“I Want to Develop A Prototype”

We are lucky in that we receive a lot of valid leads from our website. I’m not sure why it’s been successful, but people seem very willing to enter their information into our contact form. I’m glad they are, because we want to help if we can. But the thing I find interesting is that in the majority of the cases, I’m guessing 80%+, in the comments section people say something to the effect of, “I would like help in developing a prototype”.

I’m not downplaying the importance of developing prototypes as part of the product development process. But I often wonder why folks lead with “I would like to develop a prototype” as if that is THE goal. Perhaps it’s just an ignorance of the product development process, and that is completely fair. Most people don’t know how to take a product through the product development process or what the product development process even looks like.

While I understand that someone may be ignorant about the process, I’m still curious why they lead with “develop a prototype” instead of “develop my product” or “develop my idea”. Why does the goal seem to be to develop a prototype? Shouldn’t the goal be to develop the product?

I suppose the answer to my curiosity is that’s generally what the “internet” says to do. Define your idea and then develop a prototype of your idea. Generally speaking, they’re right. However, developing a prototype isn’t the end goal.

If the goal is to just develop a prototype, you’re left with a very expensive prototype when you’ve reached your goal. If the goal is to develop your product, you have a marketable product when you’ve reached your goal.

Developing a prototype is an important part of the process, but it often takes several prototypes before the design is refined to the point that you’re happy.

So when you contact us and tell us you would like to develop a prototype, please don’t take it as us being rude when we ask why? We’re genuinely curious as to why you want to spend all of that money just to get a prototype.

Feel free to comment “I would like to develop a prototype” in our contact form. Then let’s talk about what your plans are beyond building a prototype.


Impulse Product Development is a team of experienced engineers and experts that specialize in new product development, industrial and conceptual design, engineering, CAD technologies, rapid and virtual prototyping, contract manufacturing and management and reverse engineering. Centrally-headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, Impulse serves clients across the country.

Prototyping is Critical and Necessary Step to the Success of Product Development

Recently I was asked a very basic question – “Why do I need to prototype my idea? It would save me money and time by forgoing this step.” Simply put the process of creating a sample of a product that will ultimately be produced is a key principal in any design activity. Henry Dreyfuss, an early educator and thought leader in the study of industrial design, discussed and gave much consideration to prototyping in his book, Designing for People:

“Too much emphasis cannot be placed on the importance of three-dimensional models… When our ideas have been formulated, we design in clay, then plaster, finally in a material that will simulate the material to be used in manufacturing the actual product.” (Henry Dreyfuss, Designing for People, pp. 61–62.)

I soon realized that despite what my educational background and years of experience has taught me, I didn’t speak to my client in a language he understood. I couldn’t just say “Well, because it’s a key principal in any design project.” My challenge was to produce a simple, effective answer for my client’s question – Why do I need to prototype? Well, I came up with five convincing reasons.

  1. Prototypes improve your designs
  2. Prototypes aid in communication between all parties involved
  3. Prototypes allow for feedback, input and evaluate usability
  4. Prototypes help determine if the product is practical and viable
  5. Prototypes reduce development time thus saving TIME & MONEY

Impulse Product Development is a team of experienced product development engineers based in Indianapolis, Indiana. If you would like to hear more about how and why you should create a prototype for your new idea and need an experienced product development firm that can help you bring your concepts to market quickly and efficiently, contact us!

Why a Prototype Before a Patent – Part Two of a 3-part Series to Help Inventors Understand Where a Patent Fits in the Product Development Process

So, you have a product idea, you’ve read Part 1 of this series and understand that you don’t need a patent yet.  Then what is the first step?  One of the first things you need to do with your  product idea is to develop a prototype.  A prototype can come in many forms and many varying degrees of detail, but suffice it to say,  you need to  develop a prototype.  The following discusses why developing a prototype should come first and discusses a few of the many options available.

WHY DEVELOP A PROTOTYPE FIRST

There are many different reasons to develop a prototype that you can read about in the article The Product Development Process – When Should I Prototype My Product, but at this point in the design process the reason that you should build a prototype is to prove out your design.  You may have the best idea in the world, but until you prove that it works, it is simply an idea.  In some way, shape, or form, you need to create a prototype of your idea.  It can be made from clay, paper, cardboard, sheet metal, different scraps of material you have laying around, or even by cannibalizing existing products – anything you can find.  The goal at this point isn’t to make it look great.  The goal is to prove that the idea works.  So find some materials, and start building.  If you don’t have the ability, find someone that can help you.  Do what it takes to build a prototype of your idea.

