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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 printing has been around for decades but has gained the most attention within the last five to eight years. The technology is what sci-fi movies are made of—making an object seemingly appear out of thin air. While that isn’t exactly how it works, it 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.
Today, you can head to any number of business related websites and are bound to stumble across at least one article mentioning 3D printing or it’s impact on the entire manufacturing industry. While we don’t doubt that 3D printing is a revolutionary technology—the fact remains that the technology still has a long way to go before it changes manufacturing as we all know it.
As the technology stands today, its strength, its competitive advantage and its usefulness remain in the realm of prototyping. Visual and functional prototyping are imperative when designing a product and this is where 3D printing really excels.
“When it was invented, 3D printing was referred to as rapid prototyping, a method for automating and reducing the labor required to create a prototype model for design validation. Since then, it has found use in a number of other applications, but the technology is still widely implemented to create visual models and functional prototypes. (Engineering)”
A visual model of your product lets you get a better idea of how the product will look and feel. With the rapid expansion of 3D printing materials and colors available, you have more options than ever when it comes to product design materials. Most hardware entrepreneurs start with a visual model and then move forward with a functional prototype for design validation and testing.
A functional prototype allows you to test the form, fit and functionality of your product. Testing and validating your product design with a functional prototype is highly recommended so that any potential errors can be fixed before heading into manufacturing.
The benefits of a functional prototype extend beyond your design. With a functional prototype you can also gather critical market feedback, rally financial support as well as file for a patent.
A major misstep that can derail any hardware startup is to skip the development of a functional prototype.
There is no doubt that 3D printing is changing the manufacturing landscape and is proving to be a useful tool for makers and professional alike.
Technology is transforming the landscape of our lives—in today’s global marketplace there is no substitute for a strong STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) background as you enter the workforce. “STEM workers tend to earn 26% more than non-STEM workers and yearly growth for STEM workers is projected to be almost double that of non-STEM workers.” (Florida State University) Industry is shifting and to help our students keep up with the demand, a STEM education is imperative.
As a nation, our education industry has recognized that our students are not receiving the best hands-on, STEM-focused, education possible for a myriad of reasons. This means that our students are falling behind in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math subjects, and that they are missing out on other valuable lessons as well. Below are some of the areas in which STEM helps students thrive.
Problem Solving Skills
Hands-on lessons for STEM subjects often revolve around solving real world problems. Students are required to assess a situation and develop a solution. Problem solving skills are immensely beneficial both inside and outside of the classroom. Having the ability to stop, assess, analyze, hypothesize and solve a problem is a skill every individual needs at every age level.
We are all aware of the benefits of “thinking outside the box”, however, this does not always come naturally. Learning to ask questions and develop diverse solutions helps to instill an inquisitive mindset.
Teamwork and Collaboration
Working as part of a team starts from a young age and continues on into the workplace. Learning how to collaborate and work together is a necessity. Teamwork helps students learn about different perspectives, respecting other ideas and coming up with a solution together.
Scientific linear methodology requires organization—there is a set manner in which to approach a problem. All STEM subject areas require a step 1, step 2, step 3 and so on; you can’t solve a math equation by skipping steps. Students learn the importance of being organized and why it is important to their everyday lives as well.
STEM education can be taught through lectures; however, it has been proven time and again that hands-on learning is the best method for teaching and instilling these concepts. Giving students an opportunity to use technology, use their hands, ask questions and see concepts in action sparks excitement in them as well as a desire to learn more.
STEM Enrichment Camps
This summer our 3D Academy is offering two STEM Enrichment Camps, “3D Design and Drone Building” and “3D Printed Rocket Building”. Students will learn the fundamentals of 3D Design, 3D Printing, CAD Design and Spatial Environments and be able to build their own Drone/custom Co2 mini rocket while learning about the various principles that integrate with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Students will be introduced to the world of 3D Printing, CAD Design, Engineering, Electronics, and prototyping all while being in an immersive STEM learning environment. Learn more about both camps and easily register, over on our website: 3D Academy STEM Enrichment Camps.
We are going to start off with the good news, building a hardware startup outside of a major hub (i.e. Silicon Valley, Boston, L.A.) is possible. In fact, in today’s connected world, these major tech hubs are becoming less and less appealing for entrepreneurs just setting out with their startup. It’s no secret that the cost of living in major tech hubs is astronomical and upfront costs to get your business going also come at a premium. So if you are an entrepreneur looking to launch a product and start a business, but have no desire to pick-up and move, below are a few ideas on how you can successfully launch your hardware startup from your home city.
When you find yourself in the center of a major technology hub it is easy to get distracted from your original goal if you are inclined to listen to all of the “experts” out there. This advice coming in can easily veer your startup off course and make your head spin.
