Posts Tagged "startup connector"

Hardware Entrepreneurs: A Big Picture Mentality

hardware, startups, product design, technology, small business, hawaiiWhen 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.

Developing a Preliminary Design Plan

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).

The Benefits of Planning Ahead for Your Hardware Startup

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:

  • Make informed financial decisions;
  • Talk knowledgably with potential investors;
  • Have a clear idea on your development and product launch timeline;
  • Develop a product that is manufacturable;
  • Understand your break-even point and at what point your startup begins to make a profit;
  • Build a realistic business plan.

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


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

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Exploring 3D Printing Technology for Business

additive manufacturing, 3d printing, technology3D 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: Competitive Advantage of the Technology

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.

Prototyping to Production—What’s 3D Printing Used For?

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.

The Transformation of 3D Printing Technology

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.

Improving Medical Devices Through 3D Printing

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.

Three Areas Where 3D Printing Shines

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.

Have additional questions about 3D printing? Send us an email at Interested in receiving a 3D printing quote? Head on over to our Quote Request page.


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

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3D CAD: Exploration & Iteration

At its most simple level, the engineering discipline is about exploration and iteration—which are the two principles computer-aided design (CAD) is built upon. CAD has come a long way from the time when its primary use was to document finalized drawings. Where once CAD was a final step in the design process—today, it is a valuable first step. If you are not using CAD from the initial design stage, you are missing out on some of the most helpful aspects of the program.

Design Iterations

When it comes to designing, iterations are both helpful and inevitable. How often does our first design actually become the final design? Many inventors have an idea of what they want their final product to look like, but often times this initial design idea has to be modified to account for usability and manufacturing. With 3D CAD you can explore a seemingly endless array of design options without the need of “starting from scratch” for each iteration.

Explore the Design Possibilities

Coming up with the best possible design of a product is a trial-and-error process. You try one approach, when it fails, you try a different approach, and so forth until you come up with the best possible design. The features many CAD programs have today allow you to quickly navigate this trial and error stage while honing in on a final design that will meet all needed specifications.

By using a 3D digital design process, we are able to create designs and validate them with up to 95% certainty that they will work before even building a prototype. -Collin Kobayashi, President & Chief 3D Officer of 3D Innovations

Two valuable CAD features are parametric design and direct modeling, as detailed below by Autodesk:

“Parametric modeling allows users to build intelligent and reactive sequences of geometries in which engineers gradually capture their design intent. In this case, intelligent and reactive means the capability to create geometric objects that react to each other and behave as they would in the real world, rather than just on a computer. So as you iterate and change your model, the software’s parametric modeling capability maintains consistent relationships between elements.”

“With direct modeling, you manipulate a model’s geometry by pushing, pulling or twisting it. This allows you to focus initially on creating geometry rather than thinking about building features, constraints and design intent into models. You add features and constraints when editing the model, so you don’t have to edit the interim model stages.”

3D CAD lets you get a real sense for the product you are developing. Not only does it speed up product development, but it brings ideas to life at the fraction of the cost of what it takes to prototype. By shifting CAD to the start of the design process, you are opening the door to an array of design possibilities.

Need assistance creating a 3D Digital Design for your product idea? Contact us! Email us at or give us a call at 808.722.8667. We look forward to talking with you!


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 to get started.


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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Hardware Startups: Can I Patent My Invention?

August 29, 2016
3D Innovations

IP_patentA patent for your invention is useful, in that it gives you exclusive rights to the idea/product (for twenty years), allows you to license the invention and provides a strong market position. However, to obtain a patent your invention must meet certain criteria. Here are a few important questions to ask yourself in determining whether your invention is patentable.

  1. Did you invent it? A patent can only be applied for by the actual inventor or co-inventor. If you were not the inventor, but contributed financially, you will not be able to patent the product on your own. If the inventor was employed by another person or company to develop the invention, the patent will still be issued under the inventor’s name. However, ownership of the patent will be with the employer.
  2. Is your invention useful? Under U.S. law the invention must be “useful” to be eligible for protection. To meet this requirement the product must provide some benefit and is capable of use. It is important to note that most inventions meet this criteria.
  3. Is your invention “non-obvious”? If your product is already common knowledge in its field, then it would not meet this requirement. This determination is made by deciding whether the invention sought to be patented would have been obvious “to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which the claimed invention pertains”. Determination of whether a particular change or improvement is “obvious” is one of the most difficult determinations in patent law.
  4. Does it fall under a patentable category? Patents are available for processes, machines, articles of manufacture, and improvements to any of those classes. If your idea is in regards to laws of nature, physical phenomena, abstract ideas or non-useful objects, it will not be eligible for a patent.
  5. Has your invention been disclosed to the public? If so, your invention will not be patentable. This requirement states that your idea must be “new” and not discussed publicly prior to the date of the filing. If you invention has been made available for public use or disclosed in a prior patent application it will not be eligible for a patent.

