Prototyping for People Who Can’t Prototype
Despite having a full shop filled with the latest tools, I am not above using soup cans to build a prototype. Prototyping is a technique to solve problems and learn about a product. It need not be a complicated process that takes special tools and skilled technicians to do well. Savvy developers know that it is important to iterate quickly, and often simple is best. Found materials and simple tools can often be used to answer a question in minutes instead of having to wait days or weeks for a 3D print or machined part. The best part is that there are plenty of tools that are available to the masses and they are easy to use, even by even the most inexperienced prototyper. The following are some prototyping tools and techniques that even those who have never set foot inside a prototyping shop can use in order to help develop their ideas and answer key questions about their product. Always Ask Before Prototyping: What Is the Question? Prototypes should be built to answer a question about the product being developed, and it is the nature of the question that should drive the choice of how to prototype. In some cases, the question can be very technical. You may need to know how a full assembly works together, which requires the build of complex geometry in CAD software and 3D-printed parts. However, most questions we have about a product in development are simple, such as how large should it be, what shape should it be, or how does it fit in your hand? For these types of issues, there are many prototyping techniques that can be used to help you answer your questions. The key is to make sure you are prototyping purposefully. Using LEGOs for Prototyping One of the first builder toys that GenX and younger people were exposed to were LEGOs. They are easy to build with and are cheap, ubiquitous, and excellent for quick prototyping. The square bricks limit the fidelity of the surface that can be formed, but this frees up our brains to focus on the macro, core questions, instead of obsessing with micro details. LEGOs can be used to build rough prototypes to evaluate size, form factor or general layout of a product. You can build multiple iterations of your concept within minutes and think through how users could interact with what you build. With the multitude of motion elements, hinges and special bricks, you may even be able to make rough models of the moving parts of a prototype as well. This LEGO prototype was built by Chris Stubbs, inventor of the Luminook closet lighting system, as a way to evaluate the size for the device before building more advanced prototypes. Using PVC for Prototyping PVC tubes are great for quick prototyping with no building skill required. Long lengths of tube cost just a few dollars and fittings are usually less than that, so it is inexpensive to have a good inventory with which to play. The tubes can be cut with PVC scissors or with a hand saw, so you can build up a structure or fluid circuit in minutes. The obvious use for PVC is for fluid-based products, but it is just as useful to use for prototyping physical prototypes. The tubing can be used as a handgrip or assembled together with fittings to make larger structures. Since it is so modular, it is easy to build and test multiple iterations in just minutes. This showerhead prototype was made primarily from PVC tubing. It was easy to fabricate and inexpensive. Prototyping with Found Items Sometimes the purpose of a prototype is to test out a user flow. This can be an onboarding process, a logistics map or installation procedure. While these can be flow charted out or created digitally, manipulating physical objects to simulate the process helps our brains interpret the data differently and often yields interesting results. Think of the old war room tables where generals move their fighting units around the battlefield to work out their strategy. For this type of prototyping, the parts need not be complicated. Game board pieces, soup cans, a deck of cards—anything fast and available that can be manipulated to simulate the process is key. Found items can also help us build functional prototypes. Old toys have lots of great parts that can be harvested and repurposed, like motors and gear trains. Products with grips or handles can be scavenged to create your own ergonomic interfaces. Duct taping found items can be a valuable way to explore the physicality of a product. This can of soup was used to prototype the sensor layout of a device being developed at the Enventys Partners shop. Prototyping with Electronics More so than physical prototypes, building electronic prototypes can really spike our anxiety. Electricity is hard to visualize and can be very intimidating to work with. However, there are some microcontrollers that can be used with block coding to build proof-of-concept electronic prototypes. Block coding is a graphical programming interface where you drag and drop elements to build working code without the need for typing anything or having to know any special syntax. My favorite block coding program is called Make Code. It is a free website from Microsoft that can be used with developer boards like the Microbit, Adafruit Circuit Playground Express or LEGO Mindstorms. The site will simulate the code for you before you upload your program to your board, and there are lots of tutorials to teach you the basics. Make Code is particularly powerful with the Circuit Playground Express as it has addressable LEDs, sensors and actuators that can be programmed with no circuit design or soldering required. The MakeCode interface makes it easy to create custom code for the Circuit Playground Express to make use of buttons, temp sensors, speakers and other peripherals resident on the board. So as you can see, when it comes to potential tools used for prototyping at a beginner level, there is a range of options. Give these options a try the next time you’re trying to develop your product in its early stages. However, if you’ve hit a roadblock or are looking for detailed expertise when it comes to developing your product, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team for any prototyping, industrial design, engineering or manufacturing needs. As the leader in product launch services, we’re able to take your idea from a napkin sketch to the next big thing with our product development service options. WRITTEN BY Jeremy Losaw
5 Tips on How DRTV Performance Marketing Can Save You Time and Money
Advertisers are always searching for cost and time efficient ways to market their products. New and emerging strategies and technologies are helping them do just that, and one of these strategies is performance marketing. Performance marketing is a form of advertising where advertisers pay marketing companies based on how well their ads perform. This performance … 5 Tips on How DRTV Performance Marketing Can Save You Time and Money Read More » The post 5 Tips on How DRTV Performance Marketing Can Save You Time and Money appeared first on National Media Connection.
