Posts Tagged "startups"

Patent protection is critical for startup success.

Innovation and Patent Protection for Startups

Patent protection is critical for startup success.Patent protection is critical for startups today—technology and globalization have made it easier than ever to find, steal and patent invention ideas. Patents provide you with a way to protect your invention from other individuals that may want to commercialize it without your authorization. From the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO):

“A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Generally, the term of a new patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States or, in special cases, from the date an earlier related application was filed, subject to the payment of maintenance fees.”

“The right conferred by the patent grant is, in the language of the statute and of the grant itself, “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention in the United States or ‘importing’ the invention into the United States. What is granted is not the right to make, use, offer for sale, sell or import, but the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention.”

Make: Magazine recently published an article, “Patent Pandas: How One Maker Is Turning Her Horrible Experience Into a Force for Good”. It is a real and very telling story of how a person, actually a crowdfunding backer, stole an idea from a crowdfunding website and later tried to sell the invalid patent back to the original inventor. Unfortunately, stealing and patenting ideas that are not your own has become big business.

Patent law is complicated, and it is always best to consult with an attorney. However, we have compiled a list of resources below to get you started as you begin looking into the process of patent protection.

Crowdfunding Backer Patented My Project (Patent Panda)

I never thought about patents much. I just wanted to make stuff and share it with others. Then one day someone else patented my work.  So what happened?  And what did I learn?  Well, first off, don’t panic!

General Information Concerning Patents (USPTO)

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.

Navigating IP on the Path to Commercialization

Patents are a critical factor for sustainable success. 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.

IP Watchdog

This website is managed by Gene Quinn, a patent attorney with decades of experience. The articles on the website touch on a number of patent issues and provide in-depth education opportunities.

How to Prepare for Your First Patent Attorney Meeting

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.

Our team works closely with the Hawaii State Bar Association and understands the importance of patent protection for startups. If you have a question related to patent protection, we are happy to help. Please send us an email with your questions, info@3d-innovations.com.

Additional Intellectual Property Articles from 3D Innovations

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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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3D design and 3D models are critical for efficient manufacturing.

The Importance of 3D Design for (Efficient) Manufacturing

3D design and 3D models are critical for efficient manufacturing.When you are ready to take your prototype and turn it into a real-world product, be sure that your 3D design files are also ready to go. A CAD file is either a digital 2D or 3D model of your product. When you start reaching out to manufacturers, most of the time they will ask to see your 3D design before moving forward with a manufacturing consultation and quote. “Without some idea of size, number of cavities, complexity, shape, and design, a manufacturer cannot accurately advise on the manufacturability of your product or help you choose the right materials and color.” (Extreme Molding)

3D Design Saves Time

Making sure that the manufacturer has the most detailed information possible about your product helps ensure that you are receiving an accurate quote and that there are fewer potential manufacturing issues down the road.

“Not only does a CAD file help save time when figuring out all the finer details of a part by looking at the 3D model, but it also allows a model to be magnified and even rotate on any axis to get a full three-dimensional concept of the part, which allows the manufacturer a greater sense of the product. It can even reveal internal features of a part if it cannot be seen clearly on a manufacturing drawing. Aside from these benefits, using CAD makes it possible to simulate the movement of a part through production processes.” (Vista Industrial)

3D Design Reduces Material Waste

“CAD files enables the manufacturer to check tool paths before any material is cut. The ability to run a simulation and so verify the complete machining process in a virtual environment is critical for keeping waste and scrap to a minimum. This may be crucial on some jobs, such as those using expensive alloys, large material-intensive components, or for those with complex geometry. Other verification advantages that result from less scrap include less energy consumption and reduced tool wear.

CAD simulations also enable you and the manufacturer to identify how long the production run time will take. Clearly this is useful for scheduling, as well as the planning of throughput, material supply and delivery. As the 3D model is the source of the manufacturing data, the design intent is preserved, and the dimensional accuracy is retained.” (Advice Manufacturing)

3D Design Allows for Ongoing Communication

If your product design needs to be adjusted to meet design or manufacturing needs, this can easily be accomplished within a digital CAD file. Since the CAD files are transferred electronically, you are assured that both you, your product design team and the manufacturer all have the same information moving forward.