Have additional questions regarding the patent process? We highly recommend a visit to the USPTO website. We are also able to help answer any questions you may have, please e-mail them to


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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Hardware Startups: Defining Your Niche Market

August 22, 2016
3D Innovations

Launching hardware startups, or any type of business for that matter, is a gamble—but defining and finding your niche market doesn’t have to be. Knowing your niche market is one way for hardware startups to quickly get their product into the hands of consumers and find success.

What is a niche market?

niche_market“A small but profitable segment of a market suitable for focused attention by a business. Market niches do not exist by themselves, but are created by identifying needs or wants that are not being addressed by competitors, and by offering products that satisfy them.” (Business Dictionary)

Developing a product that specifically targets a segment of the market that is not having their needs met is a great way to scale a business quickly. The competition is low and the barriers to entry are minimal, which is an ideal landscape for launching a hardware startup.

Defining a Niche Market

Defining your niche market means that you need to have a deep understanding of both your product and the consumers you are marketing your product towards. Below are a few ideas on how to define a niche market for your hardware startup.

  • Define The Gap. What is missing and how will your product address it? Identify “the gap”, or problem, in an existing larger market that you aim to solve.
  • Understand Your Ideal Customer. With whom do you want to do business? Be as specific as you can. Create a “wish list” and narrow your ideal customer down as much as possible. For example, a small niche would be: customers located in Northern California, which make $60,000+ a year and are avid outdoor biking enthusiasts. This focus will help you develop your product and find your target market.
  • Focus. Clarify the product that you want to develop and sell. Have a clear understanding of your product and how it meets the needs of your ideal consumer. For example, you don’t want to say that you are going to design a GoPro accessory; instead you can say that you want to sell a GoPro accessory that easily attaches to a baseball hat.
  • Identify Your Strengths. What sets your hardware startup apart? Three factors to consider, what makes your startup unique, identifiable and is it scalable? You should be able to apply these three characteristics to both your startup and your buyer personas. While your business might be starting out in a small niche, having a product that is scalable will translate into long-term growth and success.

Once you have a clear understanding of the niche market you are aiming your product towards, take time to test this market and be ready to re-evaluate if necessary. In the end, having a firm understanding of your niche market will mean that your startup is taking a calculated risk, and not just a gamble.


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 Upside & Downside of Crowdfunding for Hardware Startups

August 15, 2016
3D Innovations

With the exponential growth of crowdfunding, hardware startups are finding it easier to raise funds and launch their product into the marketplace. For instance, on Kickstarter in 2015, the amount of money going to funded projects increased by 35%, or $160 Million more than in 2014. There were 54,831 projects funded on Kickstarter in 2015, which is an increase of over 10,000 from the previous year. In addition, the Design and Technology categories were among the fastest growing segments.* Crowdfunding continues to grow in popularity and has transformed into a viable funding option for hardware entrepreneurs. However, like any type of business funding, crowdfunding has its upside and downside, and before you setup your campaign there are a few things to consider.

Upside of Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is often viewed as a way to raise funds and validate your product idea (both of which are true and terrific for startups). However, there is one aspect that many hardware entrepreneurs fail to consider, it is the community support of your early-adopters. The influence that these backers have on the success of your crowdfunding campaign should not be taken lightly.

hardware crowdfundingThe early-adopters help create, define and market your product to a much larger audience.  Through comments and feedback on your crowdfunding page, you will be able to get a firm grasp on your product-market fit; which in turn, will let you know if you are on the right path or if you need to pivot your current product and redesign your strategy. In this manner, crowdfunding is the culmination of the lean startup.

Through your early-adopters you also gain exposure that you would not have been able to receive if you went solely with the traditional Venture Capital (“VC”) funding route. The more exposure your campaign receives and the more public interest it garnishes, will undoubtedly affect your product’s funding. Recently, VCs have started paying close attention to successful campaigns as a way to evaluate a startup before investing their own funds. Hardware investors understand that crowdfunding campaigns give an advantage to startups because they speed up the market feedback process—which in turn, helps minimize a VCs potential investment risk.

Downside of Crowdfunding

Failed campaigns, wasted time and underestimated product development costs are crowdfunding downsides experienced by startups. When you are an early-stage startup there is nothing worse than failure and wasted time. To prepare for these potential missteps it is crucial that you plan ahead.

While a failed campaign can be attributed to a number of things, the most common factor is the lack of an engaging story. Early-adopters need to be motivated to invest in your product, and one way to do this is through an interesting campaign with a backstory that grabs their attention. Your “story delivery” also demonstrates to early-adopters that you have a strong marketing strategy that will translate well from your crowdfunding campaign and into the marketplace.

Another pitfall to avoid is asking for the wrong amount of funding. Estimating your total development costs can be tricky, but this risk can be minimized with the input from experienced team members and outside consultants. Manufacturing and packaging is one area that is particularly challenging for hardware entrepreneurs, and getting a firm “estimate” can be even harder. (Our advice, research potential manufacturers and meet with a variety of them before settling on one.) If your dollar estimate is off, it can sink even the best crowdfunding campaign.

