Posts Tagged "manufacturing"

Manufacturing Technology: 3D Printing vs CNC

3D printing has undoubtedly become a tool-of-choice for makers and educators alike. The rapid growth in 3D printing technology and its popularity has manufacturers worried that at-home 3D printers may one day soon replace traditional manufacturing. From our experience though, a maker or entrepreneur is going to benefit the most from a convergence of these two manufacturing methods.

Below we will discuss the benefits and pitfalls of both 3D printing and CNC milling.


CNC milling machines “take a block of solid material (e.g. aluminum or wood) and use sharp rotating tools or cutters to remove all parts that are not needed. Milling is a subtractive method. CNC mills are computer-controlled. The computer feeds the machine-specific code that controls the cutting tools (just like the G-code used by 3D printers). The models for CNC mills are created using 3D modeling software, so-called CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) software applications.” (

3D Printing starts from scratch and builds a three-dimensional product layer by layer. This technology is referred to as additive manufacturing. Just like with CNC milling machines, a computer feeds the machine specific code that controls the design process.

Material Selection

CNC mills can work on a “huge variety of materials: metal alloys (e.g. aluminum, steel alloys, brass, copper), softwoods and hardwoods, thermoplastics, acrylic, modeling foams, machining wax (for creating a positive model for casting). You may need different cutting tools for different materials, but the tool-to-machine interfaces are usually standardized—so the tools can easily be exchanged.” (

At-home desktop 3D printers are usually restricted to a few materials, typically thermoplastics or resins. Thermoplastics can be mixed with other materials such as ceramics, wood, metal, but the workpieces produced on a 3D printer will not be as robust as workpieces cut from a block of metal or wood. Commercial or specialty 3D printers can print with more exotic materials (i.e. bioprinting and food).

Range of Applications

With the range of applications for these two technologies, there is a lot of overlap. (Here we will focus on the applications either technology supports, while the other does not.)

CNC milling is the better solution when you need to manufacture extremely robust, precise and/or heat-resistant products. 3D printing is the better solution when you need quick prototypes to test designs, small batch runs or are interested in exotic application fields—bioprinting, architectural purposes and printing food.

Material Waste

By design, there is less waste with 3D printing. The technology only requires the material needed for building the product. With CNC milling, you need a block of material that is the size of the product it will produce—a great deal of material is then removed, and often times the excess material cannot be recycled.

Both technologies have their place in the manufacturing landscape. Where one technology falters, the other excels. When designing your product, keep in mind that using both technologies during product development might be just what you need.

Have questions about the manufacturing process? Send us your questions,,we are happy to help.


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

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Demand for 3D Digital Design Rises

January 26, 2017

3D CAD has become a critical early step in the product development process. These digital designs minimize design challenges and manufacturing complications.

Below are three common questions we regularly receive about 3D CAD technology:

What is 3D CAD?

Three-dimensional computer aided design, or 3D CAD, is a type of software that helps engineers, product designers, architects and other professionals design schematics for three-dimensional objects.

When is the best time to use 3D CAD in the product development cycle?        

For most, the first step in the quest to produce the next big innovation is building a digital design of the product idea using 3D CAD.

Product Design and Development | 3D Prototyping3D CAD can be used to initially test product design theories and understand all of the design aspects without the need for building physical prototypes. Even though prototyping costs are decreasing, due partly to additive manufacturing (3D printing), it is best to develop a 3D digital design before producing a prototype.

It is not to say that 3D digital design is meant to replace physical prototyping, but it is bringing advantages throughout the design workflow that include computational fluid dynamics (CFD) tools for virtual simulation/testing, using the same data as for physical prototyping.

By using a 3D digital design process, we are able to create designs and validate them with up to 95% certainty that they will work before even building a prototype. -Collin Kobayashi, President & Chief 3D Officer of 3D Innovations

What are the major benefits of 3D CAD?

Test product ideas. With 3D digital designs you can easily test form, fit, materials and functionality without the need for a physical prototype.

Clarify product functionality. If you plan to seek funding from an outside source, digital designs are a great way to communicate an idea. You can demonstrate the product without having to produce a physical prototype.

