Posts Tagged "startups"

Preparing for Your First Product Development Meeting

Once you have developed your product idea as far as you can on your own, it’s time to meet with a product development firm—but how do you prepare for such a meeting? Below are a few suggestions on how you can prepare for your first meeting with a product development firm and/or product designer.

Sketch It Out.

Whether you are able to draw your idea on paper or make a homemade prototype, bring a visual reference for your product idea. This will ensure that you and the product designer are on the same page from the get-go. (We have seen everything from napkin sketches to homemade prototypes, so don’t feel pressure to make a perfect prototype for the meeting).

List The Functional Aspects.

What is the product’s functionality? By listing out the functional aspects of your product you are clarifying its goal and also preparing yourself with the information you need for a patent filing.

Understand The Patent Filing Process.

Become familiar with the patent process and decide whether or not you are interested in filing a patent for your invention—design or utility patent. This step does not have to be complete by the time of your meeting—product development firms can actually help you develop the design documentation.

Bring All Decision Makers To The Meeting.

If you have a co-founder or someone else helping you develop your idea, bring them to the meeting. They will be able to ask their own questions and provide additional answers to the product designer’s questions. Having all decision makers present for the initial meeting, as well as all subsequent meetings, is always a good idea to help speed the product development process along.

Write Questions Down.

This seems simple enough, but in the excitement of the initial meeting you may forget to ask some questions that you need answered—writing them down will ensure that you remind yourself to ask them.

Bringing an idea to life takes both time and tenacity. Get the development of your product off on the right foot by making your first meeting count.

Have additional product development questions? Please e-mail them to us 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 in the News — Printing Innovation on Demand

3D InnovationsRecently our very own Collin Kobayashi, 3D Innovations President and Chief 3D Officer, was interviewed by Pacific Business News regarding the additive manufacturing industry along with the challenges of starting your own business. Below are a couple excerpts from the interview:

Regarding the 3D printing industry growth:

“The market with 3D printing now is so wide and deep. It can be applied to almost any type of industry… People want to be able to build parts on demand and not have to wait on parts from the Mainland or China. We have to ship everything here in Hawaii, so there’s big value in 3D printing.”

Discussing our top service:

The 3D printing is sort of a secondary process. Most times the customer wants to get a new product to market, get it developed. The 3D printing comes after that. Sometimes a customer will have their own 3D file, made on their own or downloaded from the internet. Other times we assist in the design process. The first step is the design and prototype and then you get into the production and manufacturing environment.

Read more of this interview on the Pacific Business News website, “Printing Innovation on Demand”.

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Manufacturing Technology: 3D Printing vs CNC

3D printing has undoubtedly become a tool-of-choice for makers and educators alike. The rapid growth in 3D printing technology and its popularity has manufacturers worried that at-home 3D printers may one day soon replace traditional manufacturing. From our experience though, a maker or entrepreneur is going to benefit the most from a convergence of these two manufacturing methods.

Below we will discuss the benefits and pitfalls of both 3D printing and CNC milling.

Methodology

CNC milling machines “take a block of solid material (e.g. aluminum or wood) and use sharp rotating tools or cutters to remove all parts that are not needed. Milling is a subtractive method. CNC mills are computer-controlled. The computer feeds the machine-specific code that controls the cutting tools (just like the G-code used by 3D printers). The models for CNC mills are created using 3D modeling software, so-called CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) software applications.” (All3DP.com)

3D Printing starts from scratch and builds a three-dimensional product layer by layer. This technology is referred to as additive manufacturing. Just like with CNC milling machines, a computer feeds the machine specific code that controls the design process.

Material Selection

CNC mills can work on a “huge variety of materials: metal alloys (e.g. aluminum, steel alloys, brass, copper), softwoods and hardwoods, thermoplastics, acrylic, modeling foams, machining wax (for creating a positive model for casting). You may need different cutting tools for different materials, but the tool-to-machine interfaces are usually standardized—so the tools can easily be exchanged.” (All3DP.com)

At-home desktop 3D printers are usually restricted to a few materials, typically thermoplastics or resins. Thermoplastics can be mixed with other materials such as ceramics, wood, metal, but the workpieces produced on a 3D printer will not be as robust as workpieces cut from a block of metal or wood. Commercial or specialty 3D printers can print with more exotic materials (i.e. bioprinting and food).

Range of Applications

With the range of applications for these two technologies, there is a lot of overlap. (Here we will focus on the applications either technology supports, while the other does not.)

CNC milling is the better solution when you need to manufacture extremely robust, precise and/or heat-resistant products. 3D printing is the better solution when you need quick prototypes to test designs, small batch runs or are interested in exotic application fields—bioprinting, architectural purposes and printing food.

Material Waste

By design, there is less waste with 3D printing. The technology only requires the material needed for building the product. With CNC milling, you need a block of material that is the size of the product it will produce—a great deal of material is then removed, and often times the excess material cannot be recycled.

