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Taking the leap into manufacturing is a big milestone for a startup. Once you start to search for a manufacturing partner, suddenly it all seems real. Manufacturing is not cheap, and one misstep here can severely hurt or completely crush your business. Finding the right manufacturer is not easy, but with proper planning and research, it can be done. Below are four tips to keep in mind as you research potential partners.
Start your search for a manufacturer that has experience in the industry your product is entering. For instance, if you are manufacturing a baby spoon find a manufacturer that has a great deal of experience in the baby product consumer market segment. Having a manufacturing partner that is knowledgeable about the industry you are entering means that they will be up-to-date with best practices, safety standards, and will have the ability to offer helpful insight.
Not all manufacturers will be able to scale with your business. As your startup grows, the number of units you need will increase as well. Your initial manufacturing partner might be great at prototypes and low volumes, but higher volumes may pose a problem. Minimize production delays, by meeting with other potential manufacturing partners that are able to adequately meet higher volume needs. You don’t have to stick with just one manufacturer.
Depending on your product, one manufacturing strategy is to have multiple open partnerships with manufacturers. Your once very attentive and grateful manufacturer might put you on the back burner when a bigger customer comes along. A vendor list with manufacturers you can utilize or bounce between is a good idea. This keeps pricing between them competitive and the diversification minimizes your business risk.
Your manufacturer is critical to your business, so open communication is mandatory. It is imperative that you know them, and trust them, before working with them. This is true whether you are manufacturing close to home or in another country. Phone calls and emails are great, but a visit to their location is highly recommended. Visiting the facility lets you meet the factory workers and see the facility. You want to feel comfortable that your product is in the right hands, and an on-site visit will do just this.
Don’t forget to check their references. Make those phone calls and get your questions answered by people who have experience with this potential manufacturer.
Now here is what your future manufacturer wants you to know.
Have additional questions about manufacturing your product? We can help. Send us an email with your questions to email@example.com
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
When it comes to designing consumer products, the best approach is to consider your end-user throughout the entire design process—which is commonly referred to as “Human-Centered Design”. This means that you are focusing on the problem that your audience is facing and designing a streamlined solution. While additional features might be great marketing tools, most often than not less is more, the more streamlined your product and the more it addresses their current need, the better.
Famed design firm, IDEO, first coined the term, “Human-Centered Design” and have been using this approach to design many recognizable products, such as: the first computer mouse for Apple in 1980 and the Palm Pilot in 1998. IDEO’s main tenet is empathy for the end-user of their products. They believe that the key to figuring out what humans really want lies in doing two things:
IDEO defines human-centered design as a creative approach to problem solving that starts with people and ends with innovative solutions that are tailor made to suit their needs. In their Field Guide to Human-Centered Design IDEO states, “When you understand the people you’re trying to reach—and then design from their perspective—not only will you arrive at unexpected answers, but you’ll come up with ideas that they’ll embrace.” Below is the central philosophy of human-centered design.
Phase 1: Observation
The first phase is about observing the target audience or end-user going about the activity you are aiming to design a solution for. You are identifying patterns of behavior, pain points, and places where users have a difficult time accomplishing a task—this is where your opportunity lies.
Phase 2: Ideation
This is the brainstorming phase. Come up with solutions to the problem you have identified. Think of solutions that directly address the needs and desires of the people you are designing for. Maybe you already have a solution in mind, but are there any other options out there as well?
Phase 3: Rapid Prototyping
This phase is to make sure that the solution you have in mind is right on target. Your prototype at this phase doesn’t need to be a finished product. You need a prototype that makes your idea tangible and allows you to gain valuable target audience feedback.
Phase 4: User Feedback
This is the most critical phase of the human-centered design process. You want to get your prototype into the hands of your target audience. Without input from your end-user, you aren’t going to really know if your product solution is on target or not.
Phase 5: Iteration
The insight collected during the user-feedback stage is now implemented and it either impacts your design, where you need to make changes, or it validates your original design.
Keep iterating, testing, and integrating user feedback until you’ve fine-tuned your solution. This may take a few rounds, but don’t get discouraged. With each iteration you’ll learn something new.
Phase 6: Implementation
At this point you have thoughtfully and carefully design a product that solves a real need for your target audience, now it is time to launch it into the marketplace.
When it comes to developing and designing your product, don’t forget the “human” aspect. To build a truly innovative product you don’t need to start with fancy technology, you can start by simply understanding people.
