All great products emerge from ideas that solve real world problems. Suppose you have a great product idea that you’ve shared with your friends and now you want to share it with the world. Transforming your idea into reality isn’t a simple task and besides time and energy, it takes a lot of passion. After validating your idea with potential customers, you’ll start developing your product and map out a business plan to make your idea commercially viable alongside product development. If your background isn’t technical, you’ll most likely need a technical co-founder or CTO, otherwise you can outsource your requirements to a firm that offers CTO services.
Either way you want to give physical form to your concept and showcase it to the world – not just talk about it. You want your potential customers to be able to take the physical representation of your idea in their hands and try it out. You want their feedback – the most important part of the product development cycle.
Product development life cycle
Functionality that changes the game
Great ideas at best bring something new to the world or at least iterate functionalities of existing products. It is important to focus on the core functionality of your product for the first iteration of the prototyping stage since this is what differentiates it from competition. If you’re building a new LED light bulb that is more power efficient than existing products on the market, your core functionality is power efficiency and this should become the basis of your commercial value proposition. Or if you have a more complex device in mind, assess the intended functionalities and focus on those that are most novel.
Hardware prototyping requires a broad skillset, from understanding electrical circuit design, knowledge of components, PCB design, soldering, embedded software programming, to 3D design for the casing. It is time consuming and the learning curve is steep to say the least. You can initially use breadboards and hardware modules from sites like adafruit or sparkfun – this approach is good for feasibility testing but is still time consuming. You will most likely end up with something like this:
Arduino based prototype
And this is not something you want to show to potential customers or investors! A breadboard prototype can be used for validating proof of concept and we at Formilab sometimes adopt this approach to verify new electronic designs and to test new communication modules. After this comes the printed circuit board (PCB) design – when we place all the pieces from separated boards onto a single compact PCB. In order to ensure optimal quality for our clients we order our PCBs directly from a reputed PCB manufacturer. Once we receive the PCBs, assembly of the electronics components onto the boards is done in-house in order to save time. So we end up with something that looks like this:
Minimum Viable Product
This is the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) for one of the projects we recently worked on. The MVP places emphasis on core features of the device and is something that can be used to test its market potential and procure valuable feedback from customers. After a sufficient number of MVP iterations, we end up with a final prototype that is almost ready for manufacture but there’s a still long road ahead before mass production.
Now that your final prototype is ready, the next step in the product development cycle is DFM (design for manufacturing). Formilab’s philosophy is to incorporate facets of DFM from the very onset of the product development cycle in order to reduce potential time to market and design costs. We think closely about how the PCB will be assembled during the manufacturing stage and also take care of component selection in order to ensure a painless transition from the prototype to manufacturing stage.
Another big step in the product development cycle is EMI (Electromagnetic interference) certification. This is a legal requirement in many countries and is often time consuming, taking up to 10 months in some cases. For example, selling consumer electronics products in the USA requires an FCC, IC for Canada, CE for Europe and the list goes on. These certifications ensure that your device conforms to local EMI regulations. There’s a great article about the complete process at Hackaday. At formilab we usually advise our clients to use pre-certified wireless communication modules in order to make the certification process less costly and time consuming.
From idea to prototype
Formilab’s mission is to help people present their ideas to the world. Today, prototyping is easier than ever due to the advancement of rapid technology but still requires great expertise in the fields of electronic circuit design, PCB design, software development, mechanical analysis and UX oriented design. Formilab possesses extensive expertise across all these fields and can help turn your idea to reality. Utilising our services gives you the benefit of focusing on the commercial aspects of your business while we work hard on building you an excellent product.
Elvir manages Formilab's marketing strategy with a core focus on the digital marketing space. Client ideation and research are his areas of expertise.