“CAD systems also facilitate communication among those involved in design, manufacturing, and other processes. This is of particular importance when one firm contracts another to either design or produce a component.” (Inc.)

In today’s manufacturing environment, CAD files are a necessity. A 3D design allows you to evaluate the form, fit, and functionality of your product. The design will also verify tolerance, loads, stresses and optimize manufacturability. If you plan on filing for IP rights or patent protection, a CAD file will help clearly communicate the design to your attorney and those reviewing your patent application.

Have additional product development questions? Please send them our way, info@3d-innovations.com

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Developing a product development strategy is key to startup success.

Product Development Strategy: Launching Your Idea

Developing a product development strategy is key to startup success.Did your 2019 resolution focus on product development and launching a business? The New York Post published a piece that says New Year’s resolutions, on average, don’t even last two weeks—that’s right, January 12th is the fateful day for many resolutions. Resolutions are hard—changing your behavior, mindset and shifting your focus can be extremely stressful if you jump in and do it all at once. We recommend starting slow, so that you aren’t overwhelmed, and building a support system to help encourage you and keep you focused. If you plan on starting a business in 2019, below are actionable items to keep you on track so that your resolution is successful.

The First Steps of Your Product Development Strategy
Write Your Goal Down

Write your goal down in one or two sentences. Keep it short and concise. Then post your goal somewhere where you will see it every day—whether it is at your office, your bathroom mirror, or as a reminder on your phone. Having it around will be a constant reminder of what you want to accomplish this year.

Find a Mentor

Business mentors are a great resource. You can bounce your product development strategy ideas off them and ask for advice when faced with obstacles. It will be even better if you can schedule a monthly meeting with your mentor to help keep you on track and pushing forward. Having a measurable goal and/or accomplishing a task before your next meeting will keep your startup moving ahead.

Start a Business Plan

There are many great business plan outlines online. Find one that fits your specific startup and start filling it out. Get all of your ideas, goals and ambitions out there on paper. You will see your plan start to solidify, and the plan will show you your strengths as well as your areas of weakness. Keep in mind that entrepreneurs aren’t great at every single aspect of business—and asking for help is normal, and extremely beneficial.

“Two founders, rather than one, significantly increases your odds of success. You will raise 30% more investment, grow your customers 3 times as fast, and will be less likely to scale too fast.” (Inc.: 5 of the Most Surprising Statistics About Startups)

Build a Prototype

By now you have an idea, you have probably sketched the product design out a few times, possibly built a rough version out of items around your home and you are ready to get going on an actual prototype. Great!

Depending on your product, 3D printing is an excellent option for initial prototypes. You can get a physical prototype in hours, refine the design and print again. It will take a few iterations to get it just how you are imaging it. Startups all over the globe are now turning towards 3D printing technology at various stages of product development—low cost and quick turnaround times make it ideal for budget conscious hardware startups.

Eventually you will want to build a functional prototype, especially if you are going to move on to patent protection.

Gather Feedback

Take your prototype and start talking to friends, family and people you know to gather their thoughts on your product. In your business plan, you have outlined your target market, so try to find people that fit in this category. Remember that the feedback is going to help you build the product customers want, so the design will most likely change a bit to accommodate customer needs.

Here at 3D Innovations, no matter the stage of your business, we can help you meet your goals. Our team has a proven track record in all areas of product development and we work side-by-side with you throughout the entire design and manufacturing process. Peek at the Case Studies section of our website to see a few examples of the startups we have previously partnered with, and how they leveraged our design and manufacturing expertise to reduce time to market.

Have additional product development questions? Please send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

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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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3D Innovations is a leader in product development.

Top 3D Innovations Blog Posts of 2018

3D Innovations is a leader in product development.To close out the year, we are sharing the top four 3D Innovations blog post of 2018. This past year, our readers were particularly interested in 3D printing technology, how to get your product idea off the ground, product development as well as STEM education.

