Posts Tagged "product development process"

Five Questions to Ask a Potential Product Development Partner

September 12, 2016
3D Innovations

product developmentFinding the right product development partner to assist you as you take an idea from concept to product is a major undertaking—and can often be the difference between success and failure.  Product development is a collaborative endeavor, and you want to have a team that is able to clearly communicate, develop and deliver your product on time and on budget.

Here are the five key questions that you need to ask while searching for the right product development company.

How will we define clear requirements?

It’s crucial to be able to clearly define the goals of the engagement early-on. Many times entrepreneurs will need to set these goals before talking with product development firms, so that they are in a better position when asking for, and comparing, proposals.  Depending on the scope of the project, a firm might ask the client to engage in a preliminary “discovery” phase to gather all baseline requirements before submitting a formal proposal. This “discovery” phase is most often used when there is extensive research or testing involved.

What is your related expertise?

Are you looking for a partner that has experience in a particular field, a specialty or quick turnaround? Lay out the characteristics of your ideal firm and begin your search with this criteria in mind. Be cognizant of the fact that you may not find a firm that meets all of your criteria perfectly. It is best to approach companies that are suited to projects your size—a firm with 500 employees might not be an ideal match for an entrepreneur with a $30,000 budget.

How well do you adapt to change?

There is no doubt that the product development path is fraught with obstacles and challenges. A firm that is able to be flexible will serve you well. Flexibility is important for a number of reasons—scope-of-work, design and deadline changes occur frequently and you don’t want each change to be a “battle” between you and the firm.

What method do you use for setting deliverables?

A common understanding of deliverables is necessary to demonstrate results. A lack of agreement on deliverable from the onset is a big factor in dissatisfaction from both parties. Without set deliverables, debates about quality and expectations are bound to happen—which leads to frustration and wasted time.

For example: Is a prototype a required deliverable? If so, do you need it to be a proof-of-concept, or a functional model? Going into details such as this will help clarify deliverables for both parties.

What will our acceptance criteria be?

Breaking larger projects into phases is common and payments can be contingent on the phase being “complete”, therefore both parties need a clear understanding of what “complete” means. This leads back to deliverables—have they been met and are both parties satisfied that they were met in a complete manner? Scheduling final review meetings are an easy way to stay on track with deliverables and to know when each phase has been completed.

The above questions will not only help you find a product development partner, but will set the foundation for a successful, productive and profitable relationship. In the end, you want to get your idea off the drawing board and into the marketplace on time and on budget.

*If you are searching for a product development partner for your next project, contact us at info@3d-innovations.com

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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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Lean Startup Principles for Hardware Entrepreneurs

August 8, 2016
3D Innovations

The Lean Startup methodology is a principled approach to new product development that can be applied to startups and corporations alike. While the Lean Startup approach is most often attributed to technology startups, it can be used by businesses of all kinds and at all stages of growth. The five principles of the Lean Startup guide you through the product development process while maximizing business acceleration.

The Five Lean Startup Principles:

  1. Entrepreneurs are Everywhere
  2. Entrepreneurship is Management
  3. Validated Learning
  4. Innovation Accounting
  5. Build-Measure-Learn

At the core of these principles are three goals: eliminate uncertainty, work smarter and continuously validate learning.

Eliminate Uncertainty

By eliminating uncertainty as well as a “just do it” mentality, you are able to take a measured approach to product development. Creating tools that constantly and accurately test your vision provide your startup with the necessary insight to know when to pivot or move forward.

Work Smarter

lean startupInstead of asking yourself, “Can this product be built?” the lean methodology asks you to take a step back and instead ask, “Should this product be built?” By changing your mindset in this manner you are asking the question, “Can we build a sustainable business around this product?”

Gathering the data to answer these questions will connect you with early-adopters. With each prototype, you are able to test your product with these customers and garner feedback. By the time you are ready to begin distribution, you will already have established customers in place. By working smarter, you save business resources, set a methodology around product development and ultimately eliminate uncertainty.

Validated Learning

Embracing validated learning shrinks the product development process and can save a significant amount of time and money for your startup. Validated learning stems back to the idea of finding your early-adopters and target market early on. When you have open communication with this audience you are able to rapidly adapt changes that they value.

