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3D printing is a technology that has the ability to capture everyone’s imagination, however we need to remember that it is, in a sense, a secondary process and a lot of work comes before you start printing. We all see those fantastic time-lapse 3D printing videos floating around the internet, where in a mere minute you can watch a 3D printer bring a product to life. What you can’t see is the design and testing that comes beforehand.
Before you even get going with 3D printing, you must come up with your design. On the surface this seems simple enough, however one of the benefits of 3D printing is your ability to design shapes without traditional constraints. Less constraints mean that complex geometries can shine. 3D printing gives new meaning to “thinking outside of the box” when it comes to 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, 3D printing creates new product design opportunities.
Once you come up with a design, it’s time to develop it in a CAD program. This CAD file feeds the 3D printing machine the information that it needs to create the object.
“Not only does a CAD file help save time when figuring out all the finer details of a part by looking at the 3D model, but it also allows a model to be magnified and even rotate on any axis to get a full three-dimensional concept of the part, which allows you a greater sense of the product. Using CAD makes it possible to simulate the movement of a part as well.” (Vista Industrial)
3D CAD has come a long way in recent years. You can design and stress test your product design all right on the computer. CAD simulations let you get a real feel for your product—how it looks, moves and does under pressure. The ability to do this means that you can refine your design before it is ever 3D printed.
Once you have cleared these hurdles and are happy with your design, it’s then time to head to the 3D printer. Depending on the size of your product, print times can take a few hours.
Fun fact, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Boeing still hold the record for “Largest solid 3D-printed item“, with the 3D printed wing trim tool that took 30 hours to make.
Assuming that you aren’t trying to break any Guinness World Records with print size, using 3D printing is a great way to cut down on the time it takes to get a customized part or prototype in your hand. Short turnaround, complex geometries and customization are the main benefits to 3D printing technology and the reason many businesses and entrepreneurs turn to this technology for assistance.
Have additional 3D printing questions? Send us an email at email@example.com
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
In this post we are going over the product development basics for our friends thinking of launching their dream in the new year. As one year ends and another begins, it’s time for many to look ahead to the possibilities of what a brand new year can bring. If you have been mulling over a hardware product idea in your head and are ready to take that next step, the new year is a great time to get going on it. Below we are sharing product development basics to help get you started.
Write your idea down in detail. Talk about the functionality of your product, what it looks like and what you want it to achieve. Writing the details down will ensure that you don’t forget anything and help clarify the idea for yourself.
The documentation process doesn’t have to happen at one time, but instead, may evolve over time as you continue to build upon your idea and narrow its scope.
Now that you have your idea documented, start creating a requirements list—functionality that your product “must” have. You are narrowing in on the main functionality of your product and why it will appeal to consumers.
Once you have this information, you can create a 3D design to virtually validate and test your product. 3D design testing and analysis is a great way to prove your concept and at this stage making changes is easy. This is also a good time to start thinking about IP protection for your hardware product.
Depending on the type of hardware product you want to develop, you might be able to make a prototype at-home with traditional household items. However, keep in mind that this prototype won’t suffice as you head into manufacturing. In the very early stages, a homemade prototype will help convey your idea to potential investors and customers. As you move towards manufacturing, you are going to need a functional prototype developed using DFM (design for manufacturability) methodology to ensure a smooth transition into manufacturing.
Using your prototype, it is time to reach out to those potential customers to get their feedback and insight. At this stage you want to know what customers like about your product and what they don’t. Keep in mind that you might have to re-evaluate the design of your product if you are receiving feedback indicating that change is needed—these design changes may deviate from your initial idea, but ultimately you want to meet your customers’ needs.
Once you have finalized your design and are happy with the feedback you are receiving from your target market, it’s time to manufacture. Finding the right manufacturing partner can be an intimidating process, but you want to be sure that you are comfortable with your manufacturer since this could be a make or break stage for your hardware product.
It’s time to launch! During the commercialization stage you will develop distribution channels and finally get to see your product on store shelves. With the hard work it took to get to this stage, seeing your product in the hands of your customers is extremely gratifying.