Impulse Product Development has experts that can help you develop a prototype, but if you can, complete a rough prototype on your own.  As I alluded to in Part 1 of this series, it’s in your best interests to keep your costs to an absolute minimum until you’re confident that you have a design that works.  The first step in determining if you have a design that works is to develop a prototype.  Build up a prototype to a point that you can present your idea to someone else and show them how it works.  If the unfortunate case arises that by developing the prototype you prove, instead, that your idea doesn’t work, you’re only out the time and money you put into building the initial prototype.  If you are able to build a prototype that does, in fact, prove that your design works, then things will start to get even more interesting.  Your next step is to build yet another prototype.  But, this time, it will be much more refined.

A REFINED PROTOTYPE

At this point, you not only have a product idea, but you also have a prototype that proves that your product idea works.  Hopefully you’ve gotten to this point at a minimal cost because it is likely that you will now need to start spending some money.  Unless you are able to develop a refined prototype on your own, you will need to enlist the services of a company such as Impulse to help you create a refined prototype.  In creating a refined prototype, you’re trying to create a prototype that not only shows that your idea works, but also shows what the finished product might look like.  This prototype will address many of the design issues that revolve around the form, fit, and function of your product idea.  The purpose of the refined prototype will be to further refine the design of your product.  You may also use your refined prototype to do market testing and to sell your idea.

Understand that, even though I didn’t spend much time writing about it, this is a very involved and time intensive phase of the product development process.  This phase may involve creating a conceptual, aesthetic and ergonomic design for your product as well as fully engineering and designing your product in a 3D CAD database to a point that a prototype can be built that will suit your immediate needs.  There is the potential that you will need to build several prototypes along the way to test different design theories and different design configurations.  This phase of the product development cycle can become very iterative and time intensive.  But, once you have a completed design you’ll be ready for a  final prototype  you will use to test market and sell your product.

HOW DO YOU CREATE A FINAL PROTOTYPE?

If you’re like most individuals, you’ll need some help designing, engineering, and prototyping your product.  There are many different methods to obtain a prototype, but to keep things simple, I’ll break it down into the three most common steps:

1. Design the product in a 3D CAD system.
2. Use the 3D CAD data to develop a rapid prototype using SLA, SLS, RTV, CNC, or other prototyping process.
3. Post process or finish the prototype parts to make the prototype presentable.

At this point in the product development process, it really makes sense to start putting the design into a 3D CAD system.  From this point forward, just about everything you do, including filing for a patent will require a 3D CAD model or will be made easier with the use of a 3D CAD model.  Depending on your product, you might only need an aesthetic and/or ergonomic design at this point, or you may choose to develop a complete design.  But, no matter what you choose, the goal is to generate the best design possible and the best looking functional prototype possible.  You’ll want to do that by using the most advanced prototyping technologies available.  And, the most advanced prototyping technologies require 3D data.

Impulse is a team of product development professionals based in Indianapolis, Indiana.  We are experts at creating robust 3D CAD models and great looking functional prototypes.  Contact us today for a consultation.

When to File for a Patent – Part One of a 3-part Series to Help Inventors Understand Where a Patent Fits in the Product Development Process.

We often consult with clients that come to us after having used some type of invention submission corporation. Usually, the client explains that he or she has spent $5,000 – $10,000 to have their product idea patented, and they would now like us to help them develop a prototype (or help them with the rest of the product development process). Many inventors assume that when they have a product idea, the number one goal is to get the idea patented. So they turn to a company that offers invention submission and patent assistance. It’s frustrating to see that the inventor has spent thousands of dollars on a patent that, in my opinion, isn’t needed yet.

The above scenario is very common, and I would suggest that patenting your product idea is not the number one goal in developing a product. If you have an idea for a product, step back and think about the following question for a minute. What is your goal? Is your goal to get a patent? If so, call a patent attorney, get your patent, frame it, and hang it on the wall with pride. But, I’m guessing that when you really think about it, your goal is not to get a patent. I’m guessing your goal revolves around getting to the end of the product development process – to see your product on the shelf or to make money from your product idea? If I’m right, obtaining a patent is not the first step you should take to develop a product. The following is a 3 part series that, I hope, will help you understand why I think filing for a patent isn’t the first step you should take in developing your product and understand when filing for a patent makes the most sense.

Also, while I argue that filing for a patent is not the first step you should take, please don’t confuse “don’t patent your idea yet” with “don’t do patent research yet”. Patent research IS one of the first things you should do. It doesn’t make sense to spend money now only to find out later that someone has already patented your idea.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. These are simply my opinions based on my experience. You should discuss your specific case with a competent professional before proceeding.