Speed up time-to-market. The goal of every hardware startup is to get your product into the hands of consumers as quickly as possible. Your company is not profitable until you begin to sell units, therefore any tool that speeds up time-to-market is valuable. With 3D digital design files you can not only design and communicate a product idea, you can also export the design into various file formats for use with CNC machines and 3D printers for production. Manufacturers around the world have adopted common practices and standards that rely on the use of digital design files for their production processes. This adoption of using digital designs for their downstream applications eliminates operator error, increases productivity, and allows for more competitiveness in the marketplace.

Reduce Costs. From the onset, 3D digital designs reduce costs in the form of prototyping. While later on in the product development cycle, these same designs reduce costly errors during production.

The demand for 3D digital designs is rising and it is easy to see why.  For hardware entrepreneurs, 3D digital designs are a great way to explore a product idea, build upon the idea and solicit feedback.

Need assistance creating a 3D Digital Design for your product idea? Contact us! Email us at or give us a call at 808.722.8667. We look forward to talking with you!


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Designing & Prototyping with 3D Printing

3D Printing Services | Rapid Prototyping Services | 3D-innovationsIt’s no secret that additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing) is shifting the manufacturing landscape and transforming supply chains. 3D printing is redefining how companies design, develop and manufacture products. Product designers are experiencing what it means to design without traditional limitations of design for assembly, allowing them to radically reinvent products based on performance rather than manufacturability. Below are four reasons as to why you should be integrating 3D printing into your product development lifecycle if you aren’t already.

Timelines & Budgets.

These are the biggest challenges to any product development team. Producing prototypes and delivering accurate designs to clients has never been easier than it is today with 3D printing. With a 3D printer, CAD models can become real life touchable designs in a matter of hours.

Multiple Design Iterations & Prototyping.

In product development it often takes many iterations of a product before a design is settled on. People have different ideas on how the product should look and function. While a 3D CAD model makes it easier to share design thoughts, nothing compares to holding a physical product in your hand to help communicate an idea.

Once a design has been finalized, a functional prototype is needed to help with other aspects of the business (securing funding, marketing, presentations etc.). In today’s competitive startup market, a functional prototype is no longer optional, and investors (whether VCs or through crowdfunding) want to see how your product actually works and that you have come up with something that is indeed manufacturable.

Manufacturing Flexibility.

3D printing helps reduces the capital involved in achieving economies of scale, thus lowering any barriers to entry for production. This is a major benefit for hardware startups that previously had to find funding before even approaching the idea of manufacturing their product. With 3D printing, startups can now manufacture small batches at an affordable rate and customize products based on customer demands.

Market Testing.

Gauging customer support early in the product development lifecycle is vital for success. You want to get a functional prototype in the hands of your test market as soon as possible so that you can incorporate their feedback into the design. They will be able to share insight regarding product material, product fit, weight, visual appearance and usability. Having access to a 3D printer will let you update designs quickly and communicate design changes.

While 3D printing is making quite an impact on businesses today, it is hard to remember at times that the technology is still evolving and maturing. With the evolution of 3D printing technology, we can only imagine how it will look in five or ten years.


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

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Hardware Startups: Increase Chance for Success by Reducing Risk

November 29, 2016

Building a hardware startup is not for the faint of heart. In an ideal world, we would be able to eliminate all risk and guarantee ourselves success—since that isn’t possible, the next best thing is to find ways to reduce risk as you develop and bring your product to market. By reducing risk in a number of areas you are increasing your chances for success. Below are a few ideas on how to reduce risk for your hardware startup.

3D CAD drawingBuild Prototypes

Developing and building a prototype proves that you can construct and deliver a finished product with the capabilities you want in your product, while staying on budget. A prototype is a baseline for your team and lets you work out any issues early in the design process. During prototype development you will also be able to assess if there are alternate and more efficient ways of building your product—thus, saving both time and money.

Along with prototype development, you want to start the DFM (design for manufacturability) process immediately. This means that you are developing your product to best fit manufacturers’ capabilities and requirements. It can be a costly mistake to build a product with the mindset that a manufacturer will just be able to deliver what you provide them—this is almost never the case. To avoid the (costly) risk of having to redesign your product, start the DFM process congruently with prototype development.

