Posts Tagged "Prototyping"

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.

Methodology

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.” (All3DP.com)

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.” (All3DP.com)

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, info@3d-innovations.com,we are happy to help.

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

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Hardware is a Perfectly Complex Mess

Early-stage hardware startups are faced with complex challenges, a flurry of information and questions, many questions. To sum it up, hardware is messy. However, with technological advances and a shift in barriers to entry, hardware has never been easier than it is today. Technology is enhancing the ability for fast experimentation, prototype development and manufacturing. Years ago these steps in themselves took months, today 3D printing along with a plethora of other advancements means that you can test designs and prototype in days or weeks. So what exactly makes hardware complex?

Product-Market Fit

While hardware is easier today than any other time in history, finding product-market fit remains as tricky as ever. Whether you have a market in mind and are building a product to solve a problem, or you have a product and are trying to find your customer base—product-market fit is hard. It is one thing to design a beautiful product with flawless functionality, and quite another to rally a strong customer support base around this product.

This is where your support network comes into play. Form a core group of supporters willing to not only share your product, but to actively advocate for it. You want supporters that can provide quality feedback, engage with you on an on-going basis and that are eager to share your product with their own network.

Prototyping: Fast Over Fancy

industrial_design-handleNew tools, new filament and updated components are always being released. You could spend months researching all of the ‘latest and greatest’. Instead of spending countless hours in front of the computer researching all of the ways to build a prototype, get your hands dirty. Find the components you need to build a prototype and get to it. Once you have this version in hand, switch gears and focus your attention on a functional prototype. Your first prototype will be able to explain your idea, while your functional prototype will be able to showcase a working model of your product.

Industry Interviews

Don’t be afraid to get out there are interview the big players in the industry you are trying to break-in to. These businesses have been in the industry much longer than you have and can share customer insights with you—such as, what customers will actually buy and at what quantity.

Build connections with industry contacts, other hardware startups, product development experts and others in the (growing) hardware community. These contacts will be able to help answer questions, act as a sounding board for your ideas and give you the encouragement you need to forge ahead when things get tough. “Surround yourself with people that reflect who you want to be and how you want to feel, energies are contagious.” (Rachel Wolchin, Author)

Hardware is complex, messy and perfectly wonderful. Take your idea and pursue it.

Need assistance with your hardware product? Contact us! Email us at info@3d-innovations.com or give us a call at 808.722.8667. We look forward to talking with you!

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

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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.

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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.

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

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The Benefits of a Functional Prototype

September 6, 2016
3D Innovations

Rushing through the product development phase can be tempting because all hardware startups want to launch as soon as possible, however one step you can’t afford to skip is that of building a functional prototype. Building a prototype does take time, but in the end, the amount of time and money it will save you makes up for the extra couple weeks. If you find yourself on the fence about creating a prototype, here are a few facts to consider.

Why prototype my idea?

industrial_design-handleRefine your design. While a product idea might look great on paper or when speaking about it, the actual design might need to be reworked. Your design needs to be functional and manufacturable, and a prototype can make sure that both of these requirements are met. There is no better time to work out the “bugs” than at this stage, when changes are still inexpensive and easily made.

Gather market feedback. Get your functional prototype into the hands of your target market. Asking customers to imagine a product can be quite a challenge and the feedback you receive will not be all that beneficial. On the other hand, presenting this group with a prototype lets them touch your idea and get a real feel for the product and its functionality. With accurate market feedback you will be in a better position when it comes to finalizing the design and launching your product.

Rally financial support. Are you planning on reaching out to VCs or crowdfunding your product? If so, a functional prototype is a must. VCs want to see that you can deliver an actual product and are ready to move into manufacturing. Crowdfunding campaigns are much more successful when they can demonstrate functionality with a prototype.

File a patent. Obtaining a patent is a way to secure your intellectual property and in doing so there are many documents that need to be filed. Having a prototype will make technical drawings easier and you will be better able to describe your product in the USPTO application.

While there are many more reasons to build a prototype, these four stand out because of the real financial impact they have on your startup. When it comes time to launch your product, you want to be confident and prepared for what lies ahead.

Ready to take the leap into prototype development? We can help! Contact us at info@3d-innovations.com to get started.