Top 10 New Years Resolutions for Inventors
Happy New Year from Edison Nation! It’s a new year and a new decade, and there’s no limit to what you may achieve! Although we aren’t yet traveling in flying cars or sharing our homes with robot butlers, which some predicted would have happened by now, the world is undoubtedly a different place than it was 50 or even 10 years ago. Rapid advancements in production, logistics, and information technology have created a fertile ground for invention in the 21st century. It’s a great time to be an innovator! In 2020, we don’t yet have robot butlers, as some predicted (although we do have robot vacuums!) To help you get the most out of this exciting moment—flying cars or no—we’ve come up with a top 10 list of inventor resolutions that will help your ideas soar in 2020. 10. Get organized. While it’s a popular stereotype that successful inventors are absent-minded professor types, having your act together is actually key to success. Particularly if you’re a sole proprietor, you’ll be responsible for making sure all your paperwork is complete and up to date as you complete each step toward getting to market. You’ll also want to keep notes on your workshop successes and failures as you develop your project—don’t depend on your memory to retain all the details. For many, an inventor’s notebook is an indispensable tool. 9. Prioritize. Sadly, we all have limited time and attention—we simply can’t do it all, as much as we try. Multitasking, once considered a great way to get a lot done, is more and more being viewed as inhibiting productivity. When developing your invention, stay focused on the research and experimentation that actually serve you, and tune out the rest. This may occasionally require shifting gears, which brings us to number 8. 8. Consider new avenues for inspiration. If you find yourself in a rut, change things up. While it’s important to maintain steady work habits, doing things exactly the same way each time can lead to a feeling of stagnation. You know how when you stop looking for that item you lost, it suddenly turns up? It’s like that. Shift your focus or try out a new routine, and you’re likely to find that your ideas begin flowing again. 7. Perfect your WOW statement. As we noted in a previous post, the classic elevator pitch is losing ground to the more succinct and engaging WOW statement. This brief pitch piques your conversation partner’s interest without overwhelming them with information, and the process of crafting it will help you clarify what makes your product unique. Let 2020 be the year you perfect your WOW statement! 6. Remember that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Many successful inventions are actually tweaks on products that already exist, so don’t be too concerned with making something completely novel. Inventions from the cotton gin to the television employed the accumulated work of several inventors to reach their optimal state. 5. Don’t fear failure. As Thomas Edison himself acknowledged many times, failures are just steps on the path to eventual success. Learn from them. Edison said it best: “I can never find the things that work best until I know the things that don’t work.” 4. Find your market. The importance of knowing your target market can’t be overstated. No matter how novel your idea, the likelihood is that only a small percentage of the overall population is likely to buy it. Conduct target research to find your audience, then see what products similar to yours already exist for that audience. With some exceptions, the sweet spot for an invention is having a small number of competitors. 3. Engage with your community. As Edison knew well, success doesn’t occur in a vacuum, but as the result of many minds coming together as they did in his Menlo Park research laboratory. Reach out to your mentors and other inventors for advice and information, as well as to celebrate joys and recover from disappointments. Attend conferences and trade shows, and participate in online communities such as the Edison Nation forums. By linking up with other innovators, you’ll meet benchmarks faster and have a richer journey as you do so. 2. Persist, persist, persist. As you’ve likely already discovered, the road to market is rarely obstacle free. As mentioned in resolution 5, failure is an inevitable component of success. When you hit a roadblock, take a minute to recover and then get right back to it. And if you’re feeling discouraged, check in with some Edison Nation members for motivation! Mark your calendar for the premiere of Everyday Edisons, February 11, 2020! Premiering on National Inventor’s Day, February 11, 2020, the inspirational series about inventing is back and better than ever. You’ll see talented inventors compete to have their product supported by Edison Nation, receiving mentorship from successful entrepreneurs along the way. The rebooted series will have a special focus on education, so you’ll learn about everything from prototypes to patents alongside the contestants. Perhaps you’ll even be inspired to try out to be one of next season’s Everyday Edisons! How do you plan to make your 2020 a success? Let us know in the comments. WRITTEN BY Emily Dings