Gather Design Feedback

While you will have an engineering partner working on the development of your hardware product, it is always a good idea to get another set of eyes to review the design. Large corporations have multiple engineers review products to verify the design and provide valuable feedback, before manufacturing begins. A hardware startup doesn’t have the budget of a large corporation, but it can emulate this valuable business practice to reduce risk.

Connect with the Audience

Start building your audience and defining your target market early in the product development cycle. Your target market will be able to provide you with design feedback from a customer point-of-view and also help build interest in your brand. If you wait to connect with your audience until after you launch, you have done your startup a disservice by not building excitement early on and gaining market traction. When you build a rapport with your target market before your product launch, you will have customers ready to buy your product as soon as it’s available.

Building a hardware startup can be challenging; however, with some foresight you can greatly minimize risk while increasing your chance for success.


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

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Hardware Startups: Overcoming Failure to Find Success

November 17, 2016

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley

hardware startupsBuilding a hardware startup is hard work, and the road to success is often dotted with moments of failure, however these moments of adversity make you stronger as an entrepreneur. We tend to perceive failure as more public than success, and try our best to avoid it so as not to be embarrassed. The simple truth is—no great success was ever achieved without failure. So in order to succeed in the world of hardware startups, you must first understand that failure is just a stepping stone to greatness. Below are three common failures experienced by hardware startups, and ideas on how to overcome these obstacles.

Unachieved Funding Goal

The fact is that hardware startups are costly. Between product development and manufacturing, costs can add up quickly. While some entrepreneurs are able to bootstrap and fund the business themselves, more often than not, hardware entrepreneurs need to seek outside funding to help launch their product. If you are having trouble with funding, here are a few points to consider:

  • Setup a crowdfunding campaign. Not all crowdfunding sites are equal. There are lots of crowdfunding websites out there, and you need to do your research to find which one aligns best with your product and brand. (Here is a Forbes article that outlines the top 10 business crowdfunding websites.) When it comes time to setup your campaign, take the time to plan it out, build your “story” and develop a quality video to help market yourself to potential backers. The more creative and organized your crowdfunding campaign is, the more likely you are to raise funds.
  • Connect with Venture Capitalists. VCs can be intimidating. Many entrepreneurs are less willing to approach VCs because of certain preconceived notions—such as, they are too busy, will ask for too much business equity, or hard to do business with. While these might ring true for some VCs, it most certainly is not true for all Reach out to your business network and try connecting with VCs that have experience in your industry.
  • Talk with industry experts. Meet with and interview experts in the industry your hardware startup is trying to break-in to. These experts have vast experience and might be able to point you towards funding opportunities.
  • Reach out to family, friends and business associates. These people have a vested interest in you and want to see you succeed; therefore, they can make excellent investors. Be sure to approach family, friends and associates in a professional business manner and treat meetings with them like you would any other investor. You want them to know that you are serious about your startup and are ready to put in the time and effort to find success.
Target Market Lacks Interest

The main reason your target market will lack interest is because the product is not meeting their needs. You need to first define what the target market wants out of your product and then structure the foundation of your product around these desires. If you begin to build your audience while your product is still being developed, you will have people ready and eager to buy your product when it is available for sale.

  • Market Research. Early in the product design process, reach out to your target market to solicit feedback. These are the people that you want to buy your product, so you need to be sure that you are meeting their needs. Use surveys, questionnaires and focus groups throughout the product development process to gauge customer interest.
  • Build a Functional Prototype. Take your market research one step further and create a functional prototype, or multiple if it can easily be done, to let potential customers test out your product. Allowing them to test your product for a period of time will let them really get a feel for your invention and the feedback you receive will be more specific and in-depth.
High Manufacturing Costs

As a hardware startup, manufacturing is going to be your single biggest expense. Keeping costs low while your product is new to the market will help you reduce your risks and stay out of the red.