Part 1 – 4 Reasons You Should Not File a Patent – Yet

1. IT’S EXPENSIVE

It costs a lot of money to develop a product. Filing a patent is no exception. A typical patent filing costs around $10,000.  As described in more detail in Part 3 of this series, the cost could be more or less.  But, if you’re creating a product development budget, $10,000 is a good number to use for the patent process. So, assuming you’re like the typical inventor and you don’t have access to unlimited funds, I would not recommend spending $10,000 at this point in the product development process on something that doesn’t get you any closer to getting a product on the shelf or sold to a manufacturer.

2. YOU MAY NOT HAVE A GOOD IDEA

For two reasons:

1. You think your product is a great idea. But, is your product marketable? Do the people you plan to sell your product to think it’s a good idea? Will they buy your product? If you patent your idea first, and then later find out that you don’t have a marketable product, you will have just spent $10,000 for nothing.

2. You may not have a good idea because it’s too costly (or impossible) to manufacture. At some point in the product development process, you will need to determine if your idea is manufacturable and, if so, what it will cost to manufacture. During that process, you may find out that it is physically impossible to manufacture your product, or you may find out that it is too cost prohibitive to manufacture your product. If you patent your idea first, and then later find out that it is too costly to manufacture, you will have just spent $10,000 for nothing.

3. THE PRODUCT DESIGN ISN’T COMPLETE

An idea, no matter how well thought out, is not the same as having a completed product design. A completed product design contains all of the necessary information that will be required to manufacture the product. Included in that information will be a 3D CAD database. If you were to work with Impulse Product Development, an expert product development engineer will take your product idea and develop each individual component of the product in 3D space using the latest CAD software technology. In addition, each individual component will be placed into a 3D virtual assembly that allows you and the engineer to analyze the form, fit, and function of each individual component and the product as a whole in 3D space. The completed 3D CAD data will include all manufacturing details and assembly details for each component of the product. Also included in the completed design will be a bill of materials that explains the materials and processes that will be used to manufacture and assemble each component of the product.

As the product begins to take shape in the 3D CAD software, the product development engineer will begin to notice many functional and manufacturing challenges that may not have been considered when the idea was originally put to paper. Under normal circumstances, this is not a problem. The engineer uses his creativity and expertise to work through the challenges to bring the design to a functional and manufacturable state. However, if you already have a patent for your idea, an additional challenge is presented to the engineer.

Once a patent is filed, the design of the product must conform to the patent explicitly. If, during the design of the product, a challenge arises that requires a change to the design, and if that change causes the design to divert from the design submitted in the original patent, you will, most likely, need to file for a new patent that covers the new design. While the product development engineer is, in some cases, able to resolve any challenges without compromising the design that was submitted in the patent, that is not typical. In most cases, the design will be compromised, and a new patent will need to be issued.

Therefore, if you patent your idea before the design is complete. You may end up paying for the patent process, in both cost and time, twice.

4. YOU DON’T NEED A PATENT YET

As discussed above, many inventors run out and as their first step they file for a patent. They, rightfully so, want to protect their idea. After all, the number one reason to file for a patent is to protect your idea. You don’t want another individual or corporation to ‘steal’ your idea and market it as their own. But how are they going to find out about it? During the infancy of the product development process, there isn’t anything to protect. It’s just you and your idea. Eventually, you will want to get a patent to protect your idea from other individuals or corporations, but initially, there is no need to protect the idea….no one knows about it.

I would argue that during the product design, engineering, and prototyping phases of the development process, you don’t need a patent…even if other individuals and/or companies are helping you through those phases of the product development process. You can protect your idea with a simple non-disclosure agreement. If you were to bring your idea to Impulse Product Development and work with us to design, engineer, and prototype your idea for you, we would expect to sign a non-disclosure agreement with you before discussing the first detail of your product idea. A non-disclosure agreement is a standard legal document that essentially says that any information that you disclose regarding your idea must remain confidential. The period of confidentiality usually runs for 1 year from the last time that business was conducted between the two parties. It also includes verbiage that discusses the penalties should the confidential information be disclosed. This document can be used with any individual or corporation that you discuss your idea with. I have known many individuals who have presented non-patented product ideas to corporations by using a non-disclosure agreement for protection, and I’ve personally collaborated with many individuals on the development of their product using a non-disclosure agreement. The best part of a non-disclosure agreement is they’re free! If you’d like to use our standard non-disclosure agreement, contact us. We’d be happy to share it with you.

CONCLUSION

A patent is an important step in the product development process. However, it is frustrating to see people spending thousands of dollars on a patent before they even know if they have a good, marketable, and manufacturable idea. Instead of spending $10,000 on a patent, spend $10,000 developing your idea into a fully thought out product design and prototype that you can then use to show your product to potential buyers or potential investors.