Get Your Product Idea Off the Ground

Coming up with a product idea is exhilarating—knowing that you have an idea that will help not only yourself, but an entire segment of the population, is the very definition of exciting. So now you have an idea, but you aren’t exactly sure what to do next. Here we have gathered helpful advice and insight into the next stages of your product development journey.

The Benefits of Using 3D Printing Technology in Education

As the cost of 3D printers has dropped significantly in recent years, more schools are able to adopt and incorporate the technology into the curriculum. 3D printing technology promotes active learning and has the power to open a world of career possibilities to students. 3D printing inspires creativity and can help encourage students to explore a career in engineering or science.

What to Expect from Your First Product Development Meeting

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.

Building A Hardware Startup Outside of a Major Tech Hub

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, here are a few ideas on how you can successfully launch your hardware startup from your home city.

This past year was fantastic as we helped a number of startups launch their idea and assisted others with various product development and manufacturing solutions. We can’t wait to see what 2019 brings!

Cheers!

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Harnessing 3D Printing Technology for Business

3d printing, additive manufacturingIt’s no secret that additive manufacturing, commonly referred to as 3D printing, is transforming the business landscape. Within the last decade we have witnessed this technology grow into what it is today, a way to disrupt supply chains and completely innovate the manufacturing landscape—from prototyping to production.

3D printing has been a favorite tool of makers and product design professionals alike because of its quick turnaround time and the fact that it is relatively cheap compared to all other manufacturing methods. 3D printing technology allows designers to quickly, easily and efficiently design and produce a product prototype for review within hours, instead of weeks. While prototyping is where additive manufacturing is most popular and widely used, the technology is beginning to mature and find its way into manufacturing for end-use parts as well.

3D Printing for Prototyping

Our design team regularly uses additive manufacturing technology during the product development cycle when we are working with entrepreneurs and startups on prototyping and finalizing a product design. 3D printing technology is still growing and maturing, it seems that every week new filaments are being developed and new uses for the technology are being discussed. However, 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 excels.

3D Printing for Manufacturing

When it comes to manufacturing, 3D printing technology has an advantage on short-runs, however, at this time, it is not able to compete with other traditional forms on a mass-manufacturing scale.

Due to the speed, quality and cost of additive manufacturing, “the technology is best suited for the production of specialty parts in smaller batches, rather than mass-manufactured goods. However, there is an industry shift towards expanding 3D printing technology to take a more prominent role in mass manufacturing. This technology brings some important qualities to the world of manufacturing that make it ideal for certain jobs. For instance, parts can have complex geometries impossible with traditional manufacturing processes. It is also possible to 3D print goods on demand, allowing for easy creation of custom parts” (Engineering.com).

The 3D printing metal segment is making great strides towards high volume manufacturing and McKinsey forecasts the industry to be worth as much as $10 billion by 2030 to 2035. Read more about developments in the metal 3D printing segment on our blog.

3D Printing Quote

At 3D Innovations, we offer 3D printing services to a range of startups, businesses and makers. If you have a design ready to be printed, and would like a quote, please visit our 3D Printing Quote Request page. We have made the quote process quick and easy. Whether you need a prototype or a short manufacturing run, we can 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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Domestic v. International Manufacturing for Your Startup

manufacturingWhether you are considering having your product manufactured in your home country or overseas, you need to take into account the benefits and disadvantages of each before reaching a final decision. Each item on your list should be weighed based on your startup’s goals, mission, customers and timeline. Below you will find a preliminary pros and cons list to help you get started.