Have product design 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 are excited to announce a new partnership — 3D Innovations has partnered with the Hawaii State Bar Association. HSBA members have access to a range of discounted products and services throughout Hawaii with their “HSBA Member Benefits”.
3D Innovations (New Member Benefit)
Have a new product that you want to develop? Let 3D Innovations help you develop your new idea. 3D Innovations provides Product Development Our suite of services includes product design/engineering, prototyping, 3D Printing, additive manufacturing, supply chain management, packaging design, and production manufacturing sourcing. We provide 3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping services to quickly validate designs and make improvements for production manufacturing. Experience the benefits of 3D Design and see how 3D Innovations can develop innovative solutions to engineer, design, and manufacture your product.
Members will receive a 15% discount when they present their bar card. Click here for more information.
View other business partners and service providers on the Hawaii State Bar Association website.
Have questions about our new partnership with HSBA? Send us an email at email@example.com
When it comes to developing a hardware product, it is easy to get bogged down in the design details during product development. While the details certainly do matter, if you focus solely on them from the start it could spell trouble for your startup later on. Having a big picture mentality allows you to get a complete grasp on product development as well as other major decision milestones, such as: manufacturing, sales, partnerships and marketing.
Planning ahead is always a good idea when it comes to building a hardware product and launching a startup. A preliminary design plan is a good first step to help you get a firm grasp on the “big picture”. With a preliminary design you clarify budgets and timelines—which leads to better decision making as you head towards commercialization.
“A preliminary design (pre-design) focuses solely on the decisions that impact the big picture for your product. This includes your product’s cost, profit margin, performance, features, development feasibility and manufacturability. A pre-design ignores any details that don’t impact the big picture for your product. You can worry about those later. After you complete the pre-design you need to accurately estimate all of the costs required to launch your product. This includes the cost to develop, prototype, certify, scale, and most importantly the cost to manufacture your product. Knowing these costs ahead of time will allow you to plan the best strategy forward” (Predictable Designs).
By starting with a preliminary design, you will be able to focus on the big picture and the overarching goals you have established for your startup, as well as:
Take the time now to plan ahead—your startup will thank you in the end.
Have questions about your preliminary design plan? We are happy to help. Please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
3D Printing is a topic that quickly captures your interest and your imagination. The idea of seemingly “printing” an object out of thin air is something that feels like it is straight out of a sci-fi movie.
While, 3D printing is taking off for businesses and industries around the world, it isn’t exactly movie magic. Just like with any other tool or instrument, you need to have background knowledge and an understanding of CAD and 3D printing technology to successfully develop and print a 3D object. If your startup is interested in exploring the technology further, we have gathered a few of our popular 3D printing blog posts and listed them below.
3D printing has been around for decades but has gained the most attention within the last five to eight years. The technology has made life easier for inventors all around the world and is making its mark on a range of industries (medical, automotive, and aviation just to name a few). Researchers are finding new and novel ways of using the technology, material selection is rapidly expanding, and a range of businesses are now developing 3D printers.
3D printing technology allows designers to quickly, easily and efficiently design and produce a product prototype for review. While prototyping is where 3D printing is most popular and widely used, the technology is beginning to mature and find its way into manufacturing for end-use parts as well.
Over time the hype around 3D printing technology has slowly diminished, and the technology is beginning to steadily mature. Firms focused on 3D printing are starting to collaborate, merge and narrow their focus. Today, the future of the technology looks considerably different than it once did. Below are three areas of growth for 3D printing technology and a sign of where the technology is heading.
As news of the latest advancement in experimental 3D printing of tissue and organ regeneration gains attention, it would be easy to believe that 3D printing in the medical field only happens in the lab. However, new equipment and medical devices are being 3D printed now in real world settings. After years of feasibility studies, 3D printing for medical equipment and prostheses is becoming reality.
3D printing technology has found its place in the business landscape. With the continued developments of the technology, it is poised to continue to grow and become even more valuable to businesses.
3D Academy, a Division of 3D Innovations specializes in developing and integrating industry technologies with STEM programs and education. 3D Academy promotes Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education programs that integrate 3D Technology into K–12, as well as university classrooms. Using hands-on and project-based learning strategies, we have been effective in providing students with opportunities to excel in the areas of STEM and to integrate industry applications into their learning experiences.
