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We recently came across a white paper by National Instruments titled, “Six Good Reasons to Prototype” and wanted to share it with you. Nothing is more exciting and exhilarating than coming up with a brilliant idea. However turning that idea into an actual product can be more challenging than you might expect.
The journey from concept to market is typically a long road riddled with hidden obstacles and unforeseen turns. Building a quick prototype of a design can help smooth that path as well as present some other benefits.
1. Fail early and inexpensively – Real innovation always includes a risk of failure. Thomas Edison once joked, “We now know a thousand ways not to build a light bulb.” By building a prototype, you can quickly weed out the approaches that don’t work to focus on the ones that do.
2. Gather more accurate requirements – Almost half of all project costs are attributed to rework due to inadequate requirements. Traditional requirements gathering techniques such as interviews and focus groups can fall short because many people find it difficult to conceptualize a product before they see it. By developing a working prototype, you can demonstrate the functionality to help solidify requirements for the final design.
3. Technically understand the problem – It is unfortunate that system architecture must come so early in the design process because time only enhances your understanding of the problems that you may encounter. Have you ever thought, “If I could go back in time, I would change … ”? By developing a functional prototype, you are forced to address both the foreseen and the unforeseen technical challenges of a device’s design. Then, you can apply those solutions to a more elegant system design when you move to the final deployed solution.
4. Resolve conflicts – The best engineers have strong opinions about how a given feature should be implemented. Inevitably, differences of opinion result in conflicts, and these conflicts can be difficult to resolve because both sides have only opinions, experience, and conjecture to refer to as evidence. By taking advantage of a prototyping platform, you can quickly conduct several different implementations of the feature and benchmark the resulting performance to analyze the trade-offs of each approach. This can save time, but it also ensures that you make the correct design decisions.
5. Rally financial support – In the years since the dot-com bubble burst, investors such as venture capitalists have grown more risk-adverse when investing in start-ups. Even within larger companies, internal projects face similar scrutiny from executives looking to maximize revenue. By developing a prototype to demonstrate the feasibility of your idea, you lower the risk of investment and therefore increase the probability that your idea will be funded.
6. File patents more easily – Before 1880, all inventors had to present working models or prototypes of their inventions to the patent office as part of the patent application process. Today, the United States Patent and Trademark Office uses the “first to invent rule,” which grants a patent to the first inventor who conceives and reduces the technology or invention to practice. Though no longer required, a prototype is still the best and safest way to demonstrate “reduction to practice.” Furthermore, key components of a patent application, such as patent drawings and the inventor’s logbook.
If you would like more information about prototyping or have questions, please feel free to e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
3D Innovations is a full service 3D Engineering/Design company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
Is it just us or does it seem as though makerspaces are rapidly popping up all over the world? When you go to Google and type in ‘makerspace’, not only do you find a long list of established makerspaces, but also numerous tutorials on how to build a successful makerspace. As an engineering and product development firm we think this evolution is exciting, as it reflects a changing mindset in individuals and the business community. People have ideas and many want to turn their ideas into an actual product, not only for their own use, but to commercialize it and share it with the world. Makerspaces allow people to find the resources to do just this!
While makerspaces are wonderful on so many levels, it can be challenging for makerspaces to find dedicated experts in certain fields to be a resource for their budding entrepreneurs. Our 3D Innovations team has experience working with makerspaces on a variety of levels. We specialize in 3D engineering and specifically the entire product development life cycle (from 3D design to a fully functional 3D prototype and product) and have helped numerous entrepreneurs launch successful businesses. If your makersapce has product development questions or is simply looking for an engineering and 3D printing resource for your makers please reach out to us and we can chat!
Our e-mail is email@example.com and you can visit our website here.
3D Innovations is a full service 3D Engineering/Design company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
Five critical tips on how to successfully get a product to market…
Starting with a sketch of your idea and developing a flow chart of how you intend it to function is a good start. Don’t worry if you think your sketches are too rudimentary, we’ll fix it up for you. List all of the requirement you have including important specifications like size, weight, function, and any special functionality you want your device to have.
One important factor to consider early in the conceptual stage and something to ask yourself is: “what is the market for this product?”. Conduct surveys, focus groups, and talk to potential end users prior to making any major commitments. This feedback will give you a better sense of validating whether or not the product is marketable. Crowdfunding sites such as KickStarter are a good way to validate the marketability of the idea.
Once your sketch is outlined, the detailed design process can begin. Often times the first steps in the design process will include creating Industrial Design sketches to refine the initial concept and provide a clearer design direction before any further work is completed. This will give you a better understanding of what to expect from your 3D Design. After selecting the sketch or sketches you like, those concepts will be developed into a working 3D design. This detailed design process will involve creating a design that is not only manufacturable, but one that includes all of the requirements and specifications that were discussed at the initial design stage. This design is the first prototype, often referred to as a digital prototyping. This process is implemented to accelerate time to market. Packaging of often integrated into this step.
Once the design is finalized and approved, several iterations of prototypes are build to test the form, fit, and function of the design. Having a physical prototype is more valuable and provides more benefit than just the digital design. In most cases, several iterations of design and prototyping will be required to fine tune the design and function. 3D Printing or Additive Manufacturing is a quick and cost effective method to create functional prototypes. Subtractive processes such and CNC machining are also an option.
