“Design is thinking made visual.” – Saul Bass
You’ve got this beautiful idea in your head and you can’t wait to see the product it will become? We know the feeling! Wes Cross, a Mechanical Engineer and Product Designer at IdeaPros, explains what it takes to get from a concept to a physical product.
Bringing Products To Market
There is so much that goes into creating a product, whether it be physical or a mobile app. To create something tangible that didn’t exist before and get it to the market, you first have to travel through design and engineering.
At IdeaPros, the engineering process typically starts with a meeting with our partners to discuss the idea. What is this idea for, what are their thoughts and dreams, and how would they like it to look?
In the beginning, the idea can be only in your head or you could have drawings made, or even a simple prototype.
“All great ideas are born from a starting point.” – Wes Cross
From there, we sketch up the concepts that align with the initial idea. After that, we finalize all the essential requirements.
For example, if it is a chair, we need to make sure it has four legs. If it is a cloth chair, it needs to have a cloth. All of this is decided during the first meeting.
From that concept, we’re going to get a lovely sketch put together and bring it back to you to make sure that we’re all on the same page. Once we are, then we can get that list of requirements set.
Designing to Engineering
From the design phase, then we’re going to the engineering phase where we’re making your product. During this phase, we’re going to take everything we got from the design, overall shape, style, necessities, and bring it all together, and couple it with market research.
If the market research places your product in a category that has a price point of $25, it’s probably going to be a plastic product. To make a plastic product, we have to engineer it specifically to the density of the materials.
There’s a whole science to density called the durometer. We have special tools that measure the hardness, material thickness, water, spring tension, and more. “How hard is it? How soft is it? What is it, what does it need to do, and what does it need to be?” These are some of the questions we need to ask before we start.
Choosing the right material for your product is important. Plastic materials are pretty solid even though they are only around a millimeter thick. Their engineering may look simple, but plastic pieces are rather complicated designs and expensive to manufacture.
“Often plastic is synonymous with cheap. This is not necessarily true if you are the person producing the products.” – Wes Cross
To make all the parts, someone invested somewhere from $60 to $150,000 to buy the equipment.
Once you have the machine, it only costs you the time and material for the machine to work. Like 30 to 60 cents for a TV remote, but you have to make that upfront purchase. This is why engineers work hard to make sure that the design is efficient so when your product is ready and quoted, it will cost an appropriate amount of money relative to the form and function your product is going to be.
If you checked with us one-third of the way through the process, you would see many rough shapes and sketchbooks with a ton of notes. As you slowly get through the engineering process, you eventually finalize a 3D part file in 3D engineering software. We can output two-dimensional technical drawings the manufacturers use to refer to the parts they’re making.
So now we send technical drawings to the factory to get the quote. We explain each part in great detail their shapes, sizes, and exact material.
Whatever is that you are making, it will have its specific requirements. Even if you’re making something out of fabric, you need to consider whether that fabric has a 500 thread count or a 1,000 thread count.
Some questions to consider when making a fabric product:
- What type of material is it?
- Is it hemp or cotton, or possibly a polyester blend?
- What color or pattern, or is the dye natural?
These are all things that you have to consider before you get a quote or even a prototype done.
When we get to the very end of the road, and we’ve made a 3D prototype if necessary, typically, we’ve gotten all these 3D files done.
All the technical drawings have been sent to the factory, where our partners review them. This can take some time as they have to interpret all this information they’ve never seen before.
Manufacturers review the technical documents, figure out the cost and give a price for their work. Before COVID that would take 2-3 weeks, but now it is more like 4-8 weeks. They give you a price per unit, a minimum order quantity, and a tooling cost. The tooling cost is the cost required to make a mold to make your plastic parts, pay the employees, laborers, and materials.
Their minimum order quantity is where they break even, or maybe make anywhere from one to ten percent. On the next order, they’ll make a reasonable amount.
“No company has ever made much money by simply creating prototypes or doing small batch runs.” – Wes Cross
When you receive your quote, it will have the minimum order, quantity, and tooling costs. Let’s say your unit cost is $5. You know you’re going to be buying each one at $5 each, but you need to buy 5,000 and pay a one-time tooling cost. Once you get established and make your deposit with your factory then they can start production. When production is ready, you can send your final payment, arrange the shipping, and when the product arrives at your door, you’re in business.
Remember, although the road may be long and rough, you are leaving more than a business or a product to your children. You are leaving them with the notion they, too, can accomplish great things.
The “Idea Pros” at IdeaPros have the resources, experience, and tools to help you at this step or any step in the entrepreneurial journey.
We partner with entrepreneurs at any stage and who are ready to invest their ideas. Apply for an interview and let’s explore partnering together.