Throughout the year our 3D Academy hosts frequent STEM Enrichment Camps for students. Our final camp of the summer is coming up in less than a week, 3D Printing & CAD Design with Legos®. In this enrichment camp, co-hosted with Bricks4Kidz, students will learn the fundamentals of 3D Design, 3D Printing, CAD Design and Spatial Environments to create their own custom Lego design and part while learning about the various principles that integrate with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Students are introduced to the world of 3D Printing, CAD Design, Engineering, and prototyping all while being in an immersive STEM learning environment.
3D Academy STEM enrichment camps are a great introduction to STEM education. No prior engineering classes or skills are required to attend a camp. We start with the fundamentals and help students build upon those.
Our STEM Enrichment Camps align with the Hawaii Public School calendar and occur during school breaks (i.e. Winter, Spring and Summer break).
If you have a student that would be interested in attending one of our STEM Enrichment camps, we share all camp details and registration information over on our 3D Academy website as well as on the 3D Innovations Facebook page. If you have questions about our STEM camps, please send us an email at email@example.com
STEM education teaches valuable life skills: problem solving, innovative thinking, teamwork, and organization skills to name a few. Read more about “The Long-Term Benefits of a STEM Education”.
Ideally, marketing your hardware product should come before your product launch. You want to find and connect with your target market as early as possible. “Early” often means before your product design is even finalized. Building this relationship early-on is beneficial for both your product design and product launch.
Below are three reasons why you should be thinking about marketing throughout the early stages of product development.
Feedback is critical during product development. You aren’t going to know if you are on the right track without feedback from your target market; thus, you are going to want people in your target market to test your product (not just family and friends). It is helpful to get feedback that is both honest and actionable.
By creating an inexpensive prototype and gathering feedback from it, you will be in a much better position as you build your product. This feedback loop is important until the final design is ready.
Around every successful product is a community rallying around it. In today’s global competitive marketplace, having a strong network and community interested in your product cannot be overlooked or overstated. A community will share your product launch information, help you create a buzz and end up being your first customers.
Crowdfunding has grown to be extremely popular because of the sense of community it gives hardware startup founders. Using a crowdfunding campaign for your startup lets you build this community before you even have a product ready to be shipped. While crowdfunding does have its drawbacks, its ability to build a community and rally support is a primary benefit for your hardware product.
Have you ever found yourself on a website that said something along the lines of, “Launching soon! Join our mailing list to be the first to know about our launch”? We all have the desire to be the “first to know” and inevitably add our email to the mailing list. This is an example of a startup building their community and creating a buzz. Creating a buzz gives customers a sneak peek about what’s to come and builds that sense of anticipation.
When you use customer feedback early-on, you start to create a buzz with your product testers. From there you want to build on this interest and loyalty. Social media is a great way to start creating a buzz for your product.
Thinking about your marketing strategy early-on, and developing a marketing plan, will help ensure that you have a supportive community by the time you launch your product.
Have additional questions about product development or marketing? We are happy to help. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Coming up with a product idea is exciting, but making the decision to pursue and develop it, is truly exhilarating. Many first-time entrepreneurs want to jump right in and get to work building their product, only to realize that they may not have the exact skillset necessary to develop the product all the way. This is where a product development firm is brought in to aid in the process. It can be nerve-wracking sharing your idea with someone else, and we all like to have a general idea of what we can expect in initial meetings.
While each product development firm has their own template for initial meetings. You can expect a variance on the below.
Just as you are eager to get to know the product designer, they are eager to know more about you. This goes beyond your product—they want to know the backstory of how your product idea came-to-be. They want to know what you are passionate about. They want to know your skillset, where do you excel (sales, marketing, accounting)? This information will allow them to get a better idea on where their services will be utilized the most efficiently.
In your first meeting you are going to want to get as detailed as possible when discussing your product idea. You may think that the littlest details may not make a difference as you start developing an idea, however, every detail matters. Provide as much detail about your product requirements as possible. A good development company will be able to ask you the right questions throughout the development process to help you narrow down the requirements and focus on the functionality. You don’t need to know all of the technical details about the product, just how it needs to function.
While TV and the internet can make you believe that products are designed, manufactured and launched overnight, this isn’t how it works. Developing a product takes time. While the exact amount of time to develop your product depends on the idea and the intricacies of it—in general expect to be spending weeks to months on product development.
