What’s Involved in the Product Development Process?
No matter who is leading the project, doing the design and engineering work, or building the prototypes, the Product Development Process is always the same. Brainstorm ideas, flesh out the design, test a prototype, and then repeat. We’ve built a systemized version of this process to help smoothly guide projects from an idea to final production parts and we’ve outlined how we approach product development each step along the way:
The Introductory Call:
During the first call we will want to ensure our services align well with your project's goals so you know we’re the best fit for your project. There is no need for any disclosure of any confidential information at this time... for this call we’re answering any preliminary questions you may have, introducing our services, and ensuring can definitely help you with your project. We'll discuss our Product Development Process in more detail, provide some average value pricing for the types of projects we assist with, and go over your project's timeline, budgetary, and technical goals. At the end of the call we'll set up a time for a free face-to-face consultation meeting.
A Free Consultation:
We offer a free consultation to all of our product development customers. The goal of the consultation meeting is to gain an understanding of the scope of the project. To better assist you and offer the best advice, we need to have a good understanding of what are you trying to accomplish as an ultimate goal for your project. Having an understanding of the timeline, budgetary, and design goals of the project will help us point to the right design features, materials, and processes to utilize when proceeding forward with your project.
This step generally requires the sharing of confidential information. We routinely review and sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) and can supply one of our own should you not have one yourself. Confidentiality is a critical part of the Product Development Process and we take it very seriously. With strict confidentiality established, the face-to-face meeting can truly become productive.
During the free consultation, we often find our customers (both individuals and companies) need assistance creating a finalized detailed design concept, project plan, and need a fair amount of assistance with Design for Manufacturability. For this reason we start many projects with a lower cost initial phase of work we call Scope-Strategy-Planning℠. We believe taking the time to pause and create a plan is better than charging blindly into the night.
In our Scope-Strategy-Planning℠ phase we'll outline the project’s scope of work, list out all of the design features in words and sketches, create a plan and strategy for working through the product’s functional challenges, and create a budget and timeline to reach your goals. Completion of this phase provides a complete picture of what we believe it will take to accomplish your project goals. With the details of the project scope created, we move into the first round of detailed product design.
Design & Discovery℠:
In this phase we begin to work out the details of the functional features of your product concept and you'll see the design develop as rough sketches are turned into detailed designs in our 3D Computer Aided Design (CAD) software. We'll provide a free program to view the CAD models of your parts & assemblies on your personal computer or mobile device. If you’re not sure what 3D CAD Modeling is, see our article “What is 3D CAD Modeling?” to learn everything you need to know.
Throughout the design work, we’ll provide several progress updates as details are added and discoveries are made along the way. We believe sharing the design's progress early and often saves time and energy, avoids simple mistakes, and keeps you fully involved in the design's direction and any necessary decision making that occurs as discoveries and challenges are encountered.
Prototyping & Realization℠:
Once the first pass of the CAD design is complete, we move on to develop a prototyping strategy and build physical prototype parts using 3D Printing and other technologies. With a physical prototype in-hand, a variety of tests and evaluations surrounding the fit, form, and function can be performed based on your project's needs and goals.
With any early prototype, you'll find things you like, things you love, and things you may not like as much that you'd like to change. In fact, the engineers will almost always have discoveries during the Prototyping & Realization℠ phases that require design adjustments. It’s a team effort, between you the customer and the engineers, to figure out what works and what doesn't and that’s really just a natural part of the iterative nature of any Product Development Process (brainstorm, design, test, and repeat).
Iterations of Design & Prototyping:
Now the project becomes a matter of iterations in Design & Discovery℠ and Prototyping & Realization℠ until all of the project goals are met. The complexity, number of parts, novelty, and several other factors contribute to just exactly how many iterative phases of design and prototyping will be required to call a design complete and even the simplest of ideas often go through the Goldilocks-like process of close, almost, and just right. During our Scope-Strategy-Planning℠ phase we provide our best estimates on how many design and prototyping phases to plan for but even the best laid plans may include some surprises from time to time so we'll always advise including contingency in any planning.
Design for Manufacturability:
Once the design work is complete, we can move forward into a final production-ready design in our Design for Manufacturability (DFM) phase. We'll always design around the common rules and well-known limitations of the manufacturing process we’ve planned for, but often each individual manufacturer will have specific adjustments they'll request at this stage based on their specific machinery and past work experiences.
We'll implement their final tweaks in the Design for Manufacturability phase and at this stage it is highly advisable to build one last prototype to confirm everything is still working as it should after any DFM adjustments are made and before a commitment to receive hundreds or thousands of production parts is made. Once all the design updates and production plans are approved, final production of your new product may begin.
Now you’re at the final step in the Product Development Process… the product launch! From here we’ll connect you with anyone we can to help make this step easier. You can review our Resources page to even start getting help right now with business guidance, funding, patents, and entrepreneurialism.
We’ve created and utilize our step by step process because it helps break large projects up into manageable chunks, both from a budget standpoint and scope standpoint. Our process allows for the versatility our customers need to take on each phase as resources and their available time allows, or move as quickly as needed through each phase. Each phase is its own mini-project with its own goals all leading towards the project’s ultimate goal, product launch. We’re really looking forward to helping you get there!
As we’re sure you’ve found, there isn’t a lot of quality information out there for inventors. If you liked this article and found it informative, please share it with your like-minded, creative, inventive friends, coworkers and family. If you need any product development assistance, feel free to Contacts Us by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org, filling out the simplified contact form below, or giving us a call at 407-721-4390. We’re always happy to help inventors through all the stages of product development!
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