Transitioning From Idea To Manufacturable Product [Case Study]

3D INNOVATIONS CASE STUDY

The challenge: Take a consumer product concept and turn it into a manufacturable design to be used as part of an Intellectual Property (IP) package.

A new customer was recently referred to 3D Innovations by a past client of ours, in which we helped them bring their product to market. With a simple concept in hand, this new client needed assistance in taking an idea and turning it into a manufacturable product. The 3D Innovations design team was tasked with taking a sketch, drawing and handmade prototype, and developing it into a manufacturable design that could be used as part of an Intellectual Property package.

(Photo credit: Home Depot website)

Once we finalized the conceptual design rendering, a functional prototype was developed using 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing technology. With the functional prototype complete, the idea really came to life. From here, the detailed drawings that we created were then used in the official patent application. With the design and functional prototype in hand, our customer began approaching several companies regarding a licensing deal.

Results: Working with a group of IP attorneys, the idea was successfully patented and licensed to a large manufacturer/distributor.

*[Note] – Not all ideas are turned into a manufacturable product by the inventor themselves, in some cases—such as this one—the inventor decided to use a licensing strategy to take advantage of the vast sales and distribution channels that larger corporations already have in place. Also, licensing is not always about the technical design, instead the strategy is focused on creating value for the licensor to add to their existing product portfolio.

With the assistance from 3D Innovations, I was able to provide a rough mock-up of my idea and get a functional design along with a prototype developed that, in turn, allowed me to obtain a licensing deal with a large manufacturer within my targeted industry.”

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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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Product Design: What inspires you?

May 19, 2016
3D Innovations

While many of our blog posts offer product design and product development insight and information, we have decided to turn the tables a bit for this post and ask our readers for their input. We want to delve into the topic of inspiration. We all find different things inspiring—this is what helps motivate us to push the design boundaries and think outside of the proverbial box. When it comes to designing a consumer product, we always want to be on the cutting edge and engage customers with all aspects of the design—from the product design to the packaging.

lightbulb1Inspiration comes in many forms and from everywhere… So now we pose the question to you:

When you are looking for inspiration, before you begin your next design challenge, where do you turn?

Below are a few places where we find inspiration. They help excite us for our next design project and remind us to continually challenge ourselves while pushing the boundaries of design.

  • Nature. What is more inspiring than nature? Nature is the ultimate innovator. Interesting shapes, materials and forms—can be found in nature and continue to inspire engineers.
  • Product design websites. With a simple click of a button you can be inundated with all different types of design work and renderings. Objects that many people see as mundane and ordinary are reimagined (fruit bowl, lightbulbs, and keyboards) and you can browse thousands of these wonderful designs online.
  • Your portfolio (past projects). Looking back often inspires us for the future. Projects that we completed years ago still provide us with insight and inspiration.
  • Design and engineering books. Whether they are textbooks from college or design books you picked up at a local bookstore, they seem to always inspire. Books have a way of bridging the past with the future, and in themselves are quite inspirational.

We would love to know what inspires some of your best work! Please leave it as a comment below.

“To be inspired is great, to inspire is incredible.”

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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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Top Intellectual Property Questions From Startups

May 17, 2016
3D Innovations

Intellectual property (IP) is not exactly “fun or exciting” — however, it is the most important aspect of your startup and needs to be protected. Securing and protecting the intellectual property rights to your invention is key to successful commercialization.

Below we answer some of the common IP questions we hear from entrepreneurs.

When should I start thinking about protecting my startup’s IP?

IP2Immediately after your startup is formed is the best time to get all the founders on the same page regarding IP. The most valuable asset of your startup is in fact its intellectual property; therefore it should be at the top of your ‘to-do’ list. IP is the heart and soul of your business and needs to be protected by patents, copyrights and/or trademarks — which ever makes the most sense for your business and invention. Without a proper IP strategy, you are leaving the door open for major complications down the road.

What type of IP protection is necessary for my business?

Patents, copyrights and trademarks are all forms of intellectual property. While all three types of IP are indeed essential for success, hardware-focused startups rely heavily on patents.