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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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The Third Annual Honolulu Mini Maker Faire

June 7, 2016
3D Innovations

We are excited to share that 3D Innovations will be at the upcoming Honolulu Mini Maker Faire on June 25th. This is always a fantastic event and brings together our local community of makers.

We will have a booth at the event and would love to chat with you! Stop by the 3D Innovations booth to learn about Product Development, Prototype Design, 3D Printing and Manufacturing. If you have an idea for a product that you would like to bring to market and commercialize, come talk to us to see how we can help.

We will also have a few (awesome) 3D printed parts on display for you to check out and get your hands on.

If you have product development questions and don’t want to wait until the Honolulu Mini Maker Faire on June 25th, send them our way at info@3d-innovations.com or reach us by phone at 1-808-772-8667.

Flyer2016EventV4-page-001

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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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Prototyping Advice For Entrepreneurs

April 29, 2016
3D Innovations

The thrill of bringing an idea to life is what drives entrepreneurs, and really any business. Once you have a concept in mind, the next phase is to act on it. While acting on it is exhilarating, it also comes with inherent challenges as well as many, many questions.

We know that entrepreneurs have questions when it comes to building a prototype—so we sat down with our President and Chief 3D Officer, Collin Kobayashi, to discuss the prototyping process and get some expert advice on the subject.

(1) Question: What is your “rule of thumb” for entrepreneurs creating their first prototype?

Product Design and Development | 3D Prototyping(1) C. Kobayashi: The application of the prototype may vary depending on its usage. Many times creating a conceptual prototype or something that conveys a proof of concept is the first step in leading towards a full product development plan. What is typically required is a minimum viable product (MVP) to demonstrate the functionality of the product. Because it is the very basic level of a prototype, it may not necessarily undergo a full industrial design, but rather a quick and simple design that demonstrates the capability and function.

(2) Question: What is the number one issue you see entrepreneurs run into when developing a prototype?

(2) C. Kobayashi: The most typical issue is not developing a prototype that is manufacturable. Once they are past the “MVP” stage and ready to create a more robust design, they fail to account for DFM (Design For Manufacturing) principles which will cause major setbacks if not accounted for. The second issue that arises is that many entrepreneurs starting out don’t do enough testing or ask for customer feedback. This is a crucial step in the development process, which gets overlooked, because the entrepreneur feels that their approach is best.

(3) Question: Do entrepreneurs often come to you with an idea, and you build a prototype together, or a homemade prototype?

(3) C. Kobayashi: Ideas come in many shapes and forms, literally. Some entrepreneurs have built their own rough prototypes to try and convey their ideas while others only have sketches and renderings that depict what they want built. There are many ways to achieve what is required, but it is always best to discuss the details with your particular design company. Contact us here if you would like to discuss what types of options are available.

(4) Question: While 3D printing is a good tool for prototyping, are there any other tools that you recommend?

(4) C. Kobayashi: Parts can be made using many different methods such as 3D Printing, Molding, CNC machining, vacuum forming, etc. The process that is used will be based on the requirements of the customer and the applications in which the prototypes will be used. In some cases, parts need to be injection molded so that they can be used for compliance testing and pre-production use.

If you have additional questions, please head on over to our FAQ page or send us an e-mail at info@3d-innovations.com. We look forward to chatting!

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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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Market Testing Is Vital For Hardware Startup Success

March 21, 2016
3D Innovations

goalSuccessfully launching a product is one of the best feelings in the world—you have nurtured an idea, spent time developing it and now it is in the hands of consumers. However, as entrepreneurs know, before you get to the “launch” there are hundreds of steps in between. Market testing is one of these steps and is vital to your product’s success.

What is Market Testing?

Market testing is getting your product idea and prototype into the hands of potential buyers and asking for their feedback. The feedback provided is related to all aspects of the productprice point, functionality and overall design. You are asking for real and honest feedback to help perfect your idea and make sure everything is in place for a successful launch. The information you glean from testing your market is the most valuable out there, since these are potential buyers/clients and you want to make sure that their needs are met.

Is Market Testing Expensive?

Market testing does take time, but it doesn’t have to drain resources. While major corporations spend the big bucks on market testing, that doesn’t mean you have to. Look at your current social and business networks and start testing your product idea and prototype with these individuals. You can then expand your test market as you progress in the product development timeline.