Both technologies have their place in the manufacturing landscape. Where one technology falters, the other excels. When designing your product, keep in mind that using both technologies during product development might be just what you need.

Have questions about the manufacturing process? Send us your questions, info@3d-innovations.com,we are happy to help.

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

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Demand for 3D Digital Design Rises

January 26, 2017

3D CAD has become a critical early step in the product development process. These digital designs minimize design challenges and manufacturing complications.

Below are three common questions we regularly receive about 3D CAD technology:

What is 3D CAD?

Three-dimensional computer aided design, or 3D CAD, is a type of software that helps engineers, product designers, architects and other professionals design schematics for three-dimensional objects.

When is the best time to use 3D CAD in the product development cycle?        

For most, the first step in the quest to produce the next big innovation is building a digital design of the product idea using 3D CAD.

Product Design and Development | 3D Prototyping3D CAD can be used to initially test product design theories and understand all of the design aspects without the need for building physical prototypes. Even though prototyping costs are decreasing, due partly to additive manufacturing (3D printing), it is best to develop a 3D digital design before producing a prototype.

It is not to say that 3D digital design is meant to replace physical prototyping, but it is bringing advantages throughout the design workflow that include computational fluid dynamics (CFD) tools for virtual simulation/testing, using the same data as for physical prototyping.

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

What are the major benefits of 3D CAD?

Test product ideas. With 3D digital designs you can easily test form, fit, materials and functionality without the need for a physical prototype.

Clarify product functionality. If you plan to seek funding from an outside source, digital designs are a great way to communicate an idea. You can demonstrate the product without having to produce a physical prototype.

Speed up time-to-market. The goal of every hardware startup is to get your product into the hands of consumers as quickly as possible. Your company is not profitable until you begin to sell units, therefore any tool that speeds up time-to-market is valuable. With 3D digital design files you can not only design and communicate a product idea, you can also export the design into various file formats for use with CNC machines and 3D printers for production. Manufacturers around the world have adopted common practices and standards that rely on the use of digital design files for their production processes. This adoption of using digital designs for their downstream applications eliminates operator error, increases productivity, and allows for more competitiveness in the marketplace.

Reduce Costs. From the onset, 3D digital designs reduce costs in the form of prototyping. While later on in the product development cycle, these same designs reduce costly errors during production.

The demand for 3D digital designs is rising and it is easy to see why.  For hardware entrepreneurs, 3D digital designs are a great way to explore a product idea, build upon the idea and solicit feedback.

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

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

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Hardware is a Perfectly Complex Mess

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

Product-Market Fit

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

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

Prototyping: Fast Over Fancy

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

Industry Interviews

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

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

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

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

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

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Designing & Prototyping with 3D Printing

3D Printing Services | Rapid Prototyping Services | 3D-innovationsIt’s no secret that additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing) is shifting the manufacturing landscape and transforming supply chains. 3D printing is redefining how companies design, develop and manufacture products. Product designers are experiencing what it means to design without traditional limitations of design for assembly, allowing them to radically reinvent products based on performance rather than manufacturability. Below are four reasons as to why you should be integrating 3D printing into your product development lifecycle if you aren’t already.

Timelines & Budgets.

These are the biggest challenges to any product development team. Producing prototypes and delivering accurate designs to clients has never been easier than it is today with 3D printing. With a 3D printer, CAD models can become real life touchable designs in a matter of hours.

Multiple Design Iterations & Prototyping.

In product development it often takes many iterations of a product before a design is settled on. People have different ideas on how the product should look and function. While a 3D CAD model makes it easier to share design thoughts, nothing compares to holding a physical product in your hand to help communicate an idea.

Once a design has been finalized, a functional prototype is needed to help with other aspects of the business (securing funding, marketing, presentations etc.). In today’s competitive startup market, a functional prototype is no longer optional, and investors (whether VCs or through crowdfunding) want to see how your product actually works and that you have come up with something that is indeed manufacturable.

Manufacturing Flexibility.

3D printing helps reduces the capital involved in achieving economies of scale, thus lowering any barriers to entry for production. This is a major benefit for hardware startups that previously had to find funding before even approaching the idea of manufacturing their product. With 3D printing, startups can now manufacture small batches at an affordable rate and customize products based on customer demands.

Market Testing.

Gauging customer support early in the product development lifecycle is vital for success. You want to get a functional prototype in the hands of your test market as soon as possible so that you can incorporate their feedback into the design. They will be able to share insight regarding product material, product fit, weight, visual appearance and usability. Having access to a 3D printer will let you update designs quickly and communicate design changes.

While 3D printing is making quite an impact on businesses today, it is hard to remember at times that the technology is still evolving and maturing. With the evolution of 3D printing technology, we can only imagine how it will look in five or ten years.