What exactly is a patent? A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). U.S. patent grants are effective only within the United States, U.S. territories, and U.S. possessions. There are three types of patents: utility, design and plant patents.

  1. Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof;
  2. Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture; and
  3. Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.

Why should I even consider IP protection for my startup?

If you plan on moving towards commercialization with your product, you are going to want to have control over your startup’s IP. Patents can bolster competitive advantage and assist in the streamlining of the entire commercialization process. If your startup is planning on seeking outside funding from VCs, having all of the founders on the same page regarding IP protection is imperative.

While patents do not guarantee success, they do allow you to secure all rights and claims to your invention. Without patent protection, some inventions cannot be commercialized because both the inventor and investors understand that the product can easily be duplicated, leaving them with no recourse if their product is copied.

How do I file a patent for my invention?

There are a few necessary steps to take before you actually file a patent. First, a patent search will need to be conducted to make sure that the invention does not already exist. The USPTO makes it possible to conduct a preliminary patent search on your own; however, it is highly recommended that you consult with a licensed patent search firm to assist with the bulk of the research. These firms have vast experience researching and are extremely knowledgeable in the classification systems.

If you plan on filing a utility patent, you will next need to decide whether to file a provisional or non-provisional utility patent. In simple terms, a provisional application is a quick and inexpensive way to begin protecting an invention while you continue its development, conduct market testing and obtain funding. A provisional patent gives you exactly one year to file a non-provisional utility patent application and move forward in the patent process.

When it comes time to begin your patent search and subsequent  patent filing, we highly recommend that you consult with a licensed patent attorney to review your patent options and decide what will be the most-beneficial for your specific invention.

Have additional questions regarding intellectual property? Send them our way 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.

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

Subscribe to the 3D Innovations newsletter on our Facebook page!

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Validate Your Product Idea Early-On With Quality Feedback

May 11, 2016
3D Innovations

1lightbulbWe are a nation of makers and find profound satisfaction when we successfully bring a product to market. Nothing brings this to light more than a quick glance at U.S. Patent Statistics. In 1963 there were 85,869 utility patent applications, compared to 2015 in which the U.S. Patent Office reviewed 589,410 utility patent applications—an increase of over 580%.

While the number of applications for patents in the United States shot through the roof, the number of patents granted is usually about half of the total submitted in a given year. But the point is: more and more people are making stuff. Knowing that more people are trying their hand at inventing then begs the questions:

  • How many of these patents became profitable businesses?
  • How many inventors and makers are sustaining themselves with their products?
  • Are these patents leading to cutting-edge technologies in the marketplace?

The reality is that innovation is hard. Transitioning from a minimal viable product to a functional prototype and finally a manufacturable product takes both time and money—and a big dose of determination. The product development process is a marathon, not a sprint. Can you image spending weeks, months or years perfecting a design and having it manufactured, only to see if fail after its launch? The best way to avoid this type of failure is to prepare yourself early-on and have your idea validated by your target market.

Suggestions on obtaining feedback from your target market:

  • Develop a website around your product/startup, before you even launch, to build both excitement and solicit feedback from potential customers (a quick survey link will do the trick).
  • Send out a survey (electronically or hardcopy, depending on your target market) to those interested in your product and ask about features they would find beneficial, ask about design elements and importantly ask at what price they would purchase your product.
  • If your product is easy to manufacture in small batches, make a few and hand them out to target market customers. Then hold a customer feedback session in which you obtain their feedback on the design and functionality of the product.

The information gleaned from this customer feedback not only helps you design a better product, it helps you validate your idea and develop a product that people will actually purchase. By designing a product around your target market and features they value, inventors and startups can dramatically increase their rate of success.

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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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2016 Hawaii STEM Conference

May 5, 2016
3D Innovations

UPDATE (5/7/2016): Photos from the 2016 Hawaii STEM Conference can now be viewed on our Facebook page, here.