Your time and money are extremely valuable, and can’t afford to waste them by investing them in producing a product that fails in the marketplace. The more you test your product before you produce and sell it, the more likely you are to earn the sales and profits that you desire.

Build Excitement Around Your Product Launch

Market testing is another way of building excitement about your product. We recently  worked with the Menehunes as they developed their product, pitched it at a community startup event and launched a crowdfunding campaign. However, before launching their Kickstarter page, these young entrepreneurs had the foresight to reach out to their target market, and let these potential buyers test the product and provide them with feedback. The feedback not only helped hone in on the final design, but it also connected them with some of their first Kickstarter backers. It is never too early to start building excitement around your product’s launch.

Testing your target market is one of the many steps before launch, but it is one that should not be overlooked or undervalued. Continually testing your target market can help ensure your product’s 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.

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The Menehune Mount Is Now On Kickstarter

March 1, 2016
3D Innovations

This past November our President and Chief 3D Officer, Collin Kobayashi, had the honor of participating as mentor for the Menehune Hat Clip team at Startup Weekend Honolulu. The Menehune Hat Clip is a simple mount that attaches right to your hat and allows you to connect your GoPro to capture that ‘perfect shot’. This team of young entrepreneurs went on to capture First Place at Startup Weekend Honolulu and then tied for First Runner Up in the Global Startup Battle Champions track! While they were quite possibly the youngest team participating in Startup Weekend, their determination and drive helped propel them to the top.

After Startup Weekend, the team knew that they wanted to continue to fine tune their idea and eventually get it into the hands of consumers. Instead of focusing on a mount solely for GoPro, the design was altered and became a universal mount for any recording device. The prototypes have been designed and tested, manufacturing partners have been procuredhowever, first funds need to be raised. Their Kickstarter page, Menehune Mount, is now live!

If you are into vlogging or taking event action shots, you are going to want to check out the Menehune Mount. The mount has been designed to easily hold your GoPro or iPhone and can attach to many surfaces (tent fabric, poles, magnetic surfaces). The compact design makes it lightweight to carry around or mount on the bill of your hat. Learn more about the Menehune Mount and all of the testing that went into perfecting its design on Kickstarter or the Menehunes website.

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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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Startup Connector: Hardware Startups Are Gaining Momentum

February 26, 2016
3D Innovations

Silicon Valley, and much of the startup community, has been enthralled with software for years, but the tides are turning and hardware startups are gaining momentum. Investors are taking hardware startups serious—since 2010, venture capital investment in hardware startups is up more than 30x (Tech Crunch). Venture capital investment in connected device hardware startups reached approximately $1.48 billion in 2014, more than triple the amount of two years earlier.

A New Wave Of Opportunity

3D Printing Services | Rapid Prototyping Services | 3D-innovationsAdvances in technology, coupled with hardware accelerators and incubators, are ushering in a new wave of opportunity for hardware entrepreneurs. Creating a functional prototype is no longer a hassle thanks to design software advances and 3D printing technology. Entrepreneurs are able to design and develop prototypes in a matter of days instead of months. After the prototype is complete, many of these hardware incubators and accelerators then help turn this prototype into a working, production-ready product within a matter of months.

By reducing the product development timeline, startups are able to get their idea built, tested, manufactured and on to store shelves much faster than we have ever seen before. Fitbit, Nest and GoPro are prime examples of companies that have paved the wave for hardware startups and demonstrated to investors that there is tremendous profitability in this startup segment. While distribution and manufacturing still have their inherent challenges for hardware startups, they are becoming more and more accessible.

Reaching Out To The Crowd

Hardware startups are tapping into their network and reaching out to the crowd. While crowdfunding has continued to revolutionize investing as we know it, hardware startups are reaping the benefits. A quick search on Kickstarter shows you that there are hundreds of hardware startups at any given time searching for funding. One of the most notable, The Coolest Cooler, raised $13 million (26x their funding goal) in 2014. Reaching consumers used to be a challenge, but that is no longer the case. Crowdfunding is not only helping raise capital, it is also validating ideas and build a relationship with consumers early-on.

An Exciting Future

“When building a new hardware product becomes as easy as making an iPhone app, we will have truly ushered in a golden era of innovation.” Hardware startups are playing a critical role in making the new industrial revolution a reality. As barriers to entry continue to diminish, we will begin to see more hardware startups debut and increased investor activity.

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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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