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

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Hardware Startups: Crowdfunding — The Power of ‘The Crowd’

As the popularity of crowdfunding has grown, hardware startup entrepreneurs in particular have found success tapping into ‘the crowd’ and moving their products from concept to shelves. A successful crowdfunding campaign begins with one key component: planning. Start planning and preparing for your campaign months in advance so that when it is time to go live, you have a well-polished campaign that highlights your brilliant product.

If you are ready to tap into the power of ‘the crowd’ below are four essential items that can’t be overlooked:

student_trainingA Working Prototype

A functional prototype is necessary when you are trying to get people excited about a new product. While people can indeed envision a product from a great description, there is no substitute for the actual thing. This prototype not only shows potential investors what your product can do, it is also necessary for the marketing material on your crowdfunding page.

An Exciting Video

Our second point correlates directly with the previous one, you can’t have an exciting video unless you have a functional prototype. The video portion of your page is where you let your product shine. The more descriptive and creative your video is, the more people are going to get truly excited to contribute to your campaign.

Early Customer Connections

Don’t wait for your crowdfunding page to go live before you start connecting with your customer base—this is too late. Connect early-on with potential customers to help build anticipation for your product and campaign. This is the time where you tap into your connections to form key partnerships. Do you know any industry influencers? If so, connect with them and work on forming a partnership in which they will be willing to help share your campaign with their connections. Remember, crowdfunding is all about tapping into ‘the crowd’, so the more people that see your campaign the better your chances are for success.

Content Creation

Let your creativity run wild! This includes all videos, photos and text; make your content unique and memorable. Also don’t forget to include the “ask” in your pitch. This piece is often overlooked so the message gets lost. A clear and concise “ask”, coupled with a creative campaign means that you are on your way to crowdfunding success.

Setting up your crowdfunding campaign will take planning and hard work, but remember that it is also supposed to be fun. Show potential backers the fun side of your product and your team.

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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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Product Design: Think Simple, Start Small

When it comes to product design, the notion that you need to go big from the onset is a fallacy—to build a successful product, start by thinking small and simple. Your product should not only be visually appealing, but it should also have a distinct look and purposeful design. Too much design “clutter” will impede functionality and turn customers away.

Here are a few thoughts on how a small start can ultimately lead to major product innovation.

image_design_1Small Idea. Each idea starts out small, and from there, slowly begins to morph into something much larger than itself. Maybe your idea is based on making an existing product better or possibly it’s for a customer base that has an unmet need—either way, your idea starts small and gets larger the more you evaluate it to see if it’s truly viable. From this small idea, a startup is born.

Simple Design. Product design doesn’t have to be complicated or cumbersome. The most successful products out there have a distinct purpose and don’t let unnecessary features confuse the design. If there is one company that has built an empire on the notion of simple design it is Apple. Streamlining design and reducing complexity is a trademark of Apple products. Granted a startup won’t have the seemingly endless resources or hundreds of product designers that Apple does, however it can imitate one major aspect of its success, simple design.

Focusing on a simple product design doesn’t mean that your product has to be featureless or boring; instead, it aims to be methodical and purposeful. Ask yourself what features are absolutely necessary for the functionality of your product and start there. Going forward, every iteration of your product should focus on ways to streamline your design while enhancing the overall customer experience. Ask yourself, “What can we take away to build a better product?”

Big Innovation. Innovation is a result of the previous two points blended together—small ideas and a simple design lead to breakthroughs. Innovation is about doing more with less. Instead of focusing on what you can do to design your product to be an instant success (which in itself is extremely rare), ask “What’s the smallest change we could make in our product?” This small change might just lead to the big breakthrough you are longing for.

It is always tempting to try and capture a grand solution in one leap. While that can happen, far more often the most innovative products are constructed from small ideas, simple designs and perseverance.

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

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Hardware Startups: Increase Chance for Success by Reducing Risk

November 29, 2016

Building a hardware startup is not for the faint of heart. In an ideal world, we would be able to eliminate all risk and guarantee ourselves success—since that isn’t possible, the next best thing is to find ways to reduce risk as you develop and bring your product to market. By reducing risk in a number of areas you are increasing your chances for success. Below are a few ideas on how to reduce risk for your hardware startup.

3D CAD drawingBuild Prototypes

Developing and building a prototype proves that you can construct and deliver a finished product with the capabilities you want in your product, while staying on budget. A prototype is a baseline for your team and lets you work out any issues early in the design process. During prototype development you will also be able to assess if there are alternate and more efficient ways of building your product—thus, saving both time and money.

Along with prototype development, you want to start the DFM (design for manufacturability) process immediately. This means that you are developing your product to best fit manufacturers’ capabilities and requirements. It can be a costly mistake to build a product with the mindset that a manufacturer will just be able to deliver what you provide them—this is almost never the case. To avoid the (costly) risk of having to redesign your product, start the DFM process congruently with prototype development.

