If you are involved in new product development, you are probably facing a difficult paradox. You realize that thinking outside the box and taking risks is required to develop a product that will stand apart from the competition and achieve extraordinary success in the marketplace.
On the other hand, you also recognize that this kind of risk-taking behavior more often than not leads to failure. And neither you nor members of your team want to be associated with failure, especially the repeated failures that are often required in the early stages of developing an innovative product.
Eddie Obeng, Professor at Henley Business School in London, addressed this challenge in Smart Failure for a Fast-Changing World, one of the most viewed and discussed TED talks ever. Obeng pointed out that CEOs who understand the importance of innovation are telling their people to “take risks and be creative”. But the culture of the organization often whispers to engineers and designers that if they come up with something and it doesn’t work that they will be judged by the failure of their idea.
Encouraging innovative design engineering
Obeng says that organizations need to do a better job of encouraging risk-taking innovation of the kind that will frequently lead to failure initially. This behavior provides the best chance of achieving the type of paradigm-shifting innovation that is required to achieve major success in today’s fast-changing world. “[If] you’re doing something new, no one’s ever done it before, and you get it completely wrong. How should you be treated? … You should be treated better than the people who succeed,” Obeng said.
While companies that place a high emphasis on innovation recognize the important role of failure as a stepping stone to success, they also stress the importance of minimizing the time and cost involved in each failure. Some companies use the slogan: “Fail Fast, Fail Cheap” to emphasize the importance of developing new ideas as quickly and inexpensively as possible to the point where their value in the marketplace can be objectively evaluated.
Creating a testable proof of concept
It’s critical to develop methods that enable the product development team to bring their new product concept to life as a testable proof of concept in the shortest period of time at the lowest possible cost. This will enable the lessons learned from the responses they inspire to quickly be used to make decisions on whether or not to invest further resources in the project. The responses can also help to guide the direction of the design process.
Additive manufacturing with 3D printing supports the “Fail Fast, Fail Cheap” philosophy by enabling design engineers to print physical prototypes that clearly show how the design concept looks in any lighting and any environment and how it feels and handles. Additive manufacturing with 3D printing also provides the ability to test the design concept’s functionality to determine how it performs its intended task.
A new generation of 3D printers, such as the Stratasys F123 series, is specifically designed to support “Fail Fast, Fail Cheap” product development methods. When installed in your design engineering office, these 3D printers can produce prototypes in an hour or two at a low enough cost that design engineers won’t have to think twice about bringing their ideas to life.
What to look for in a 3D printer
Here are some of the key features that you should look for in seeking out a 3D printer that will enable your product development team to convert their ideas and concepts into testable prototypes in the shortest possible time.
- – Can print engineering-grade plastics that are tough enough to withstand functional testing
- – Able to produce prototypes in a wide range of material types to provide multiple options for stakeholder review
- – Can easily be run and maintained in an office environment without requiring special expertise or dedicated personnel
- – Proven to offer 100,000+ hours of operation to ensure the continuity of your product development process
- – Availability of phone support, onsite service calls, replacement parts, and downtime recovery build services within a short response time
How to implement 3D printing technology
Fisher Unitech is committed to helping its customers implement additive manufacturing capabilities with 3D printing technology that will enable design engineers to quickly and inexpensively convert their ideas into physical prototypes that can be viewed, held and tested.
Experienced design engineers can get a good understanding of a product’s geometry by viewing the geometry on a computer screen and can use design validation software such as SOLIDWORKS Simulation to analyze product performance before building a prototype.
But even design engineers have difficulty in understanding how a product looks in various types of lighting, how it feels in one’s hand, and how it will function in the real world from looking at a computer screen. And the many other stakeholders such as sales reps, dealers and customers who can have intimate knowledge of the market’s needs and can provide valuable input at this stage in the process won’t be able to provide useful input based only viewing a CAD file on a screen or a sheet of paper.
Visit our Stratasys F123 resource center to find out more about how your company can fail its way to success in new product development with 3D printing.
Images courtesy of Stratasys.
About the Author
Jerry Fireman is a technology writer who specializes in writing about computer aided design (CAD), 3D printing, computer-aided engineering (CAE), the Internet of Things (IoT), electronic engineering, pharmaceutical research and manufacturing, test and measurement and a variety of other topics.