Just like you, product development firms want to make sure your product is protected from copycats, so they will want to discuss IP and what your initial feelings on it are.
Most hardware startups find themselves thinking about intellectual property early-on and wondering if it is truly necessary for their invention. If you are planning to manufacture your product abroad, considering a crowdfunding campaign, wanting to speak with potential investors or find yourself constantly worrying about someone copying your invention, then meeting with a patent attorney is a great idea. In many cases, having a design or utility patent will be beneficial for your startup in the long-run.
Have questions about developing a product idea? Send us an email at email@example.com
Additional Information about Product Development
It is a common misconception that building a hardware startup is a straightforward and linear process: Find a Problem—Design a Solution—Sell the Product—Make Money. In theory this is how it should work, but in actuality, this process is more of a maze with twists and turns on your way to success. What you don’t see in this high level linear description are the many challenges and pitfalls you and your startup must navigate before you “Make Money“.
Below are three challenges that first-time hardware entrepreneurs don’t always foresee.
Feedback is critical during product development. You aren’t going to know if you are on the right track without feedback from your target market. You are going to want people in your target market to test your product (not just family and friends). It is helpful to get feedback that is both honest and actionable.
By creating an inexpensive prototype, and gathering feedback from it, you will be in a much better position as you build your product. This feedback loop is important until the final design is ready.
Developing a hardware product takes time. Product development doesn’t happen overnight, especially if you are gathering customer feedback along the way and making the necessary adjustments. Depending on your product, product development could take months or even years before you are confident that it is ready to head into manufacturing.
Manufacturing is another area that has a long lead time. Whether you decide to manufacture locally or internationally, you are going to be playing the waiting game. The thing with long lead times is that if you know they are coming, expect them, and plan accordingly, they are less likely to derail your journey to success.
To understand your market, you need to research it. What products succeed in this space? Is there a similar product to yours that has found success in this product space? What did their journey look like? Has a similar product failed? What information can you glean from other startups’ success and failure in this space?
If possible, get out and talk to people already in this product space to see what they say about it. By understanding the market, you will get a better understanding of where your product will fit into it.
Each product and each startup will face their own challenges on the way to market; by preparing yourself for these twists and turns along the way, you will be in a much better position to successfully navigate them.
Have additional questions about bringing a product to market? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Navigating the world of intellectual property is challenging for seasoned entrepreneurs, and even more stressful when you are working on designing and launching your very first product. Intellectual property (IP) is often moved to the bottom of the priority list because it is full of unknowns. When is the right time to file? Do I need a design patent? Is a trademark necessary?
With the spread of technology and globalization, a solid intellectual property strategy has never been more critical. Copycat products are popping up at an alarming rate—which is bad for business and dangerous for consumers. Having a strong intellectual property strategy early-on or having the patent process started, is a great way to protect your invention, attract or solidify partnerships and secure funding.
Below are links to help you get familiar with intellectual property terminology, resources, and strategies.
Intellectual property (IP) protection is an important consideration for any startup, and possibly even more so for hardware startups. Patents are a way to not only protect an idea, but to also minimize competition and act as a defense mechanism against infringement claims from others. Here are four considerations for your startup’s intellectual property strategy.
No two products are alike; therefore, a custom-tailored strategy is necessary when it comes to navigating these two areas of product development.
On the IP side, a decision must be made about what type of patent (design patent or utility patent) makes sense for the invention and budget. On the manufacturing side, everything about the design, even the smallest details, must be accounted for when selecting materials and where to manufacture the product. Having insight and answers early-on in the startup journey helps entrepreneurs understand the full spectrum of what it takes to bring a product to market.
A provisional patent application early-on can be very beneficial for a hardware startup if your business goal is to either license your invention or proceed with a patent filing.
If you are planning to manufacture your product abroad, considering a crowdfunding campaign, wanting to speak with potential investors or find yourself constantly worrying about someone copying your invention, then meeting with a patent attorney is a great idea.
Whether you are at the helm of a startup that plans on crowdfunding a product or a SME working on a new and innovative technology, securing and protecting your intellectual property (IP) rights to that invention is key to successful commercialization.
Some people confuse patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Although there may be some similarities among these kinds of intellectual property protection, they are different and serve different purposes.
Have additional questions regarding an intellectual property strategy for your startup? We are happy to help. Send us an email at email@example.com