Too many startups begin with an idea for a product that they think people want without actually asking their target customers if they would use it, and more importantly, purchase it. Speaking to prospective customers is critical and can often mean success or failure for a startup. Congruent with the validated learning concept, is the development of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

What is a Minimum Viable Product?

“The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning with the least effort.”

The core principle of the Lean Startup method is the build-measure-learn feedback loop. The first step in this process is to establish the problem that needs to be solved. Once the problem is established, an MVP is developed to find a solution as quickly as possible. At this stage, time is of the essence. Once an MVP is established, you then work to fine tune it with measured metrics and customer feedback. When the measurement and learning aspects of the feedback loop are done correctly, your team will be able to decide if the startup is moving in the right direction or if a course correction is necessary. All successful startup processes should be geared to accelerate this build-measure-learn feedback loop.

The Lean Startup Principles have been shown time and again to speed up product development and successfully launch products into the marketplace. While this business methodology has been embraced by technology startups, hardware entrepreneurs are seeing its benefits and incorporating it into their own businesses as well.

Have questions about the Lean Startup methodology or the product development process? Contact us, info@3d-innovations.com

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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.

Subscribe to the 3D Innovations newsletter on our Facebook page!

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Product Design: What Does It Take To Develop A Successful Product?

August 3, 2016
3D Innovations

Product design is where engineering and art intersect—combining vision with creativity to develop a product that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Designing a product is one thing, but designing a successful product is quite another. A designer must consider both the functional aspects of the product while keeping the consumer’s interest at the forefront—and these two concepts may not always coincide. While the product design process is rife with challenges, having an experienced team in place will help you navigate these obstacles. Before you dive into the product design process, here are five questions to ask yourself.

  1. What real-world problem is my product solving?

    Products find success because they solve an existing real-world problem experienced by many. Offering people a solution to a problem that consumers are already aware of is key. (If you have to convince your target market that they have a problem, you will face an uphill battle when it comes time to market and sell your product.) After you have identified the real-world problem you are aiming to solve, expand from there with the goal of addressing it.

  2. What is the primary function of my product?

    Asking yourself this question will help layout your priorities early in the design process. In essence, it is a mission statement for your design team. All engineering and design decisions should keep this function in mind and make it a priority throughout the entire product development process.

  3. Is every aspect of the design useful?

    Too many features will get in the way and take away from your product’s intended functionality. If you focus on features over functionality it will be easy to get bogged down with too many bells and whistles. This will undoubtedly slow down product development while diminishing your product’s focus. It is best to start with the basics from the onset and then add components as the design progresses.

  4. Is the design of my product intuitive?

    Consumers crave simplicity—products with sleek designs, clean lines and that are easy to navigate. If your product proves to be too complicated or frustrating, consumers will quickly switch to your competitor. When you are working on the design, always approach it from an “outsider’s” perspective to determine if the design is becoming too cumbersome.

  5. What is my competitive edge over the competition?

    Be innovative. Truly innovative products revolutionize industries and quickly surpass the competition. As with any business, you have to know your competitive advantage and be able to articulate it quickly and concisely. Think of this as your “elevator pitch” and intertwine it into all facets of your design and product marketing.

Having the answers to these questions will not only keep your design on track but will also help clarify the product for your entire team.

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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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Five Product Development Pitfalls to Avoid

July 12, 2016
3D Innovations

The hardware startup landscape is riddled with product development challenges and barriers, and as an entrepreneur your job is to make sure that you are well equipped to handle whatever comes your way. This by no means is saying that you must have all of the answers—no one is an expert at everything—it is saying that you need to surround yourself with people of differing skill sets to help you along the way.

Below are five common product development pitfalls to avoid as you prepare to develop and launch your product.

costsPoor planning. “Failing to plan, is planning to fail.” Managing your risk and proper product development planning are two ways to overcome this common pitfall. Without a plan in place you leave the door open to errors and derailment. Though plans can—and do—change having one in place is a good way to minimize risk and reduce your time-to-market.

IP Risk. A survey of the IP landscape for your specific product/industry can greatly reduce this risk. Patent attorneys and engineers work together to make sure that your idea is not already patented and that there is ample room to innovate.