Now that we have gone over product development basics at a high level, you can dig further into these topics on our blog. If you have additional questions, we are happy to help. Please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
We cannot underestimate the power of 3D printing as it pertains to manufacturing. It has allowed us to create complex parts with pinpoint accuracy, lowered the cost of production and expanded our imagination beyond historical limitations. The technology is poised to revolutionize the manufacturing industry in the future. Despite all these benefits, there are still several weaknesses that we have not been able to conquer in 3D printing. While the technology is still evolving, 3D printing firms like Geomiq will have to overcome several challenges to ensure quality, cost reduction and drive innovation. Here are five such challenges.
This is the most basic of the challenges that many printers have to contend with. The quality-related problems can be subdivided into few issues like available materials, low-resolution output and fused deposition modelling parts that are fragile. A combination of these three makes most 3D printed parts to be of an inferior quality to those manufactured with traditional means.
First, the material choices are limited to those that can be melted, squirted or extruded. This puts away lots of other materials that can produce better quality items. There have been strides in creating multi-materials, but there are only two at a time. Intelligent machine design may eventually solve problems with human error in complex printing, while improvements in output may help solve low output problems.
While 3D printing provides cheap items compared to traditional printing methods, it takes too many parameters, adjustments and juggling formats. It has been joked that the reason 3D printers are transparent is to enable engineers to determine if the printing is going on right. It is up to the printing firm to come up with clear processes when undertaking the printing work so that each output is similar to the rest.
Besides, professional organizations are also tasked with creating standardized processes for most of the 3D printing projects so that printing across various industries can result in quality and standardized products just like the case of traditional manufacturing. The overall goal is to have one-click printing reliability, just like the 2D printers.
As 3D printing technology continues to infiltrate various industries, there is a lack of enough skilled employees who can design, use software, computer-aided design and operate 3D printers. For the technology to live to its promise, companies need to invest resources and time into training staff members on emerging innovations in 3D printing. This may be a challenge as many seasoned engineers and companies are reluctant to incorporate new technologies. On the same note, technology institutions must also start investing in the technology and giving their students hands-on experience in 3D printing. The training will become easy if there is standardization, as explained in the section above.
The cost of owning an industrial-type 3D printer is prohibitive. Unlike many disruptive technologies where the cost of owning the technology is fairly low, with 3D printing, the company must have deep pockets for the capital equipment. Materials used in the printing are also not widely available and, therefore, do not come cheap. This makes it hard for most firms to invest in several printers or expand their production using 3D printers. If the technology is to gain traction in manufacturing, the cost of assembling the printers should go down so that many can own the piece of equipment.
Sadly, many 3D printing efforts are aimed at the wrong target. Most organizations would be happy to use the technology in creating replacement parts, tools and prototypes with the technology and not think of wholesome solutions or final production parts. The reason for this myopic view is because many engineers do not see the technology from a holistic view of solution building.
Any additive manufacturing technology should have a process, materials, parts and a system. It may be okay to separate the four ideas in manufacturing. However, when building a solution, all these parts must work together. For example, if you are creating springs for a piece of equipment, you should not see it just as parts but should look at the relationship with other parts. You can re-engineer the whole engine so that you produce smaller or better parts and result in high-performing, low-cost equipment. This way, 3D printing will have lived to its promise.
As we refine 3D printing technologies, manufacturers are likely to meet several challenges on the way. Most challenges can be dealt with to acceptable levels. However, manufacturers must also be dynamic enough to incorporate innovations in the technology as they come.
Guest post from Jessica Harper at Geomiq.
The Crowley family came to us with the idea for The Baby Toon. Their daughter, Cassidy (age 7), had come up with the idea and the design for the Honolulu District Science and Engineering Fair.
“I was instructed to identify a problem. When I went home, I noticed that my mom always got scared when my baby sister put the back of a long, hard, plastic spoon in her mouth. I didn’t want anything to happen to her and I didn’t like seeing my mom so worried, so I came up with… The Baby Toon!”
We worked with the Crowley family on finding the optimal design for The Baby Toon, we used 3D printing to test prototypes and worked with their manufacturing partner on the molding. The Baby Toon also holds a patent, in which we were able to assist as well.
3D Innovations was efficient, current with technology during the design and engineering process, and aware of staying within our financial budget. Our family was not only educated and received expert advice through the process, but we gained a friend who we enjoyed working with.
