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Design-build-test cycles are at the core of any hardware or software development workflow. If you’re part of a hardware startup, then it’s time to embrace this process as reality. Testing and redesigning your prototype are only part of a product’s life-cycle, but these two pieces are vital to ensuring your new product works as desired. Now that your prototypes have arrived and have been tested, you’ll get to experience the joys of design-build-test iterations in their full glory.
You’re racing to the finish line…
Building and Testing (Again?)
If you’ve received your prototype in the mail and thoroughly tested it, then you might have compiled a laundry list of redesigns. This doesn’t mean that your journey is at an end; starting a new design iteration is all part of the development process for any hardware product. These redesigns could include changes to electrical functionality, your mechanical enclosure, or new design features that only help enhance your product.
Some redesigns might be relatively simple and may not require a new prototyping run. However, there are some design changes, such as swapping components and adding new features, that will likely require a new prototyping run. Just like you did when you started your product development journey, make sure to document all changes you’ve made to your product. This is not the time to skip any details. Once you receive a new set of prototypes, you may need to carefully identify whether any changes made to your design exacerbated existing issues, and if so, carefully revert your board to its previous version.
Once you’ve finished your redesign and are ready for new prototypes, you’ll need to go back into your design software and prepare an updated set of deliverables for your manufacturer. This includes creating new Gerbers, assembly drawings, bills of materials, panels for your board, and any other documentation your manufacturer requires. If you plan to use the same manufacturer, make sure to consult with them to see if there is any other information they require when preparing for a new prototyping run.
These design-build-test cycles are part of the reality of hardware design, but getting everything right at this phase is critical to ensuring your product will function properly once it hits the market. Documentation is critical throughout this process as it helps you revert back to a previous version of your design.
You’re Almost There!
If you’ve made it this far, then you’ve accomplished a real feat. Taking an idea off of paper and preparing it for mass manufacturing is no easy task. It requires the consideration of a huge number of business and design complexities, and you’ll encounter plenty of roadblocks along the way. Working with the right design software, development process, and manufacturing planning tools can help you overcome the myriad challenges you’ll face on the way to making your dream a reality.
Speaking of business complexities, there is your market and your message to consider. Throughout the course of your design and testing processes described in this series, you’ll need to think about how to market your product and even raise money through crowdfunding platforms. This will help you build momentum for your product and might give you a head start on sales once your product is ready for deployment. There are other outlets you can use to raise money for your new venture that don’t rely on loans or gifts from friends and family. There are investor groups and accelerators for hardware startups that can help you with funding and launching your new product.
Crowdfunding might be the right way to fund your initial prototyping and manufacturing runs
In addition to raising money to help fund your new venture, you’ll want to think about a creative marketing strategy to build awareness around your new product. Social media campaigns and catchy videos on YouTube can go a long way towards raising awareness for any new product. Taking your new product to a trade show can be a good way to show off your product to potential buyers. At the end of the day, nothing beats going out to potential buyers and giving them an in-person demonstration.
As orders come in, you’ll need to carefully plan manufacturing runs to fill your orders. It helps to have a small amount of product in inventory to fill orders, but you’ll need to carefully plan production runs and track your volume as your business grows. As you progress, you’ll have a chance to develop a better relationship with your manufacturer, and placing orders will become fairly routine.
Upverter: The Ideal Toolset for Hardware Startups
There are plenty of obstacles to bringing a new product to market, but development, testing, and planning for production are much easier to address with the right design tools. The browser-based design software in Upverter® is uniquely created for taking a new design from start to finish. Whether you’re part of a hardware startup or a large electronics company, the fully online design interface and optional desktop application include all the standard features designers expect for product development and collaboration.