Market Risk. While you might find your product to be useful, is there a customer base for it? Are there other people out there who would purchase this product? Assessing the market risk is done through market research. Find your target market and work with them to gauge their needs and build a product that works for them.

Cost Risk. Can you make a profit? You want to be sure that your design is both effective and efficient. Minimizing your costs from the onset is the best way to combat this pitfall. The manufacturing phase of product development is where many entrepreneurs face this challenge. Research manufacturers and find one that has experience manufacturing a product similar to yours—chances are if they have experience, there will be fewer (costly) errors.

Competitive Risk. Work with professionals and team members that have experience navigating your industry. The experience they bring to your startup is invaluable and will help you get to market much faster, thus reducing your competitive risk.

Developing a product and launching a startup is a great adventure. Starting the process prepared and aware of these common pitfalls will undoubtedly help you throughout your entire product development and product launch journey.

Do you have further questions about the product development process? We would love to help! Send them our way, info@3d-innovations.com

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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.

Subscribe to the 3D Innovations newsletter on our Facebook page!

Connect with us on TwitterFacebook & LinkedIn today

Validate Your Product Idea Early-On With Quality Feedback

May 11, 2016
3D Innovations

1lightbulbWe are a nation of makers and find profound satisfaction when we successfully bring a product to market. Nothing brings this to light more than a quick glance at U.S. Patent Statistics. In 1963 there were 85,869 utility patent applications, compared to 2015 in which the U.S. Patent Office reviewed 589,410 utility patent applications—an increase of over 580%.

While the number of applications for patents in the United States shot through the roof, the number of patents granted is usually about half of the total submitted in a given year. But the point is: more and more people are making stuff. Knowing that more people are trying their hand at inventing then begs the questions:

  • How many of these patents became profitable businesses?
  • How many inventors and makers are sustaining themselves with their products?
  • Are these patents leading to cutting-edge technologies in the marketplace?

The reality is that innovation is hard. Transitioning from a minimal viable product to a functional prototype and finally a manufacturable product takes both time and money—and a big dose of determination. The product development process is a marathon, not a sprint. Can you image spending weeks, months or years perfecting a design and having it manufactured, only to see if fail after its launch? The best way to avoid this type of failure is to prepare yourself early-on and have your idea validated by your target market.

Suggestions on obtaining feedback from your target market:

  • Develop a website around your product/startup, before you even launch, to build both excitement and solicit feedback from potential customers (a quick survey link will do the trick).
  • Send out a survey (electronically or hardcopy, depending on your target market) to those interested in your product and ask about features they would find beneficial, ask about design elements and importantly ask at what price they would purchase your product.
  • If your product is easy to manufacture in small batches, make a few and hand them out to target market customers. Then hold a customer feedback session in which you obtain their feedback on the design and functionality of the product.

The information gleaned from this customer feedback not only helps you design a better product, it helps you validate your idea and develop a product that people will actually purchase. By designing a product around your target market and features they value, inventors and startups can dramatically increase their rate of success.

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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.

Subscribe to the 3D Innovations newsletter on our Facebook page!

Connect with us on TwitterFacebook & LinkedIn today

Innovation Is The Result Of Collaboration

April 7, 2016
3D Innovations

Over the centuries we have come to romanticize innovation as a spark of genius in one individualthe eureka moment—in which a solution to a real world problem is suddenly solved. This fallacy indirectly tells us that some people are innovative while others simply are not. However, this could not be further from the truth.

For instance, we all recognize Alexander Fleming as the brilliant mind behind penicillin—he stumbled across this miracle medicine and single handily created the field of antibiotics. In truth, the creation of penicillin took decades and the collaboration of many individuals. While Fleming did write about his finding in 1929, he did not have the skill set to study penicillin in any detail and turn it into a workable compound, Fleming was brilliant but he was not a trained chemist.

teamIn 1939, two chemists, Howard Florey and Ernst Chain came across Fleming’s paper and immediately understood the significance of his findings. They used their skill sets to product penicillin in quantity and began experimentation of it. Once they understood that this medicine could have a profound impact on society they needed to find a way to produce it in a massive quantitiesin steps the Rockefeller Foundation, which provided the necessary funding to develop methods in which it could be mass produced. In 1945, Fleming, Florey, and Chain received the Nobel Prize for medicine. So while, one man is often given sole credit in the history books for this great invention, it in fact, took the skill sets of many people to test the idea and bring it to market.