Test, retest, and more retesting. Put the functional prototypes into hands of end users, potential buyer/distributors, and anyone who can give you critical non biased feedback. This feedback should validate input provided in Step 1.
Production manufacturing will be one of the biggest leaps to finalize the product development process. To produce the high quantities needed, tooling or molds will be required to manufacture the parts. The molds are typically made from high grade Steel and are capable of producing hundreds of parts per hour with a lifetime quantity of 400,000+ parts. The tooling will be an investment, but will allow you to cost effectively produce parts for the initial run and also for future orders.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact us or if you need a quote for your next project, click here.
Below are some of the most common 3D printing questions we hear and, we wanted to make sure that we made the answers available to anyone interested in additive manufacturing for their product.
The cost for a 3D Printed part is based on the amount of volume (size) of the part and the type of material being used. These costs are generally different for each material type.
The materials that can be used with 3D Printers today is rapidly evolving. The most common material used for 3D Printing is ABS, PLA, Polycarbonate, Nylon, Rubber like material, Paper, Wax, Carbon Fiber, Ceramic, Powder, and various Metals. Each type of 3D Printing technology will utilize a different material. Certain printers can also produce multi-materials in a single build.
Build times are based on the volume (size) of the part. Different 3D Printing technologies have various build times. Small parts can print as quickly as 15 minutes while larger parts can take the entire day to build. In some cases, build times can be reduced by re-orienting the part in your printing software.
Finished parts are generally durable and can withstand normal handling. If you are using them for functional design, FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) parts have been known to be stronger and last longer. Resin based parts that are cured with a UV light will typically degrade faster, especially if exposed to high temperatures, humidity, and sunlight.
Yes, colors are available. Most printers produce parts using a mono (single) color while others have the capability to use the full spectrum of colors to produce multi-colored parts.
If you have any additional questions, feel free to contact us or if you need a quote for your next project, click here.
Many entrepreneurs out there have great ideas but get stuck on their first big leap into action and ask themselves…Should I prototype my idea or start crowdfunding first? Should you get started on a crowdfunding site with a great idea sketched onto a piece of paper or develop a functioning prototype to clearly communicate your idea. In short, the answer is that prototyping comes first. Having a prototype of your product idea maximizes your chances of receiving funding.
1. A prototype shows investors that you are serious. When you take the time to have a functioning prototype built you are showing any potential investor that you are committed to making this product a success. A prototype also gives you a chance to refine your idea and make sure that it is a viable product that can be built (and easily manufactured at a later date). As you will see on any crowdfunding website, a product video is key. Having an aesthetically pleasing prototype to show off in this video will help your marketing efforts and allow you to clearly explain and demonstrate your product.
2. First impressions are invaluable. Having a prototype not only provides investors with an idea about your product but it also gives them insight into you and your business. Investors want to see that you have thought this through, you are prepared and ready to execute. The quality, functionality and overall aesthetics of your prototype will allow investors to gauge your commitment and ability to handle future challenges.
3. Crowdfunding your way to success. While a prototype will help you raise capital for your product, it will also help you delve into product development and manufacturing in a more streamlined manner than if you were just starting from a paper sketch of your idea. A prototype provides a clear vision of your product and it will help you clearly communicate design and functionality aspects with your engineering and manufacturing partners.
Please feel free to contact us with any prototyping or product development questions you may have at firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week Entrepreneur posted an outstanding article regarding the importance of a prototype when you are searching for funding (To Attract Funding, Develop a Prototype). This article goes on to talk about a few main reasons that investors love seeing a prototype during a “pitch”. Gaining the attention of investors is imperative for many entrepreneurs; and what better way to do that than by having an actual product prototype to let investors see, touch and test?
Here are a few reasons why investors love prototypes:
Creates an emotional connection. Investors are more likely to put up money if they have an emotional connection to the product, and that’s most likely to happen through a prototype. The reason being is people’s attitudes about a product change when they take it into their hands and use it.
It is expected. Standards for prototypes have gone up a lot in recent years due to easy and cheap 3D printing. So in most cases a crude mockup or basic proof of principal model is not going to cut it anymore.
Know where you are in the game. While having the best possible prototype available during a pitch session is critical, not every startup will be able to create a top-of-the-line one. Refinement is expected but having a prototype helps investors understand where you are in the process.
Allows for feedback. With a physical prototype, it is much easier to respond and provide input at each stage of the product development cycle.
Exposes weak points. A prototype can more easily highlight your weaknesses, which could be a good thing, as it helps investors understand what further resources are needed.
To read the article in its entirety, please click here.
With projects constantly being developed, we would like to expand our active relationships with local, national, and global licensing attorneys and/or companies. We have a number of clients, small businesses and entrepreneurs that are interested in partnering with licensing attorneys that handle “hardware” types of patents (i.e. widgets, anything that can be made from plastic, rubber, silicone and metal) and electro-mechanical devices. If you are a licensing attorney with this type of specialization or know a fellow licensing attorney, please contact us at email@example.com. When you contact us we can discuss the types of products further via e-mail or through a phone conference and see if this partnership would be a good match.