Domestic Manufacturing Advantages
  • Easier Communication. When you and your manufacturing partner share the same language, you are less likely to experience communication barriers and breakdowns. When communication is a challenge, it can be costly for your startup.
  • Visit the Facility. When your manufacturer is close, you are easily able to visit the factory and build a trusting relationship with your manufacturing partner.
  • Faster Fulfillment. When you don’t have to factor in international shipping, your product will most likely be available much quicker, which means that you can get it to market faster.
  • Production Flexibility. Domestic manufacturers are usually able to accommodate smaller production runs. While an international manufacturer might be able to offer a smaller production run, shipping can make it cost prohibitive.
  • Reduced Shipping Fees. If you intend to sell your product domestically, you will be able to save money on shipping costs.
  • Positive Press & Market Perception. The American public tends to view products made domestically as superior in quality and is therefore willing to pay more for your product.
  • IP Security. Intellectual property (IP) can make or break a startup. Copycat products not only hurt your brand, but they can also harm consumers. Manufacturing your product domestically may decrease the chance of intellectual property theft.
Domestic Manufacturing Disadvantages
  • Higher Costs. Manufacturing your product domestically usually means that you will be paying more for your product. U.S. labor laws require manufacturers to provide minimum wage for workers along with safe working environments.
  • High Volume Production Issues. Manufacturers are not as well equipped to produce high volume orders as their international counterparts.
International Manufacturing Advantages
  • Reduced Costs. Manufacturing a product overseas is almost always significantly less expensive than manufacturing domestically.
  • Increased Options. In the U.S. manufacturers tend to specialize in the products they can produce, whereas in China a manufacturer might be able to produce a wide range of products. There are also more factories in China which means you have options, helping to keep prices competitive.
  • High-volume Capability. International manufacturers excel when it comes to producing high-volume orders in a single production run.
International Manufacturing Disadvantages
  • Communication Barriers. By not sharing a language or native culture, navigating business can be a bit more challenging.
  • Challenging to Find. Not all international manufacturing facilities have a website, or keep up with the Google algorithm—which means that finding them on the internet can be a challenge. Also, the facilities that do have a website and provide contact information are most likely contacted very frequently by people “testing the waters”, so they may not respond to your email in a timely manner, or at all.
  • Limited Oversight. It is always a good idea to visit a facility before entering into a contract, however this can be a challenge with international suppliers. You might make the initial trip to visit the facility, but subsequent visits can quickly add up and could be cost prohibitive for your startup.
  • Increased Shipping Fees. When you intend to sell your product domestically, having your product shipped from their international facility to the U.S. can be costly. Increased tariffs and other political factors can make predicting shipping fees a bit challenging, and these fees can readily fluctuate.
  • Less Secure IP Rights. Without the protections of U.S. intellectual property rights, your product is vulnerable to IP theft and copycats flooding the market.

Ultimately the decision to manufacture either domestically or internationally is based on your budget, timeline and customer preferences. With our heightened political climate and a shift in attitude, many people now prefer to buy products that are made in the U.S., and are willing to pay more for these products.

Do you have additional questions about manufacturing your product? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

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FOG Safe Product Development Process – Pacific Business News

product development process, FOG Safe, FOG Safe Drain GuardsRecently Pacific Business News sat down with our client, Shawn Santos, inventor of FOG Safe Drain Guards to talk about the product development process and launching his idea. FOG Safe Drain Guards are a way to responsibly dispose of fats, oils and grease after cooking a meal, instead of rinsing these harmful contaminants down the kitchen sink. Once the fat, oil and grease has cooled in your cooking pan, you simply pour the contents into the FOG Safe Drain Guard and wait one minute while the drain guard absorbs the FOG, then you dispose of the entire drain guard into the trash. No drips, no mess.

We have had the pleasure of working with FOG Safe from the beginning. We have assisted with designs, prototyping, patents, manufacturing and distribution. Below are excerpts from the Pacific Business News article that discuss our product development assistance (read the full article here).

The Product Development Process

We had several stages of printing for prototyping. I worked with a local product development company, 3D Innovations, through the process. He had resources for using the [3D] printer, so after coming up with designs and going through the process, the finished product is very different than the original idea.

Deciding on a Manufacturer

3D Innovations assisted with sourcing and manufacturing. We looked at several locations, we tried the U.S., and eventually we went overseas. We looked at a lot of paper pulp manufacturers and settled on doing it in China. In order for the product to work and relieve the problem, its gotta be worth it for the consumer. People are not going to want to spend a lot, so we needed to keep the cost down as much as possible.

Then there was the whole tooling process, which is preparing the molds — it’s another upfront cost that comes right out of pocket. We have to provide the schematics for the tooling, and once we approve it it’s all on us, we pay that amount even if that mold doesn’t work, so it’s a bit of a gamble. So we have to be 100 percent, and that’s where the 3D printing comes in. We do the printing, and the manufacturer uses those to make the mold.