Again, I’m not a lawyer, and it is in your best interest to discuss these issues with your lawyer, but in my opinion, you can sufficiently protect your idea with a non-disclosure agreement until the time is right to file for a patent.  When is the time right to file a patent? We’ll get to that in part 3 of this series, but first let’s discuss why you should develop a prototype of your idea before filing for a patent.

Impulse Product Development is a team of experienced product development professionals, based in Indianapolis, Indiana, that are ready to work with you through the entire product development process If you’d like to learn more about the product development process or if you would like to discuss your product idea with Impulse Product Development, contact us.

The Product Development Process – Why Should I Prototype My Product?

The prototype will never die. As 3D CAD technology enters more industries and individual’s homes and as CAD capabilities increase, people often predict the demise of of the physical prototype. I argue that the prototype is more necessary today than ever. The increased capabilities of 3D CAD technology provide us with more options when designing, and prototyping allows us to quickly and definitively assess those options. There are numerous reasons to develop a prototype, and developing prototypes is a critical part of the product development process. The following article outlines five of the most common scenarios where a prototype might be helpful.

AN AID IN BRAINSTORMING
You may want to consider prototyping beginning with initial brainstorming. Grab some modeling clay and some household objects or existing products. Lay clay on top of those objects to create the new product you are imagining. Now is a great time to determine hand grip sizes, shapes, and locations. Consider the location of any interactive features. Where are you placing buttons, levers, lights or displays? Touch your clay creation and envision interacting with it. Consider putting it down and picking it up a day later. Does it still feel as good as it did yesterday? Make sure to snap many pictures with your digital camera and take measurements when you find something you like. This will help when the 3D CAD data is developed later in the product development process.

FUNCTIONAL TESTING
If your concept involves a mechanism or linkages, or if it folds for storage or travel; consider a functional mock up. A functional mock up can be as simple as some cardboard held together with brads or pins. If you have some scrap lumber laying around, wood makes a great material for a functional mock up. Your mock up will show you if linkages will collide or if friction might render your mechanism immovable. Use your mock up to estimate the appropriate size for hinges and axles. Once again, a digital camera and some measurements will help you keep track of your progress or allow you to return to a previous concept. Consider taking time lapse or action shots to record how a mechanism will progress through all of its positions. Try to make everything to scale so your measurements can be easily converted and applied to the 3D CAD model.

TO REVIEW THE DESIGN
If you’ve worked with a company like Impulse Product Development to create a 3D CAD design of your product, you may be ready for a more advanced prototype. Once you have 3D CAD data of your product design, you have highly advanced prototyping capabilities at your disposal such as SLA, SLS, FDM, Urethane casting, CNC machining, and 3D printing. These advanced prototyping methods allow you to create a very realistic representation of your product, both functionally and aesthetically. Creating a prototype of the data that had been designed in a 3D CAD system allows you to physically hold, analyze, and evaluate the 3D data. You’ll be able to test the form, fit, and function of your product design. Do not be surprised if the first advanced prototype leads to a major design revision. It is quite common to perform multiple cycles of prototyping the 3D data and modifying the 3D data. It may be beneficial to perform some iterations using a different prototype technology than others. Understanding the benefits and limitations of each of the technologies can be difficult. Research all of the options to gain as much information about the capabilities as you can. You can also contact us and we can help you thorough the process.

A FINAL TEST
Before you go to production, consider a final prototype. The more revisions that have been made since the last prototype was created, the more valuable the final prototype. Final prototypes are often made from cast urethane or actual thermoplastic molded in prototype tooling. While it is more costly than urethane casting, consider prototype tooling. Prototype tooling will allow you to address final details and minimize costly revisions to your production molds. The parts from a prototype mold will be nearly identical to production parts in shape, strength, and material. This opens the door to all kinds of meaningful tests. You may wish to take your final prototype into the field and use it. It may be beneficial to perform abuse testing and life cycle analysis. Consider building units and placing them in the hands of every colleague and trusted friend. All of this testing allows you to flush out the most subtle issues and improve your design and product quality.

AS A COMMUNICATION AND SALES TOOL
Often, you will need to explain your idea to someone like an investor or buyer. I believe a prototype is the best means of communication. A physical prototype gives an immediate impression and has the ability to “wow” your audience. It allows your listener to see, touch, and interact with your idea. When it comes time to build an advanced prototype from 3D data, consider urethane casting prototypes during one of the design cycles. This allows you to create multiple, low cost prototypes that look very similar to production. Urethane prototypes are excellent for meetings with investors or trades people. Sales people and buyers can use these prototypes to gauge initial interest in the product. When you are ready to build a final prototype, consider prototype tooling. Injection molded prototypes show that your design is essentially complete and your product is ready for the marketplace. This makes them an ideal fit for debut at trade shows and in presentations to media. Often sales people can get verbal commitments or even actual purchase orders by presenting buyers with injection molded prototypes. This allows you to sell product before the first official unit ever comes off the production line.