Instead, diligently focus on your product idea and developing it for your target market. If you have a useful product, customers aren’t going to care where your business is located. Being in a lesser well-known area will also help you keep a global market in mind—you won’t be in a bubble where people share your same interests, skills etc. If you are in the middle of a tech hub you may not realize that people in, say, Tampa or Portland aren’t as tech-savvy as your neighbors. Being an outsider forces you to keep the needs of every potential market in mind.
Chances are that if you are in a large enough city, there are other businesses out there supporting the startup community. You don’t necessarily need to find an industry specific support network, but instead a network that has the skillset your startup requires. Here in Hawaii, we provide product development support to hardware startups in a wide-range of industries.
Cities all over the nation, and really the world, are starting to realize that creating a friendly startup ecosystem is good for business. Startup support might come from government programs, local universities, or corporate sponsorships—there is going to be support available, your job is to seek it out.
Through local relationships and organizations, you may gain access to anything from low-interest loans to access to venture capital that’s limited to local businesses, and opportunities to speak at local business events.
The benefit of launching your startup where you live is that you know people and have years-long relationships built with them already. You have an established community. Even if you’re not in a tech hub, you’re bound to be surrounded by business owners of some sort.
Maybe you know a local manufacturer that can help explain the manufacturing process to you and make introductions for you with their contacts. Perhaps you are neighbors with a local baker that excels at social media, and he/she is willing to give you a crash course on what you need to know to get started.
The good thing about living in a connected world is that expert advice and help is just a Google search away. Connect with other entrepreneurs and CEOs that you admire online—via blogs, their websites, weekly digest emails. You don’t necessarily have to have a two-way conversation with them to glean useful information that you can put into practice.
As a product development firm, we often work with first-time entrepreneurs—people who have a fantastic idea for a product, but need guidance on developing their idea and beginning their startup journey. We help entrepreneurs navigate the wild world of hardware startups.
Our team shares their in-depth knowledge on what it takes to get a project going, what a development plan looks like and what the path of product development entails. By assisting entrepreneurs through their product development journey, we aim to set them up for a successful product launch.
One thing we have learned over the years is that, no matter the industry, first-time entrepreneurs have some of the same questions and concerns when they first get started. Below we discuss three frequently asked questions.
It only takes a few things to get started. 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.
As the adage goes, hardware is hard. However, it is not impossible. It can sometimes be a long and difficult process to develop your hardware project, but aligning yourself with a great development partner will help to make things easier.
Short answer: It depends. In most cases the answer is yes—you own all of the rights to the design and intellectual property (IP).
In other cases, clients have elected to share equity in their company with product development companies in lieu of paying for development costs, in which case the design and other IP becomes shared property.
Depending on the type of product, the initial prototype may be a proof-of-concept prototype. This is created to prove out your concept or idea. Some view the proof-of-concept prototype as a feasibility study versus the traditional functional prototype. The prototypes created will serve as a one-off design of your product for you to review, test, and make adjustments before the final production design is created. Be prepared that it may take several iterations to get to the final production ready design, but is an essential part of the development process and should not be skipped.
With a multitude of technologies available to build prototypes, 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing will be the front runner in prototyping your design. It is cost effective and provides a quick turnaround, which is why it is also commonly referred to as ‘rapid prototyping’. The design will be prototyped in order to test the form, fit, and function and to make sure that the manufacturing process is attainable.
In a subsequent blog post, we will dive into intellectual property and manufacturing, discussing the top questions entrepreneurs have about these subject areas as well. Starting your product development journey with the right information at hand can make all the difference.
We are happy to help answer any additional product development questions you have, please email us at email@example.com
Are you ready to launch a startup in 2018? As the year begins to wind down, many people use this time to assess current goals and make new goals for the year ahead. A new year is often looked at as a fresh start or a new beginning—a time to make a change and forge a new path.
If you are considering developing a product or launching a hardware startup in the new year, we have a few pieces of advice to help you gear up for this adventure and to get you started in the right direction.
Grab a computer and start typing. Write everything down that has to do with your product idea. What it looks like, how it will function, its size, who will use it—all of this needs to be down on paper so that you can review every detail about the innovative idea swirling around in your head.
We suggest that you draft a business plan, however don’t get bogged down by it. Business plans can be high level, and just a couple of pages at this point. A business plan is a great way to take all of the details you have written down, and organize them. A simple internet search for a business plan template can help get you started. With your ideas organized and in one place, you can then begin the process of listing “action items” and getting to work on them.
In the very early stages, a homemade prototype may suffice. Depending on your product idea, you might be able to find the items you need to build a rough version at your local home improvement store. As you build upon your idea and start to assess your target market, you will need to work on a functional prototype.