  • Ramp up manufacturing volume slowly. Start off manufacturing your product locally and in small batches. Generally, working with a local manufacturer will result in a higher quality product because you are able to closely monitor the manufacturing process. While sending your product overseas to be manufactured from the offset can be tempting, there are inherent risks and the worst case scenario is that you rush into manufacturing a large order and are then stuck with inventory that you simply can’t sell.
  • Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. When you are researching manufacturing partners keep in mind that many things are negotiable. Yes, there will be unavoidable fixed costs, however there are also negotiable items and many manufacturers are willing to match or beat quotes from a competitor.
  • Have the Deposit Available. Money talks. At the end of the day, the manufacturer wants to get paid. If you have the deposit readily available, you find yourself in a strong negotiating position.

Failure is not permanent and it does not have to be the end. While no one enjoys failing, it is a chance to learn, grow and refocus your energy.


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

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Product Design: Baby Proofing Bar

November 14, 2016

A client of ours has an active Kickstarter campaign going for the Baby Proofing Bar—if you have small children at home, you are going to want to check out this product. Kitchens can be a dangerous place for little kids, and this product aims to reduce kitchen related injuries. This patent pending device deters children from opening cabinets and can be installed in just seconds with no need for tools, while leaving your cabinets completely undamaged.

baby_proofing_barHow It Works

How the Baby Proofing Bar works is very simple… The Baby Proofing Bar uses a combination of tension and friction between the cabinet counter top and the floor. A baby or toddler is unable to pull the Baby Proofing Bar out of place. However, when an adult depresses the top down, it easily is removed.

Quick Instillation

The Baby Proofing Bar can be installed in seconds and requires no tools. Renters and home owners alike can appreciate both the quick instillation and the lack of damage to cabinets. Its slim product design makes it easily portable—which is especially helpful around the holidays when you are traveling to visit family.

Benefits of the Baby Proofing Bar:
  • Doesn’t allow little fingers to get pinched, as it keeps the doors and drawers completely shut;
  • Simple and fast to install and remove;
  • Works on kitchen cabinet drawers or doors;
  • Use temporarily or long term;
  • Perfect for renters who are not allowed to damage kitchen cabinets or drawers;
  • Can travel with you to Grandma’s, the sitter or on vacation;
  • Grandma can have her own Baby Proofing Bar to install before the grandkids visit, then easily remove and store after they leave;
  • Has 1/2” adjustability to allow just the right tension for you and your toddler.

Learn more about the Baby Proofing Bar and how you can support the Kickstarter campaign on the company website.


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Hardware Startups: The Challenges of Scaling Up

September 28, 2016
3D Innovations
IP Licensing

Most entrepreneurs start out hitting the ground running and want to take their idea, build upon it, and scale it quickly; however, scaling hardware startups come with unique sets of challenges to consider. Growing any business has inherent obstacles and the basics must be considered, such as: funding, talent and competition—hardware startups also need to take into account additional vital aspects, such as: sourcing, manufacturing and intellectual property. Scaling is a tricky task—scale too quickly and you can get in over your head, scale too slowly and you risk losing momentum and opportunities.  Below are some common pitfalls to avoid when scaling your hardware startup.

Losing touch with your customer.

When you are growing a company it is imperative that you keep your current customers happy. These are the customers that have made it possible for you to scale your business in the first place and you don’t want to let them down with poor customer service now. It is also extremely easy to start to get “sloppy” as you introduce new product versions or product lines, and these errors will whittle away at your customer retention. The core elements of a successful business are customers and products, so even in times of growth, both should be at the front of your mind.

Manufacturer sourcing.

Manufacturing can be the Achilles heel for hardware startups. One misstep in the vetting process or in contract development with a manufacturer and your business can sink. If you don’t have experience going through the contract manufacturing sourcing process, it is critical to find advisors or consultants that have. You are going to want to embrace competition and have multiple manufacturers bidding on your project. Your meetings with manufacturers are as much about pitching to them to get them excited about your project, as it is about doing your due diligence on their facilities and experience.

Streamlining a strategy.

At the beginning, your hardware startup will have one goal in mind: To successfully develop a product and get it onto store shelves. All team members will work towards this single goal on a daily basis. As you begin scale, your strategy and goals will transform, change and multiply. The fluidity of your new goals can make it hard for founders to take their mindset from that of laser-focused product development to business high-level. As your list of goals begins to grow, your strategy will shift to taking the top three or four-high level goals and focus teams accordingly.

