Frequently Asked Questions:
What types of products or projects do you work on?
- We actually work on a large variety of products. Some areas of work we're involved in would be consumer goods, electronics housings, mechanical devices, architectural models, military equipment, medical devices, tools, sales displays, jewelry designs, customizable products, customized awards and even movie props.
What kind of materials do you work with?
- We work with just about anything that is commonly available... plastics, metals, rubbers, etc. At this time we do not work on fabric based designs, glassware, or ceramics, however, if your product has an internal/external structure or mechanical aspect to it, we would be a good resource to work with a partner company that specializes in those other areas outside of our expertise.
How long does the product development process take?
- Each project has its own complexities and challenges so each one will require a different development timeline. Projects are worked through on a phase by phase basis, so one particular phase may be more challenging than the next or previous phase depending on the goals of each phase. Without seeing the details of the design it truly is hard to say how long it will take to design a new product. Some projects can be completed in a few weeks and some projects take a year or more. Generally in our first meeting a ballpark time frame will be discussed to ensure our initial estimated timeline lines up with your project goals.
I've never developed a product before, can you help me?
- Certainly. Whether you are a small or large business or an individual, most of our customers are developing their first new product idea. Part of our service is ensuring that we provide as much information as you need to proceed with each step. Our process is designed to be a team effort that keeps the customer highly involved in decision making.
Do you offer a free consultation?
- Yes, we offer a free initial call and free face-to-face consultation to discuss the project and any questions you may have.
Do you sign Non-Disclosure Agreements to keep my new product ideas confidential?
- Yes. Nearly every project we work on has an NDA/CDA attached to it. If you have an NDA/CDA we'll be happy to review it before any confidential information is disclosed to us.
Do your employees sign Non-Disclosure Agreements?
- Yes. Each employee is required to sign an NDA making everything anyone works on strictly confidential as well as an intellectual property assignment contract making any improvements or additional ideas related to your project 100% yours.
How can I review the design during the product development process?
- We can provide a free software program called eDrawings that allows you to view your model. You can zoom, rotate, hide or show individual parts, create section views, make measurements, and take screen-shots to capture images of specific views you like. eDrawings is analogous to a PDF file. You must own the original word processing software (example: Microsoft Word) to edit the original native word processing file (the .doc file) but a free PDF viewer allows you to read it and capture screen-shots. eDrawings allows you to view the 3D models we create, however you would have to purchase the actual CAD software in order to edit the design's features on your own. We can also just have you come into the office for a sit-down review of the design at any time during the process.
What do I get after the project is completed?
- After each phase of work is completed the output, or deliverable, is generally either a new or updated 3D CAD model or a physical prototype depending on whether you're in a design or prototyping phase of work. The CAD model is generally always required for modern prototyping or manufacturing equipment to run off of. It contains the geometric definitions of the entire part. For a manufacturing run, the deliverable would simply be the quantity of production units ordered.
What if I don't like it when it's done?
- As odd as it sounds, that's part of the Product Development Process. Design, test, and adjust. The first time you hold a new design, or even the first time you hold a rough prototype that you created, you should expect to create a list of things you like and dislike about the features, shape, form, functionality, etc. Discovering what works and what doesn't in every aspect of the product is just part of the design process. The goal is that through each design iteration we, together as a team, will have solved the design challenges that have presented themselves and corrected any functional, ergonomic, or aesthetic aspects to your liking, and more importantly your end customers' liking, so when it truly is done you are completely happy with the design and it's ready for launch.
Can you help me manufacture my product?
- Yes. Part of our services is helping to walk you through the selection of an appropriate manufacturing process based on the quantity of parts you intend on manufacturing, your budgetary goals, the process your product best lends itself to, as well as other considerations. We won't leave you there, we can manage your project through the manufacturing process and any challenges that come up along the way and we'll help all the way up to when the parts arrive and are handed over to you.
Do you take ownership of my product idea?
- No, you will always own 100% of the intellectual property. We are generally almost always a "work for hire" service company, meaning we are just paid to do the design work and you own the intellectual property.
Who owns any Intellectual Property that is created during the process?
- You would own any intellectual property that is created during the process, even if it is created by one of our product designers or engineers. In our standard work agreement, our rights to any intellectual property we contribute to the project are passed to you.
What do I need to get started or bring to the first meeting?
- It is a good idea to bring anything that you think will help describe or convey the design concept. This may include sketches, examples of similar products, anything you've created or modified already, etc. The goal is to ensure our team has a complete understanding of your project so we can provide an accurate quote to you. If you don't have anything, that is ok too. We go through a Scope Development phase of work with nearly every customer to better define the details of the project.
I just want a quote on building a prototype for a part I've already 3D modeled myself, can you do that?