Without and engaging story or correct project cost estimates you risk crowdfunding failure. The time you spend crowdfunding will be wasted, which can be detrimental for early-stage hardware startups.

*ICO Partners Kickstarter in 2015—Review in numbers

Have additional questions regarding crowdfunding for your hardware startup? Send them our way,


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

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

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Lean Startup Principles for Hardware Entrepreneurs

August 8, 2016
3D Innovations

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

The Five Lean Startup Principles:

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

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

Eliminate Uncertainty

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

Work Smarter

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

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

Validated Learning

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

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

What is a Minimum Viable Product?

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

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

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

Have questions about the Lean Startup methodology or the product development process? Contact us,


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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Enhance Sales & Experience with Quality Package Design

July 6, 2016
3D Innovations

packageDesigning products that fly off store shelves is the universal goal during a product launch. The validation and fulfillment that comes with a successful product launch is what drives entrepreneurs. One of the first interactions a customer has with your product is on the shelf at the store. The package design is what catches their eye, motivates them to stop and look at your product and ultimately helps makes the final purchasing decision.

In order to optimize your product’s package design there are a few items to consider:

  • Material Durability. The material you would like to use and the material that makes the most sense for your product may not always align—costs and durability are two of the main reasons for the disconnect. You want to pick a material that can withstand shipping, stocking and being dropped (as this is inevitable). Design the packaging to help your product withstand the transportation process and any bumps it may receive along the way before reaching your customers.
  • Store Requirements. Most of the big-box retailers have package requirements that you must follow in order to get your product onto their shelves. Take the time to understand these guidelines and invest in shipping certifications when necessary (i.e. ISTA Certification).
  • Develop Your Product’s Message. Being clear and concise with your overall message will help reduce the quantity of materials in your packaging and ultimately reduce overhead. Within a 30 second glance at your product, what do you want consumers to learn? Consumers are inundated with messages as they walk down an aisle and you want to make yours memorable. You need to be both efficient in your use of materials, and in your package design communication.
  • Security. Deter in-store theft with a secure package design. If your product is easily stolen it will hinder your bottom line and could also get your inventory shipped back to you. Theft-proof packaging should be at the forefront of your design.

At the end of the day, you want to always keep the consumer in mind when going through the product development process and designing your packaging. This first interaction with your product can either enhance their initial experience or frustrate them from the onset. As the saying goes, you only have one chance to make a great first impression. Your overall package design should look good on store shelves, encourage sales and provide a positive experience for both the customer and retailer.


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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Connect with us on TwitterFacebook & LinkedIn today

Manufacturing Facts Hardware Entrepreneurs Need To Know

June 15, 2016
3D Innovations

Developing a product is exhilarating, however when the time comes to start the manufacturing phase of the product development process, many entrepreneurs aren’t exactly sure where to begin. Below are some pieces of advice that every hardware startup should know about the manufacturing process.

mfg3Understand your cash flow.

Many startups are strapped for cash—especially during the early days—that is why understanding your company’s cash flow is crucial. Depending on your hardware product, you may be required to purchase certain components six months to a year before your launch. Work with your manufacturer to setup a realistic payment option that won’t leave your startup in the red.

Find an experienced manufacturer.

All manufacturers have experience, but your goal is to find a manufacturer that has experience building a product similar to yours. Chances are that if they have experience building a similar product, the number of challenges that arise will diminish. Also, ask to see product samples so that you can get a feel on the quality of work they produce.

If your goal is to manufacturer your product in the U.S., prepare to pay a little bit more. However, some entrepreneurs don’t mind paying more for the comfort of being able to visit the manufacturing facility on a regular basis. During the early production runs you are going to want to be on-site to talk with the engineers to make sure things are running smoothly.

Be prepared to compromise.

You might have visions of making your product from recycled materials, or certain sustainable materials, however, these may not be the best options for your product. Your product is going to need to meet certain thresholds and tolerances, which means that using the correct material is imperative. Be prepared to compromise on things such as materials, the manufacturing timeline and other variables that will undoubtedly arise.

Start with small production runs.

While you are putting final touches on the design and working out the “kinks”, it is a good idea to start with small production runs. The minimum (around 5,000 units) run will give you a chance to fix any issues that come up without experiencing potentially dire financial consequences.

If you are planning on running a crowdfunding campaign, a small production run might not be feasible if you have a wildly successful campaign. In that case, you can consider the option of running multiple manufacturing lines. While this can complicate the manufacturing process, it will help you stick to the timeline you laid out for customers. If you would rather stick with the small product run method, let your customers know that you plan on starting with small batches and scaling up gradually, which will mean a longer wait time—keep in mind that most customers are willing to wait when the startup is transparent about their timeline from the get-go.

Do you have additional questions about the manufacturing phase of the product development cycle? Let us help! Contact us by e-mail at info@3d-innovations.comor or by phone at 1-808-772-8667.


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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Connect with us on TwitterFacebook & LinkedIn today