What does it take to get your idea from a napkin to a real-life product? We talked to Wes Cross, a Mechanical Engineer and Product Developer at IdeaPros, about designing revolutionary products and everything he learned working both for the big screens and big box stores.
Designing For The Big Screens
West has worked on some of the coolest products for the movie industry that we all know and love. From the Batmobile to vehicles for Transformers, Tron, and the Fast & Furious movies. He knows what it means to get products from an idea to an item you can see, touch, and feel. They even built two Batmobiles for the Ben Affleck Batman movie, as they managed to finish the first one in a record time – four to five months from zero to completion.
“Creating products, following through, and selling them as a business is a tricky thing for an inventor.” – Wes Cross
West has sold over 160 different products, from 711 cups to skateboards and children’s products. As an inventor, he has between 15 -18 issued patents, another 3-5 pending, and has written 30-40 patents himself. As an inventor with an idea, you often work with a product engineer or a mechanical engineer who can contribute to that idea. Once they do, they should be listed on that patent, but you should make sure that they relinquish their rights to it, so the patent is wholly yours.
One of West’s favorite products has never been made. Not because it wasn’t a good idea, but because the inventors didn’t pursue it further. Just because you have a great idea and an amazing design it isn’t enough. You have to build a business around it. Otherwise, you won’t succeed.
The Consumer Product Process
Creating a product from an idea is a fun, but a demanding process. You make something out of thin air, based on someone’s idea. Whether it is a Batmobile or a consumer product, you have to go through the same research process, come up with a design, and an idea of how you want it to look. At that point, you talk to a mechanical engineer familiar with the manufacturing part who will create technical drawings and 3D models.
“The role of a mechanical engineer is to be the bridge between the idea you have and getting the final product to your doorstep.” – Wes Cross
The next step is to share that with a manufacturing partner who will quote the product back to you. If you agree, build what you are imagining, first as a prototype and later as a product. Now it’s manufacturable, you need to spark enough interest through marketing, as manufacture depends on the numbers.
“You can patent anything. You can come up with any idea you want, but until you market and sell that idea as a real product, it’s worthless.” – Wes Cross
Once you start selling your product, the process becomes a business.
Before you start, make sure you have a support system in your family or friends, as the process will be long and hard. But once you get to the other side, you will be proud of what you’ve done and excited about the future you’ve built for yourself.
You can download the IdeaPros checklist with all the steps of the process here.
The “Idea Pros” at IdeaPros have the resources, experience, and tools to help you at this step or any step in the entrepreneurial journey.
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