The goal of any prototype is to assess a product, and this can be done at any stage of the product development process. Do not wait until your design is “complete” before evaluating it in prototype form. Anyone can benefit from a prototype. Entrepreneurs will use them to impress investors. Product development engineers will use them to reveal areas of improvement. Industrial designers will use prototypes to evaluate form and function. Sales teams and buyers will use them to predict sales success. Make sure you always leave room in your time line and your budget for physical prototypes.

Impulse Product Development is a team of experienced product development engineers based in Indianapolis, Indiana. If you have any questions or need assistance in developing your product or prototype, please contact us for a consultation.

Impulse Product Development Receives an Endorsement From a Consumer Products Client

At Impulse Product Development we strive to be the best product development firm possible. We want to be the product development experts that our clients turn to. We are consistently looking for ways that we can add value to our clients throughout the product development process, and we always strive to go above and beyond for our clients.

But earlier this week, one of our consumer product clients went above and beyond for us.  We asked for a recommendation expecting to receive the typical “Impulse Product Development is a great product development firm”.  Instead, we received the following:

Impulse Product Development is among the most reliable and satisfying firms I have worked with over my last 22 years of developing consumer products.

Impulse’s superior expertise in engineering and their out of the box thought process have netted consistently superior results with every project I’ve engaged them to develop. Their high level of integrity has always kept billables to a fair and appropriate rate and insured that the team gave 100% throughout the project. This allowed us to stay on time, on budget and well within the scope of the given project. Additionally, Impulse’s work ethic insures that if a project is unrealistic or beyond a reasonable solution they will let you know upfront and will work with you to find alternate solutions.

I have worked with many product development firms to help design and engineer products over the years. Several of these firms were very high profile, award winning design houses. Most of these firms fell well below my high expectations. Impulse Product Development is among the very few that both excelled and have become one of my go to firms whenever a challenging and critical project is at hand.

Impulse Product Development is a team of experienced product development engineers based in Indianapolis, Indiana. If you need an experienced product development firm that can help you bring your concepts to market quickly and efficiently, contact us!

Indianapolis Product Development Firm Offers Complimentary Consultations to Promising Consumer, Medical and Automotive Companies

Impulse Product Development, an Indianapolis-based product development and design firm, recently announced that it will offer complimentary consultations to companies planning to develop and launch new consumer-based, medical, scientific or automotive products in the next 12 months. The product development company’s leadership team has a passion for innovation and wants to help visionary businesses bring new products to market despite an uncertain economy.

Impulse Product Development has nearly 14 years of experience providing industrial/conceptual product design, product design and engineering, rapid and virtual product prototyping, project management/contract manufacturing and reverse product engineering. Through its history, the company has successfully led many consumer, juvenile, sporting and home goods product development and design initiatives. In addition, the company has expertise in medical, dental and scientific product development and design as well as OEM (original equipment manufacturer) automotive parts and aftermarket vehicle parts product development and design.

According to industry veteran and company founder Troy Mason, “Impulse Product Development was created to serve inventive companies and the talented engineering teams that fuel their inspiration. Impulse offers the experience, expertise and support services to help our clients take their ideas from possibility to production with speed, efficiency and accuracy.”

The company’s offer of complimentary consultations is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Impulse Product Development will give away up to three free consulting sessions in 2010 to qualified companies with viable products. Selected candidates will be required to share product launch plans, timelines and budgets. Impulse reserves the right to choose the engagements it accepts and reserves the right to decline service based on whether or not the opportunity is a fit with Impulse’s expertise, availability of talent or poses a conflict of interest.

About Impulse Product Development
With more than 14 years of industry experience, Impulse Product Development provides industrial/conceptual product design, product design and engineering, rapid and virtual prototyping, project management and contract manufacturing and reverse product engineering to a diverse range of industries including: automotive product design and development; medical and dental product design and development; consumer and home goods product design and development; sporting goods product design and development; and children’s and juvenile product design and development. Indianapolis-based Impulse Product Development is led by Troy Mason an industry veteran and the company’s president and founder.

Media Contacts
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Synergy Marketing Group, Inc.
(317) 205-9690, ext. 229 or ext. 223
jenn@synergy-mg.com or amy@synergy-mg.com

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