We are thrilled to share that 3D Innovations will be in attendance at the 7th Annual Hawaii STEM Conference presented by the Maui Economic Development Board and Women in Technology. This is an event that we look forward to each year. This year the conference is on May 6th &  7th, and we will be hosting two different events, one each day.

conferenceFriday, May 6th: We will be hosting a design and pitch competition. Students will be given a set of requirements and then allowed to develop their own product, devise a business plan, a marketing plan, and a final pitch to a panel of judges. With this hands-on approach, students will learn about design, manufacturing, business, finance, marketing, and entrepreneurship.

Saturday, May 7th: We will be conducting a drone design and building workshop for teachers. This workshop will cover the basics of drones—how to design and build them, and how to integrate the curriculum into their classrooms.

While drones are finding a place in many industries, academia is also an area where they are thriving. This is another hands-on tool that is relatively low-cost and allows teachers to bring lessons to life for students.

If you are planning on being in attendance at the conference, please take a moment to stop by and introduce yourself. We love meeting new people and sharing our passion for STEM education with new friends.

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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.

Subscribe to the 3D Innovations newsletter on our Facebook page!

Connect with us on TwitterFacebook & LinkedIn today

Product Design: An Innovation Focused Mindset

May 3, 2016
3D Innovations

innovation2Innovation is a buzzword that is thrown around quite a bit, and especially when it comes to product development. Every new consumer product or software startup is “innovative” or pushing the boundaries of “innovation”. While it is easy to get lost in all the noise, one thing remains true, individuals and businesses thrive on being innovative and succeed when they make innovation a top priority.

Three ways to incorporate an innovation mindset into your product design:

  1. Be open to collaboration. Each individual on your team has a unique skill set and a different way of approaching challenges. As an entrepreneur it can be hard to wavier from your initial design, but being open to suggestions and collaboration will only help throughout the product design process. As David Allen, a leading productivity consultant, has stated, “You can do anything – but not everything”.
  2. Do your research. Take time to thoroughly research and investigate—your competition, the industry niche, industry leaders, and feedback from potential consumers. The information gathered from your research will only enhance your product design. You want to be sure that your product will stand out among the competition and that it is exactly what consumers are looking for.
  3. Test ideas. Come up with an idea, test it out and refine it. No idea is going to be 100% perfect the first go around. It is going to take a few attempts to settle on a design that both you and future customers will love. Don’t be afraid to change direction, nothing is set in stone this early in the product development cycle.

The right innovation mindset will take your product design from idea to impact. You started this entrepreneurship journey to make a difference and change the marketplace—allow your mindset and designs to evolve to meet these goals.

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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.

Subscribe to the 3D Innovations newsletter on our Facebook page!

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Prototyping Advice For Entrepreneurs

April 29, 2016
3D Innovations

The thrill of bringing an idea to life is what drives entrepreneurs, and really any business. Once you have a concept in mind, the next phase is to act on it. While acting on it is exhilarating, it also comes with inherent challenges as well as many, many questions.

We know that entrepreneurs have questions when it comes to building a prototype—so we sat down with our President and Chief 3D Officer, Collin Kobayashi, to discuss the prototyping process and get some expert advice on the subject.

(1) Question: What is your “rule of thumb” for entrepreneurs creating their first prototype?

Product Design and Development | 3D Prototyping(1) C. Kobayashi: The application of the prototype may vary depending on its usage. Many times creating a conceptual prototype or something that conveys a proof of concept is the first step in leading towards a full product development plan. What is typically required is a minimum viable product (MVP) to demonstrate the functionality of the product. Because it is the very basic level of a prototype, it may not necessarily undergo a full industrial design, but rather a quick and simple design that demonstrates the capability and function.

(2) Question: What is the number one issue you see entrepreneurs run into when developing a prototype?

(2) C. Kobayashi: The most typical issue is not developing a prototype that is manufacturable. Once they are past the “MVP” stage and ready to create a more robust design, they fail to account for DFM (Design For Manufacturing) principles which will cause major setbacks if not accounted for. The second issue that arises is that many entrepreneurs starting out don’t do enough testing or ask for customer feedback. This is a crucial step in the development process, which gets overlooked, because the entrepreneur feels that their approach is best.