- If you just need to build a prototype and are not in need of any design services or consultations on design then there are a growing number of prototyping service companies that specialize in just that. There are more and more popping up everyday and we use the best of them for our customers. The Wohlers Associates, the industry leading Rapid Technologies consulting firm, offers a free listing of companies that can assist with just building parts for you. From our experience, professional assistance with design & development (our specialty) is needed at some point in the product development process, so when you're ready, just give us a call.
What is CAD?
- CAD stands for Computer-Aided Design. It is the term used for a host of often very specialized software systems that enable the design, testing, and manufacturing of products. A CAD Design is simply a 3D model of something that has been generated in a CAD software program. Before CAD software was created engineers and product designers had slide rules and drafting tables. With the introduction of CAD software and Rapid Technologies, in some cases it is possible for parts to be designed, reviewed, tested, and built in the same day.
Can you build my prototype without a CAD file?
- This is a necessary step in the process and also creates the opportunity to work out the functional details of the design in the computer before building anything physically. All of the prototyping and manufacturing technologies we use are run off the digital file created in the 3D CAD software.
What CAD software do you use?
- We use SolidWorks and Rhino3D for 3D modeling, digital testing, simulation, renderings, and design reviews. SolidWorks has sold more seats than any other 3D Modeling software and Rhino3D is an excellent choice for modeling organic shapes and has other unique capabilities that make it a valuable tool for us.
Can I buy CAD software and design my parts myself?
- Sure, there are free CAD programs with limited capabilities, low-cost CAD programs with basic feature capabilities, and high-end design software with highly specialized capabilities. There are also training courses offered for most quality software packages by third party training companies or the software re-sellers themselves. However, please know that the CAD software we use is upwards of $5,000 per user/computer, requires high processing power computer workstations with specialized graphics cards, and when we offer internships to college engineering students we often spend 1 - 2 years training them in proper CAD techniques before they begin to become proficient. If you goal is to learn to CAD design, we highly recommend it, it is really rewarding to bring an idea to life and hammer out the details of a design through a digital model. If you want to get your product to market quickly, call us!
What is 3D Printing, Rapid Prototyping, and Additive Manufacturing?
- For starters, they are all the same thing. In fact because the technology is still relatively new and still maturing, there are even more names that have been thrown around over the years like Free Form Fabrication, Additive Fabrication, Layered-based Manufacturing, and Direct Digital Manufacturing. Ultimately, for the time being, the industry has shifted to Additive Manufacturing (AM) as the all encompassing term and 3D Printing (3DP) as the sub-set for the comparatively inexpensive smaller desktop machines. But what is it? AM is a host of machines/processes that in a variety of different ways builds parts in a layer by layer fashion. Every process, no matter how it is physically accomplished (with lasers, print heads, spray nozzles, extruders, cutting, etc), creates a single cross-sectional layer of a part on a platform then lowers (or sometimes raises) the platform and then adds the subsequent layer on top of the previous layer. Imagine taking a solid globe to a deli slicer... you'd end up with a pile of circular slices. The machine's software does the deli-slicing to the CAD file digitally and the machine reproduces each slice physically on top of the previous slice from scratch with the material(s) it contains. Think of the StarTrek replicator but a lot slower (hours, not seconds) and with very limited material capabilities. We're written an article on the subject so you can learn even more (see our "Articles for Inventors & New Products" page).
Do you help with marketing and advertising services?
- We're engineers, so not really. Because of the nature of our business we've seen it done a lot, but that service is best left to those that specialize in that service. We can probably make some good suggestions on who to call locally.
Do you help with patents, patent searches, or offer legal advice?
- We are not a law firm so we cannot offer legal advice. We do assist in the patent process by working with your patent attorney to create the model views they'll need and providing the design information they'll need to create the intellectual property claims for your product. With the March 16, 2013 change to "first-to-file" (rather than "first-to-invent") in the US and its territories, we highly recommend working with a patent attorney in parallel to working on the design with us to ensure your intellectual property is protected. Provisional patents give you a year to hammer out the details of the design and patent claims (you don't have to have a fully finished product to file a patent, you just need to know what features you are claiming as your intellectual property). Patent searches can be done by yourself for free on the USPTO.gov website or by your patent attorney or patent search service (see our Resource page).
Do you develop products with electronic components?
- We do not do the actual final electronics design ourselves but we can potentially make early stage prototypes with very basic electronic or electro-mechanical functions to prove out early stage concepts. We work closely with a company that specializes in electronics design and development that we've worked with in the past to make final electronics, circuit board designs, and computer & mobile device apps. Electrical and mechanical teams working together on a project is fairly common and we're happy to take that on. If you have your own electrical and/or computer engineers, we're happy to work with your team as well.
Will you work with my team of marketing experts, industrial designers, patent attorney, manufacturer, engineers, etc?
- Collaborative efforts between teams of varying skill sets is absolutely something we welcome. We know what we're good at and what we're not. Adding other players to the team with complimentary skills will only make your product that much better.
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