Gather Design Feedback

While you will have an engineering partner working on the development of your hardware product, it is always a good idea to get another set of eyes to review the design. Large corporations have multiple engineers review products to verify the design and provide valuable feedback, before manufacturing begins. A hardware startup doesn’t have the budget of a large corporation, but it can emulate this valuable business practice to reduce risk.

Connect with the Audience

Start building your audience and defining your target market early in the product development cycle. Your target market will be able to provide you with design feedback from a customer point-of-view and also help build interest in your brand. If you wait to connect with your audience until after you launch, you have done your startup a disservice by not building excitement early on and gaining market traction. When you build a rapport with your target market before your product launch, you will have customers ready to buy your product as soon as it’s available.

Building a hardware startup can be challenging; however, with some foresight you can greatly minimize risk while increasing your chance for success.

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

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Hardware Startups: Overcoming Failure to Find Success

November 17, 2016

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley

hardware startupsBuilding a hardware startup is hard work, and the road to success is often dotted with moments of failure, however these moments of adversity make you stronger as an entrepreneur. We tend to perceive failure as more public than success, and try our best to avoid it so as not to be embarrassed. The simple truth is—no great success was ever achieved without failure. So in order to succeed in the world of hardware startups, you must first understand that failure is just a stepping stone to greatness. Below are three common failures experienced by hardware startups, and ideas on how to overcome these obstacles.

Unachieved Funding Goal

The fact is that hardware startups are costly. Between product development and manufacturing, costs can add up quickly. While some entrepreneurs are able to bootstrap and fund the business themselves, more often than not, hardware entrepreneurs need to seek outside funding to help launch their product. If you are having trouble with funding, here are a few points to consider:

  • Setup a crowdfunding campaign. Not all crowdfunding sites are equal. There are lots of crowdfunding websites out there, and you need to do your research to find which one aligns best with your product and brand. (Here is a Forbes article that outlines the top 10 business crowdfunding websites.) When it comes time to setup your campaign, take the time to plan it out, build your “story” and develop a quality video to help market yourself to potential backers. The more creative and organized your crowdfunding campaign is, the more likely you are to raise funds.
  • Connect with Venture Capitalists. VCs can be intimidating. Many entrepreneurs are less willing to approach VCs because of certain preconceived notions—such as, they are too busy, will ask for too much business equity, or hard to do business with. While these might ring true for some VCs, it most certainly is not true for all Reach out to your business network and try connecting with VCs that have experience in your industry.
  • Talk with industry experts. Meet with and interview experts in the industry your hardware startup is trying to break-in to. These experts have vast experience and might be able to point you towards funding opportunities.
  • Reach out to family, friends and business associates. These people have a vested interest in you and want to see you succeed; therefore, they can make excellent investors. Be sure to approach family, friends and associates in a professional business manner and treat meetings with them like you would any other investor. You want them to know that you are serious about your startup and are ready to put in the time and effort to find success.
Target Market Lacks Interest

The main reason your target market will lack interest is because the product is not meeting their needs. You need to first define what the target market wants out of your product and then structure the foundation of your product around these desires. If you begin to build your audience while your product is still being developed, you will have people ready and eager to buy your product when it is available for sale.

  • Market Research. Early in the product design process, reach out to your target market to solicit feedback. These are the people that you want to buy your product, so you need to be sure that you are meeting their needs. Use surveys, questionnaires and focus groups throughout the product development process to gauge customer interest.
  • Build a Functional Prototype. Take your market research one step further and create a functional prototype, or multiple if it can easily be done, to let potential customers test out your product. Allowing them to test your product for a period of time will let them really get a feel for your invention and the feedback you receive will be more specific and in-depth.
High Manufacturing Costs

As a hardware startup, manufacturing is going to be your single biggest expense. Keeping costs low while your product is new to the market will help you reduce your risks and stay out of the red.

  • Ramp up manufacturing volume slowly. Start off manufacturing your product locally and in small batches. Generally, working with a local manufacturer will result in a higher quality product because you are able to closely monitor the manufacturing process. While sending your product overseas to be manufactured from the offset can be tempting, there are inherent risks and the worst case scenario is that you rush into manufacturing a large order and are then stuck with inventory that you simply can’t sell.
  • Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. When you are researching manufacturing partners keep in mind that many things are negotiable. Yes, there will be unavoidable fixed costs, however there are also negotiable items and many manufacturers are willing to match or beat quotes from a competitor.
  • Have the Deposit Available. Money talks. At the end of the day, the manufacturer wants to get paid. If you have the deposit readily available, you find yourself in a strong negotiating position.

Failure is not permanent and it does not have to be the end. While no one enjoys failing, it is a chance to learn, grow and refocus your energy.

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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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