Patenting FOG Safe Drain Guards

I have five issued patents. It started with getting a patent attorney and doing a patent search. The hope is that whatever they find is different enough in design, and we felt it was worth the try and we were different.

For my first patent to get issued was well over 24 months, probably closer to 30 months. After that, there were deviations of the design. One of the challenges of an inventor is that you can’t come up with a single design, there needs to be variations, because someone can easily copy off of your original design work. And the patent office is very particular, you can’t be broad, you have to be very specific on a type of design. You can’t just think in one dimension, you have to think about how this can be manipulated and changed. It’s a collaboration between the engineer, myself and my attorney, everyone having input.

Interested in learning more about our product development process? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

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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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3D Innovations: Product Case Studies

We are sharing product case studies over on the 3D Innovations website. Within these case studies you will see the type of projects we have partnered on and how customers have leveraged our design and manufacturing expertise to reduce time to market. (Note: This is a small sample of our client projects, as many projects are required to stay confidential.)

The case studies on our website are from a range of industries. Below you can see some of the industries we support and have experience working with.

3D Innovations, product development, case studies, product design

Developing ideas from concept to product is where our expertise shines. With a knowledgeable team, we help bring products from initial concept to store shelves.

About 3D Innovations

3D Innovations provides product development services assisting companies with all stages of development. Our suite of services includes product design/engineering, prototyping, 3D Printing, additive manufacturing, supply chain management, packaging design, and production manufacturing sourcing. Using our experience in Design for Manufacturing (DFM) processes, we develop custom solutions for clients that accelerate their commercialization activities.

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.

Interested in learning more about our product development process? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com or give us a call 1.808.722.8667 so that we can schedule a meeting to talk about your project’s individual needs and requirements.

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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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3 Common Product Development Firm Misconceptions

product development firm, product development, hardware startupsFinding the right product development firm is a big step when it comes to developing your product idea. If you’re trying to decide on whether to work with a product development company, let us help clear up three common misconceptions that many first-time entrepreneurs often have.

They can only help during the early-stages of product development (design & prototyping).

False. While some product development companies may focus on one or two areas of product development, there are others that can help you from idea to commercialization. Having a product development team in place through commercialization means that there won’t be any interruption in the product development process. A full-service product development firm is invested in the success of your product and wants to see it on store shelves just as much as you do.

They can’t help with patents and licensing.

False. Often a product development firm is exactly what you need when it comes to intellectual property. Line drawings are necessary for design and utility patents, and your product development partner can produce these for your patent application. Also, experienced development firms work with IP attorneys and will be able to help answer or questions or setup meetings with experienced attorneys.

When it comes to licensing, your product development partner will be able to provide the technical aspects of the design to interested partners as well as their manufacturers. Licensing a product requires strategy and know-how, and this is exactly what a firm will be able to provide.

They all follow a similar process.

False. Successful product development companies have spent years honing their process. They have guidelines and clear steps in place to develop great products. With this knowledge and experience, they should be able to guide you around common pitfalls, in turn saving you both time and money.

With the assistance of a product development firm, you will be guided by knowledgeable experts throughout the entire development process. You can ask questions, share ideas and collaborate on all aspects of the product development process. A skilled product development firm will be able to guide you from design to manufacturing and beyond.

Now it’s time to get out there and meet potential product development partners. In this blog post we discuss what you can expect during your first product development meeting.

Have additional questions about product development? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com.

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A Human-Centered Design Approach

When it comes to designing consumer products, the best approach is to consider your end-user throughout the entire design processwhich 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:

  • Observing user behavior — Try to understand people through observing them. For example, if you’re designing a vacuum cleaner, watch people vacuum.
  • Putting yourself in the situation of the end-user — IDEO does this to understand what the user experience is really like; to feel what their users feel.

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.

human-centered product design, product development, Human-Centered Design

Image from: User Testing Blog

The Six Phases of a Human-Centered Design Approach

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 info@3d-innovations.com

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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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