Scaling a business is rewarding. Taking the time now to plan and prepare for sustainable growth will serve your startup well.


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

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3D Innovations: A Top 100 Twitter Account in Honolulu

September 26, 2016
3D Innovations


Our 3D Innovations Twitter account made the list for the Top 100 Twitter Users in Honolulu, Hawaii. (We are currently at #27.)

We are always looking for ways to connect with our clients and industry leaders. You can also find us sharing product design, manufacturing and startup news and events on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.


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

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Product Design: GoPro Mount Accessory [Case Study]


The challenge: Develop a hands-free GoPro mount accessory.

Our 3D Innovations team worked closely with a group of young entrepreneurs during Startup Weekend Honolulu 2015 in the product design and development of a hands-free GoPro mount accessory. With only 54 hours to develop and prototype the idea, time was of the essence.

go pro accessoryThe initial concept was to develop a clip that would attach a Go Pro camera to the front of your hat for hands free video action shots. Using our 3D Design process, we were able to take the initial idea and develop a functional design. Numerous factors needed to be accounted for throughout the product design phasesize, weight and materials. 3D Printing technology was utilized to accommodate the rapid product development cycle. Several versions of the prototype were produced in a short period of time, which allowed the team to test and conduct customer validation studies.

With the final design, this accessory can now replace over a dozen mounts for GoPros, iPhones, audio recorders and lights. The easy to use and compact hands-free mount design makes it easy to take along on your next adventure.

Using our 3D Design and 3D Printing process, we were able to save over $4,000 in prototyping costs while reducing the development time from weeks or months to just days. The utilization of 3D printing technology led to significant cost savings, which allowed the team to develop several versions that were validated through the customer discovery process and led to the final production-ready design.

Results: Designed and developed a functional prototype in 54 hours.

“Working with 3D Innovations allowed us to turn our concept into a prototype and help win the 2015 Startup Weekend Honolulu event. With the assistance from 3D Innovations, we have a concept that can be brought to life through crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter. This will help us raise the necessary funds to mass produce this product.”


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

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What Your Future Manufacturing Partner Wants You To Know

August 24, 2016
3D Innovations

Manufacturing 3D PrintingWhen the time comes to manufacture your hardware product, having the right manufacturing partner on your team makes all the difference. Speed, accuracy, reliability and open communication are all characteristics to look for when picking a contract manufacturer (CM). Building a supply chain from scratch is challenging and many hardware startups falter during this early-stage, however with the right information your startup doesn’t have to be one of them.

Below are a few points that manufacturers want hardware entrepreneurs to know.
  1. Plan to visit the factory. Phone calls and emails are great, but nothing beats a face-to-face meeting to hammer out the details. You want to get your prototype in the hands of the people who are going to build your product and a visit to the factory lets you see how the manufacturer functions and lets you evaluate their methodology. Whether your factory is in Mexico, China or the United States a visit to the factory is vital to a successful collaboration.
  2. Be prepared to share everything. Whether you are asking for a quote or ready to start production, be prepared to share all the information you have about your product. The manufacturer is going to need CAD files, technical drawings, schematics, etc. Providing this information allows the CM to provide an accurate quote and/or production timeline.
  3. Give them a realistic assessment of production volumes. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to production volumes. Traditionally, startups need to start with small production runs and then scale up. You may find that some CMs 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 though, they may be willing to work with you on scope and budget because they understand the long-term potential you have as a client.
  4. Respect their knowledge. You manufacturer will be obligated to meet the requirements and specifications you set for your hardware product; however, they will also be able to provide valuable insight for your consideration. Manufacturers have extensive knowledge from years of experience and this can be a valuable asset to your business. Keep an open mind when they provide suggestions on how to simplify and improve difference aspects of your product.

Hardware product development is a lengthy process, but it doesn’t have to be frustrating. Taking the time to evaluate potential manufacturing partners before selecting one will save you headaches (and heartaches) later on.


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

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

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