A functional prototype will allow you to refine your design, gather market feedback, rally financial support (if you are looking for VC or crowdfunding investments) and file a patent.
Many people envision entrepreneurs as “lone wolves”, however this could not be further from the truth. No one person has the skill sets necessary to build a startup completely alone from start to finish—the key is to find quality partners. You might decide to bring partners on full-time or to consult with outside agencies (product development, intellectual property, legal matters, to name a few).
Often, entrepreneurs think that they need to have a firm idea in place before setting up a time to meet with a product development firm, this is not the case. Many times, a product development firm will be able to help you refine your idea and provide suggestions on maximizing the design. A product development firm has extensive experience in both design and manufacturing, so meeting them early-on is advantageous.
The new year is a time to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. If you still find yourself on the fence about developing that product idea, ask yourself this one simple question, Why not?
Have additional product development questions? Please e-mail them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our President, Collin Kobayashi, will be accompanying a client, FOG Safe, on a production manufacturing trip to China later this week. We are often asked about the process of researching and procuring a manufacturing partner, so we have decided to delve deeper into the topic of “manufacturing partnerships” in a two-part post here on our blog.
In this first post we discuss the benefits of traveling to the factory and getting acquainted with both factory management and factory processes. In our second post, we will dig into the details of the expectations verses experience of our client.
This is our client’s first time manufacturing a product and they are eager to dive right into the manufacturing phase of product development. They have asked Collin to accompany them on this trip to assist in visiting and selecting a manufacturing partner. 3D Innovations has developed strong supply chains and manufacturing channels, both locally and internationally, over the years and is well versed in manufacturing partner selection. For many entrepreneurs, visiting a factory for the very first time can be overwhelming and intimidating, so having a partner present to help guide and explain the process is greatly beneficial.
Visiting the manufacturing facility has many benefits, the primary benefit is that the client gets to physically see where their product will be manufactured. Seeing the parts being molded in front of their eyes, gives them a deeper appreciation of the entire design process and practices that went into getting their product developed. Also, there is no substitute to a face-to-face meeting with the individuals that will be building the product and directly seeing the process in which it will be manufactured. At the end of a factory visit, such as this one, we find that clients often feel confident in their decision to begin the manufacturing phase of product development, accompanied with a huge sense of relief to have finally decided on and secured a manufacturing partner.
Depending on your individual product and the complexity of the design, factory visits are not mandatory or always necessary. However, after a visit you will have a better sense of what your product will look like in the end.
Do you have questions related to manufacturing a product, send us an email at email@example.com, we are happy to help!
The very heart of the Lean Startup approach focuses on the overarching goal of producing a top-quality product (or service) and delivering it at a minimal cost while providing a great customer experience. In the business world, and particularly with hardware startups, the Lean Startup approach is synonymous with creativity, risk taking and quick acceleration.
Here we discuss three reasons why your business, at any stage, should embrace the Lean Startup method for product development.
Create order. Organization and order are fundamental pieces of the Lean Startup approach. A detailed, organized and methodical approach to product development creates order and ultimately saves hardware startups time and resources—thus adhering to the Lean Startup principals. “Using the Lean Startup approach, companies can create order not chaos by providing tools to test a vision continuously. Lean isn’t simply about spending less money. Lean isn’t just about failing fast, failing cheap. It is about putting a process, a methodology around the development of a product. (The Lean Startup Methodology)”
Learn when to pivot. Entrepreneurs understand that there is no shame in missing the mark with an initial idea, as long as you learn enough to pivot to something that works. “Successful entrepreneurs have found that the extreme uncertainty of a new product or service usually requires many course corrections, or ‘pivots’ to find a successful formula. (Eric Ries, author of the Lean Startup)”
Not all ideas are going to be great right off the bat, but with customer research, market feedback and adequate product testing you can build upon your initial idea and create a product that is true to the needs of your audience.
Continuous innovation. Startups embracing this lean approach understand the importance of failing fast and learning from past missteps. Quick adaptation based on customer feedback is something that lean startups thrive on. By continuous product testing and communication with the target market, lean startups can innovate at a rapid pace to meet customer needs.
With the help of the build-measure-feedback loop, startups are constantly gleaning new information about their product market fit and learning ways to augment the design so that the optimal, and most innovative, product is achieved.
Building a product is hard work—however, with the right tools in hand, strong partnerships and a “work smarter, not harder” business approach, you can successfully bring your product to market.
We recently had the chance to talk with Rob Saito, Founder of Herbavore, along with Collin Kobayashi, 3D Innovations President and Chief 3D Officer, about the product development process and what it takes to design, protect and commercialize a product.
