New York Tech Journal
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#Prototyping a tech hardware product – best practices and opportunities

Posted on April 2nd, 2015

Manufacturers, inventors and tech hardware startups of NY & NJ

04/01/2015 Secaucus Library, 1379 Paterson Plank Road, Secaucus, NJ

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David A. RosenCEO of TechX Foundry moderated 3 short presentations and a panel discussion by the followed presenters:

Dave MacFie @CimQuest spoke about the types of #3-d printing and their uses and tradeoffs. He started by saying that 3-d printing can be use in any of these steps in development and production

  1. Concept models
  2. Functional prototypes
  3. Manufacturing tools
  4. End-use parts

Design support : 1 & 2 are well established and widely used

Direct digital manufacturing: 3 & 4 are emerging areas

He made several recommendations

  1. Get a printer since it’s much faster to do it in house which allows you to iterate quicker. You can therefore test more models which leads to more innovation.
  2. Design with prototyping in mind – think about 3-d printing
  3. Consider using 3-d printed as a manufacturing tool. But consider that a 3d printed part may have different properties than an injection-molded part.
  4. Be prepared to do some finishing by hand since parts often don’t look pretty. Alternatively, you can use other processes that give a better finish
  5. Use a good 3d CAD model. Different models will be better at rending fine detail. Also check that the number of facets is adequate on curved surfaces. CAD models vary: Solidworks – good. Sketchup – less so.
  6. In production, the orientation of the part and the build style matter. Decisions can affect – strength vs speed vs aesthetics.
  7. If “I will wait for newer technology”, you will always be waiting. His view is that technology is not fundamentally changing now. It’s mainly going through a refinement stage.

During the Q&A, Dave spoke about some of the tradeoffs for specific types of 3-d printers:

Stereo lithography – (UV exposure converts a liquid to a solid) – pro: gives a fine finish con: degrades over time since affected by exposure to UV light.

Selector laser beam (fuse powder) – pro: durable product con: rough finish

Powder binder (corn starch, plastics,…) – ink jet with a liquid glue : pro: fast printing & can inject dyes to color logos, con: better for conceptual since it is not functional.

He recommended the Medical Design & Manufacturing show at the Javits Center in June as a way to see the wide range of 3-d printers.

Next, Tor Alden – @HSD: innovation & idea development, spoke about invention (this is not a product e.g. a patent) vs innovation (technology that makes it happen) and routes to take to go from prototype to production.

Some points he made were

  1. Understand the value of what you are doing. Create prototypes. See Lean startup – Eric Ries
  2. But it’s hard to be an early startup. 1 in 1000 succeed.
  3. What is the value proposition? What is the market opportunity?
    1. Crowd funding examples: Rockethub, indiegogo, kickstarter, medStartr – but not a lot of success, no path
    2. Grants – e.g. DARPA, NIH, SBIR/STIR – geared for early stage dev, harder to pivot, more lead time needed
    3. Venture funds – profitable in 5 to 8 years, take a lot of equity, look for large addressable market
  4. Rapid prototyping can even be simple as a foam study model or 3d printing.
  5. Consider a virtual product for testing; use fluid dynamic analysis using finite element analysis
  6. Key selling point is level of professionalism: experts, product idea, packaging, quality of graphics, size of audience…
  7. May need to make a decision about manufacturability (# of parts and how they are assembled) vs aesthetics of the finished product

Next, Amado Batour talked about his experience founding switch2health, which created wearables that track physical activities and reward and was eventually acquired by fitbit. He distilled his experiences into the following points:

  1. Have a plan and have money – in the best of all worlds
  2. Know who is making your stuff – due diligence on the supplier is essential
  3. Nothing beats a product demo – try doing stuff, get items into the hands of people
  4. Communicate in any way you can – be specific, especially with your suppliers
  5. A prototype is not a manufacturable product – first consider how to get first 50 pieces out. Then consider how to get the next 500 pieces produced, etc.
  6. Work with really smart people
  7. Understand your limits – know what you cannot do – e.g. you might not want to build boxes since you can buy nice enclosures from third parties
  8. Presentation really, really matters – hire a good designer to brand your stuff. E.g. go to behance or 99designs to get it designed
  9. Document the crap out of everything – photograph everything, you will always find it useful.
  10. Do challenging side projects for your own good – e.g. he is creating a robot which stimulated him to learn more about 3-d printing, arduino, etc. it’s about iterating. Prototyping will teach you how to solve problems.

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