(3) Question: Do entrepreneurs often come to you with an idea, and you build a prototype together, or a homemade prototype?

(3) C. Kobayashi: Ideas come in many shapes and forms, literally. Some entrepreneurs have built their own rough prototypes to try and convey their ideas while others only have sketches and renderings that depict what they want built. There are many ways to achieve what is required, but it is always best to discuss the details with your particular design company. Contact us here if you would like to discuss what types of options are available.

(4) Question: While 3D printing is a good tool for prototyping, are there any other tools that you recommend?

(4) C. Kobayashi: Parts can be made using many different methods such as 3D Printing, Molding, CNC machining, vacuum forming, etc. The process that is used will be based on the requirements of the customer and the applications in which the prototypes will be used. In some cases, parts need to be injection molded so that they can be used for compliance testing and pre-production use.

If you have additional questions, please head on over to our FAQ page or send us an e-mail at info@3d-innovations.com. We look forward to chatting!

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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.

Subscribe to the 3D Innovations newsletter on our Facebook page!

Connect with us on TwitterFacebook & LinkedIn today

Additive Manufacturing Industry Insight From The 2016 Wohlers Report

April 27, 2016
3D Innovations

The highly anticipated Wohlers Report 2016  has been released and is full of insightful data into the additive manufacturing (3D printing) industry. This annual state-of-the-industry report is sought-after by industry insiders and outside industry observes alike. The analysis is based on more than 20 years of data from companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

“For Wohlers Report 2016, input was collected 98 service providers, 51 system manufacturers, 15 third-party material producers, and the valuable contributions of 80 co-authors in 33 countries.” This network has allowed the Wohlers Report access to an unparalleled window into the additive manufacturing  industry.

Valuable insights from the report include:

  • For the second year in a row, the 3D printing industry has grown by $1 billion to a total of $5+ billion.
  • The additive manufacturing (AM) industry, consisting of all AM products and services worldwide, grew 25.9% (CAGR – Corporate Annual Growth Rate) to $5.165 billion in 2015. The CAGR for the previous three years was 33.8%. Over the past 27 years, the CAGR for the industry is an impressive 26.2%.
  • In 2014, the 3D printing industry grew 34.9%, the highest growth rate in 17 years.
  • High growth was experienced in two seemingly distinct and opposite sectors: industrial metal additive manufacturing and desktop 3D printers.

In the coming year we expect to see continued growth in the industry. While public interest in 3D printing has seemingly cooled, those within the industry know that the technology is moving forward with leaps and bounds.

This industry leading report has really become the gold standard for computing growth, analyzing trends, and forecasting the future of the industry.  If you are interested in learning more about the additive manufacturing industry this report is a great place to start.

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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.

Subscribe to the 3D Innovations newsletter on our Facebook page!

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The True Cost of Bringing Your Hardware Product to Market

April 19, 2016
3D Innovations

costsUnderestimating the costs of bringing a product to market is a pitfall many entrepreneurs make. This one mistake can seriously derail a startup. Hardware products are notorious for being costly, so it is wise to estimate your costs before jumping in. Technology innovations, such as 3D printing, have helped lower some of the associated costs, but there are still others that many entrepreneurs aren’t aware of.

Below is a list of some of the major costs associated with launching a hardware product.