We started this post with the Fleming narrative to help alleviate the stress many entrepreneurs feelthat they have to come up with a magical business idea and execute it on their own. This is simply not true.

Building a team to help execute your idea is optimal. With a team you are imploring the talents and skill sets of many individuals. Not only do these skill sets help with execution, but they aid in the entire product development process. A team member might bring up a feature that you simply have not considered yet, or have an idea on how to broaden your market reach. Surrounding yourself with people of differing skill sets will greatly increase your chances for a successful product launch.

Collaboration is the ultimate competitive advantage for businesses in any stagestartups to multinational corporations. The individuals on your team each have a role to play in innovation, and by harnessing these talents, you will effectively build a stronger product and business.

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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.

Subscribe to the 3D Innovations newsletter on our Facebook page!

Connect with us on TwitterFacebook & LinkedIn today

Product of the Week: Crystal Wash 2.0

January 30, 2015
3D Innovations

“Changing the way laundry gets done.” The Crystal Wash 2.0 aims to change the way in which we tackle the chore of laundry while benefiting the environment.

crystalwash“Crystal Wash is a proven technology that lasts for at least 1000 loads of laundry.  It uses the power of Bio Ceramics from the earth, which naturally clean your clothes as effectively as laundry detergent. It is better for your skin and more gentle on your fabrics. It is also better for the environment because it reduces contaminated waste water filtered back into the water supply, saves water by lowering required rinse cycles, and effectively reduces CO2 production by requiring less energy than a traditional detergent based wash.”

As with many products today, the Crystal Wash 2.0 will be conveniently connected to your phone, through an app, and will provide recharge alerts, wash complete alters, wash cycle tracking stats, savings tracker and much more. On the Kickstarter page for Crystal Wash 2.0 you can also view a video in which they take you though the prototyping and testing process. As an engineering firm we are always interested in the full product development life cycle and can really appreciate the design and testing that has gone into making the Crystal Wash 2.0 a success.

Learn more about the Crystal Wash 2.0 on Kickstarter or the official website. You can also follow the company and their Kickstarter campaign on Twitter!

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3D Innovations is a full service 3D Engineering/Design company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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The Product Development Process

The 3D Innovations Product Development Process Explained

Concept
The conceptual phase typically begins with developing the basic idea and requirements into a visual object that depicts what the final product could look like. This involves integrating industrial design methods that include various materials, surface finish of the parts, and overall aesthetics.

Design/Prototype
With the requirements fully or partially defined, the conceptual design can be transformed into a virtual design that is not only functional, but manufacturable. Design For Manufacturability (DFM) is a critical part of this design phase. The DFM process will be based on the product type and ultimately, the production manufacturing method(s) that will be used. Once a virtual design is completed using 3D CAD (Computer Aided Design), it must be validated to ensure the proper functionality. Having a tangible item to feel, touch, hold, and test is always recommended and can save on the cost of re-design and re-working of production tooling and molds if errors are not caught before proceeding with the manufacturing phase. With 3D Printing becoming more mainstream and with more materials available for use, this is often times the preferred method for prototyping a design. Other prototyping methods can also be used if required. Prototypes can also be produced to be used as marketing tools to present to investors, potential partners, or for media releases.

Manufacturing
Once the design has been fully validated to ensure that form, fit, and function have been accounted for, the production manufacturing phase can begin. If high volume quantities are required, special molds and tooling are likely needed to efficiently and cost effectively produce final production parts. Low volumes can also be produced using various molding methods, but may not be feasible for quantities less than several hundred parts. Depending on the products functionality, an appropriate manufacturing method will be selected. If the product requires integrating electronics or assembly of other parts, this would be done during the manufacturing phase once all individual components have been produced.

Product
Product packaging and marketing play an important role in getting the product launched and promoted in the marketplace. Specialized packaging can be design and manufactured to fit the product specifications. With a team of Marketing and Graphic Design specialists, promotion/marketing, product packaging, graphic design for collateral and websites can be created to showcase the product capabilities.

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3D Innovations is a full service 3D Engineering/Design company – from the  3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.