-Lori Crowley, The BabyToon
The Baby Toon is a safer option for a baby spoon that eliminates the long sharp design of a traditional spoon. It is made of soft FDA grade silicone with rounded corners and edges (gentle on the baby’s gums) and it’s BPA/PPA free. Babies can also teethe on this soft spoon as well. The Baby Toon is easy for babies and parents to hold with a short neck that protects babies from choking. It also works great for big sisters or brothers to assist with feedings.
The Crowley family was notified recently that they would be on the Season Premiere of Shark Tank and below is their daughters’ reaction to the news!
Head on over to the Case Study section of our website to see a range of products where we have worked closely on many aspects of the product development and helped entrepreneurs launch their businesses.
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.
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.
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
3D printing technology, also referred to as additive manufacturing, allows you to explore design possibilities without typical design constraints. This means that new shapes and figures that are not easily manufactured, or that are impossible to manufacture with traditional manufacturing methods, are now within the realm of possibility. Complex geometries, quick turnaround times and customization are a few of the main reasons that 3D printing has risen to popularity among a number of top industries: aerospace, automobile, dentistry and medical industries have all embraced additive manufacturing technology.
If you are wondering if 3D printing could benefit your project or business, here are a few points to consider:
One of the primary advantages of 3D printing is that you can break traditional manufacturing barriers with your product design. With 3D printing technology, complex geometries, internal features and built-in interlocking objects with no assembly required are all possible. With these additional design capabilities, additive manufacturing creates new product design opportunities.
Customization is the “sweet spot” for additive manufacturing. If you need a one-off customized part, 3D printing will most likely provide you with the quickest turnaround and best cost efficiency—depending on size of course.
3D printing isn’t quite at the mass manufacturing scale yet, but it can certainly help with small batch manufacturing. If you need just a few parts or pieces for a project, 3D printing can certainly be of assistance.
Additive manufacturing is an excellent option for initial prototypes. You can get a physical prototype in hours, refine the design and print again. It will take a few iterations to get it just how you are imagining it. Startups all over the globe are now turning towards additive manufacturing technology at various stages of product development—low cost and quick turnaround times make it ideal for budget-conscious hardware startups.
The additive manufacturing industry is continuing to grow and mature. Metal 3D printing, increased productivity and material selection are all areas that have seen rapid growth in recent years. Businesses of all sizes can benefit from the technology and take advantage of what it has to offer.
Have additional questions about 3D printing for your product or business? Please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we are happy to answer your questions.
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
Market validation is the process of determining whether your product idea is of interest to a given target market. Before you invest the time and money into developing your product, it is recommended that you validate with your target audience that this is a product that they not only like, but will buy.
Below are three ways to quickly complete the first phases of market validation to test your new product idea:
Successful competitors offer proof that demand exists. While it can often be daunting to first-time entrepreneurs, competitors validate that there is a market for your product.
When you are the first to market, you are faced with the challenge of not only selling your product, but educating your target market about the major problem as well. Established competitors have already educated the market and conducted market validation, now you get to come in and offer a new solution.
You can offer the product in a new location, market it to a new group of people, or differentiate based on features or price to carve out market share. (Entrepreneurs Handbook).
While your friends and family might find your idea cool, are they your target market? Will they be making a purchasing decision for your product? If the answer is “no” you need to reach out to your actual target market—the people you want to buy your product.
If your product is challenging to explain in a clear and concise manner, a visual prototype can really help you convey your idea. Depending on the size of your product, 3D printing technology allows you to design and print a visual prototype quickly.
The feedback from your target market is going to help you build the product customers will buy, so the design of your product will most likely change a bit to accommodate customer needs.
Google is a powerful tool and can give you a glimpse into the collective mindset of your target audience. See how frequently people are searching for the product solution you want to launch.
It will be up to you to interpret the data, but this market validation strategy is a way to see what people are looking for and the words they use to describe it.
Due diligence is crucial in entrepreneurship because it helps you avoid losing time, money, relationship capital, and confidence on a bad idea. (Entrepreneurs Handbook). These three tests are a quick way to start the market validation process, test your idea and ultimately help your startup succeed quickly.
Do you have additional product development questions? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org