  • 3D Rendering & Prototyping. 3D rendering lets you design and accurately visualize the product before investing in an actual model. Once you have a final design, it is time to build a prototype. This is a critical step because it is here in which you test your design and make any necessary changes to its aesthetics or functionality. 3D printing has helped drive the costs down of prototypes, so this is one technology you may want to consider using. Keep in mind that prototyping costs vary depending on size, complexity and volume of part. (Estimated costs: $5,000-plus for design work and $500-plus for 3D printing iterations)
  • Certifications & Testing. Most products require some type of certification to be sold in various countries. (This is especially true if your product has an electronic component.) Entrepreneur has a list of certifications that could be required for your product (here). (Estimated cost: $10,000)
  • Intellectual Property. Patents allow you to secure all rights and claims to your invention. Filling a design patent is going to cost less than a utility patent, but the protection rights are also different. However, both types of patents let you use the coveted phrase, patent pending. It is always best to consult with a patent attorney to discuss the needs of your individual product. (Estimated costs: $2,000-plus)
  • The Retail Package. The retail package is integral and is in many ways the ‘face’ of your product. It must be both protective during shipping and help your product standout on a crowded shelf. (Estimated cost: $3,000-plus)
  • Manufacturing. This is likely going to be your largest expense, which means that finding and vetting manufacturers is to your advantage. While small batch runs are feasible with 3D printing, larger batches are going to require mass-manufacturing. Injection molding costs run high because of the expensive steel molds required. (Estimated costs: $40,000-plus)
  • Traditional business expenses. This category encompasses business licenses, product liability insurance, office space, warehousing fees and shipping costs, etc. (Estimated costs: $1,000-plus per month)

If your product has electronic components you are also going to want to factor in these additional costs.

  • Electronics Design. This is the heart and soul of your product. It is what makes your product go and what helps it stand out from the competition. From a design standpoint, this is going to be the most expensive step. It is important to find a design engineer that has experience related to your design needs and clearly understands your budgetary requirements. (Estimated cost: $10,000-plus)
  • Software. If your hardware product is going to require a microcontroller or microprocessor, some level of programming will be required. In addition, if your product needs to communicate with a smartphone, a mobile app may also be required. (Estimated costs: $5,000-plus)

Here is what our President & Chief 3D Officer, Collin Kobayashi, has to say about hardware development costs, “Costs fluctuate with the specifications and requirements of your individual product. For example, a product that connects via Bluetooth takes more engineering than a device that just displays LEDs. It is always best to consult with design and manufacturing experts to get a clear answer on what your specific development costs will be.”

These costs do add up and it is easy to see why so many startups have turned to crowdfunding for their inventions. While crowdfunding is a fantastic resource, you need to nail down all of the costs required to bring your product to market first. Too often entrepreneurs underestimate the costs of bringing their product to market, and even after a successful crowdfunding campaign, can’t deliver on their promise to customers.

The most obvious example of underestimating costs is the Coolest Cooler, which was wildly successful and raised more than $13 million on Kickstarter in 2014, but over a year later many backers still have not received their coolers. Only after the Kickstarter campaign ended and manufacturing began, did the founders realize they set the price tag too low for the coolers—this one mistake has quickly turned into a nightmare scenario for the startup and the customers that pre-ordered through Kickstarter.

While all of these costs can and will fluctuate based on your specific product needs. These estimates are provided to help give you an idea on how much each stage in the product development process will cost, so that you and your team can plan accordingly.

Have questions about bringing your product to market? Let’s chat! Send your questions our way, info@3d-inovations.com

If you are looking for assistance in launching a product, check out our manufacturing and commercialization accelerator, Startup Connector.

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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.

Subscribe to the 3D Innovations newsletter on our Facebook page!

Connect with us on TwitterFacebook & LinkedIn today

Showcase Your Latest Product Design

April 15, 2016
3D Innovations

Have you been hard at work developing (an awesome) product, and are now ready to share it with the world? Great—that feeling of accomplishment is the best! Taking a moment to step back, look at the final design and think about how far you have come, really puts all the hard work and time spent into perspective.

Now onto the next stage, spreading the word about your product… We would love to share your recent design or product here on our blog! Whether you are getting ready to launch a crowdfunding campaign and would like a little help spreading the word, or you would like some design feedback from our trusted readers, we would be happy to help! We are always looking for ways to connect and share innovative products.

If you are interested in sharing your design or product on our blog, please e-mail us at info@3d-innovations.com so that we can chat.

“Success isn’t just about what you accomplish in your life, it’s about what you inspire others to do.” — Anonymous

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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.

Subscribe to the 3D Innovations newsletter on our Facebook page!

Connect with us on TwitterFacebook & LinkedIn today