Herbavore is a recent graduate of the XLR8UH startup accelerator. XLR8UH is one of the first university investment programs in the nation, and is a nationally recognized program that educates, mentors, and invests in Hawaii’s top talent. Herbavore’s team was able to leverage the mentorship and industry expertise provided at the accelerator to design and refine their innovative horticultural hand tools.
Like most great startups, Herbavore grew out of a need—in this case, the need for better and less cumbersome gardening tools. Specifically, tools that would be comfortable for different hand sizes and that could accommodate both left and right-handed individuals. Herbavore’s patent pending tools aim to reshape the garden tool industry.
(RS): Herbavore’s first prototype (homemade) was a great starting point in the design process. It was used as a baseline. This rough prototype was used as a building block for further iterations.
Prior to working with 3D Innovations we didn’t know about the manufacturing aspect of designing. We thought our designs were “ready to go”, but after consulting with Collin, we realized the designs needed to be modified further to meet manufacturing requirements, especially related to injection molding. While working with 3D Innovations we learned more in-depth about the manufacturing process such as over-molding, which types of molds to use for cost effectiveness, and material capabilities.
(CK): Using Design for Manufacturing (DFM) early in the process creates a much more streamlined design and eliminates the need to rework or change the design to conform to the manufacturing method being planned. It also allows the client to understand the limits of what can be designed versus what features are critical to the function of the parts. Discussing these options and designing for DFM early in the process allows all team members to be aware of what is necessary to accomplish a functional and manufacturable design.
(RS): The initial drawings for our first two provisional patents were made using AutoCAD software. Our team’s strengths are not in mechanical engineering, so we did the best we could. However, we felt these initial drawings did not do our invention justice. We are currently in the process of filing a non-provisional patent, and the line drawings that 3D Innovations has made are top notch. They not only accurately depict our invention in a professional manner, but also will make obtaining a patent easier as these professionally made drawings are sure to impress the patent examiner.
(CK): Most patent applications contain “line drawings” that depict the claims of the patent. Using professional drawings as opposed to ones that are hand drawn or created using other methods may cause issues when the application is reviewed by the patent office because particular features may not be present or not depicted correctly. Using drawings from the actual designs provide many benefits which include creating section views to show internal features, having all views created to the same scale, and having drawing views automatically update when changes to the design are made. Great control of the output of drawings can be managed when the patent drawings are created professionally.
(RS): I learned a lot of things about the patent process consulting with IP attorneys, reading, and conducting a patent search of over 300 patents.
(CK): The patent application is very involved and requires a tremendous amount of research of prior art and adjusting the claims of the invention so that the design is unique.
(RS): Input was received from team members throughout the design process. Based on our team members’ experiences and feedback coupled with customer discovery, decisions were then made. Collaboration between team members greatly aided this process.
(CK): It is critical to have all team members be active in the design process. Having everyone on board and in agreement with the design direction will make for a more efficient design process and reduces the amount of rework and wait time, getting to the prototype and manufacturing stages faster. Collaboration among all team members is paramount to ensure the product gets to market in the shortest amount of time possible.
(RS): One piece of advice I would give to entrepreneurs just starting the product development process would be, “to enjoy it with others.” From the beginning to the end. The importance of achieving an end goal or final product is very important, but more importantly is all the knowledge and networks that were created along the way. Product development, especially hardware, can have a long pipeline, so if you aren’t passionate about what you are doing it will take a toll. Yes, it is a lot of work and at times can be a headache, but so personally fulfilling at the same time. You are creating something never seen before or a better mousetrap that will improve people’s lives. Enjoy the product development process with your team, customers, and investors.
(CK): Start by making sure team members have capabilities required for the company to succeed. Fill in gaps by seeking external expertise when needed. Develop partnerships with companies that can add value to your company and/or internal skill sets.
3D printing is a technology that has been around for some time, but, within the last few years, its popularity has picked up steam and is now completely revolutionizing the way business is conducted. The technology itself has advanced, and with this advancement, the financial barrier to entry has dropped considerably; making it possible for businesses and even individuals to harness the benefits of 3D printing production. While 3D printing continues to be the playground for the maker community, it’s also branching into industrial manufacturing.
3D production of functional end-use parts is already one of the fastest growing areas in the manufacturing sector. In 2014, a PWC survey found that 11% of manufacturing companies had already switched to volume production of 3D printed parts or products. It is no secret that 3D printing is shaking up global manufacturing; below are seven ways the technology is asserting its influence…
3D printing technology is revolutionizing business and we are just skimming the surface of the sweeping changes to come.
Have questions about 3D printing? Please feel free to e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Referenced Source: 7 Ways 3D Printing Is Already Disrupting Global Manufacturing, Forbes
3D Innovations is a full service 3D Engineering/Design company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.