The inventor—the owner of the intellectual property—then licenses the invention to a second party (the licensee) whose responsibility is to commercialize the invention. As compensation for allowing another party to use its intellectual property, the licensor will receive a royalty.
There are many types of licensing agreements: trademark licensing, copyright licensing, patent licensing, software licensing and merchandise licensing. Intellectual property licensors use three main types of licensing agreements: exclusive license, non-exclusive license and sole license. (Read about each type on Upcounsel)
Globalization has made licensing agreements a very popular option for businesses and inventors. Often, licensing is a strategic way of entering international markets. A foreign company will obtain rights to produce and/or sell another company’s product in its home country.
Below is a list of the top benefits of licensing your invention/IP.
Overall, licensing agreements minimize risk for both parties involved. The licensor doesn’t have to setup a business and incur those additional expenses and the licensee doesn’t have to spend time on product development and testing.
Read our Case Study that details how our team worked on turning a consumer product idea into a manufacturable product for licensing to a large international retailer.
Have additional questions about licensing agreements for inventors? Please send us an email at email@example.com
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.