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You've got a sketch

As the Director of Biz Dev at BeraTek, I get this question quite a bit. A potential client has a sweet sketch of a great idea and needs to start understanding the process of taking that sketch through design and on to prototyping. Let’s discuss the general path we take you down at BeraTek and some critical milestones to hit before thinking about full-scale production of your product idea.

Design for manufacturing

This topic is arguably the most important consideration when taking an idea through design. I unfortunately have seen it time and time again where a customer either used an online resource or an inexperienced engineer who doesn’t specialize in manufacturing, to create a 3D model for them. These outlets can often get you to the prototyping phase and provide you with a beautiful 3D print that brings your idea to life…as a prototype. Unfortunately these outlets often overlook design for manufacturing (DFM) which can really hurt you financially on the back end.

Approximately 20% of the clients we work come to us with what they think is a completed design but only to discover the design can’t be manufactured (or the mold is going to be very expensive!). The client has a 3D printed prototype and it looks awesome! Unfortunately, the design isn’t manufacturable in its current state. The design may be too complex or specific design for manufacturing principles weren’t considered.

This is where BeraTek comes in – we not only manufacture products, but we have an experienced engineering team with a strong understanding of DFM. Remember the client who had the awesome 3D prototype, but a design that couldn’t be manufactured? This client has to take two steps back to have the product redesigned for manufacturing and new prototypes created to validate the updates. It’s never fun paying for the same thing twice so my only takeaway from the spiel is please…please…partner with an engineer or firm that has experience designing for manufacturing. You and your pocket book will thank me later!

Prototyping is when product development starts getting fun! It’s time to actually touch and feel that 3D model the engineering team created in some complex video game known as “CAD” (computer aided design).

Prototyping is easily my favorite part of working with customers on product development…watching their face when they see their design come to life. It’s at that point when the product development process starts to feel real, when slow stepping the launch of the product is no longer an option, it’s go time.

Prototyping a product can go down many paths, but I’ll summarize the two types of product prototyping we most commonly see at BeraTek. Ten years ago, prototyping a product wasn’t this easy and certainly wasn’t as cost-effective.

3D Printing
The evolution of 3D printing has allowed entrepreneurs and creators across the world the ability to instantly bring ideas to life and not break that bank. The 3D printing technology continues to evolve in so many impressive ways; you can print rubber, nylon, abs, polypropylene, etc.

One of my favorite 3D printing successes was a 3D printed baby bottle that not only functioned, but also was printed in a clear material that was durable, had all the fluid ounce markings and looked like a production equivalent product. A close second was a 3D printed electronic beer flight paddle that was not only waterproof, but withstood multiple weeks in a bar setting interacting with customers on all different levels of tipsy!

Prototype Tooling
Depending on the functional requirements of your product, I also may recommend a prototype tooling option that would allow you to get production equivalent parts to pass any testing required to validate the idea. Sometimes 3D printing just can’t offer the needed level of durability to adequately test certain products. Prototype tooling is often more costly, but still a fraction of the cost to go all in on large-scale manufacturing options. Ultimately, prototyping is a way to mitigate your risks prior to launching a product. 3D printing is often the most cost-effective way and prototype tooling is a close second.

Test, test, test
I’ll wrap this piece up by covering the absolute most critical component in any product development cycle, market testing. Once you have functional prototypes, talk to anyone and everyone in your target market about the product (and not just your friends and family!). Enter the market testing phase with an open mind and take customer feedback – whether negative or positive – to guide future development and design improvements. This is your chance to incorporate customer feedback to ensure you bring the best product to market the first time.

If you have a product idea or a back of the napkin sketch, I’d welcome the chance to talk more. Don’t let your sketch go to waste, let us help you turn your product idea into a reality. Talk to us early so we can save you time and money during the product development process and help bring your idea to market quickly.

To learn more about BeraTek and how we can design, manufacture and launch products quickly, contact us at info@beratek-industries.com.

Authored by Ethan Davidson, Director of Business Development at BeraTek Industries.

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