Common Product Development Mistakes

Many first-time engineers make common mistakes when they approach the product development process. These typically include: 

  • Not accurately estimating the cost;
  • Not showing their prototype/s to the end user soon enough, wanting instead to hide their ideas from their customers until it’s “perfect”;
  • Not making enough prototypes to get into the hands of multiple users. Customer feedback on the concept and design is very valuable;
  • Not designing the prototype experience in conjunction with the physical prototype itself. You can learn a lot from watching how people naturally use or misuse products because it’s not intuitive or does not give the right cues;
  • It’s important to always bear in mind when using 3D printing during the prototyping process that you are eventually going to have to manufacture the components you are designing with alternate more conventional manufacturing processes. Many designers take their 3D-printed designs far along in the process to the point that they want to start to manufacture, only to have to completely redesign their products because the components can’t be manufactured in volume, resulting in significant consequences. It’s vital to design for the process you are going to use for prototype and keep in mind how it will need to be eventually manufactured.
  • The strength, stiffness, and tolerances of 3D-printed materials can be much different compared to production materials, risking the possibility of leading you astray if you don’t plan for this in advance.
  • It is very common to be working on two different product designs in parallel later in the product development cycle. One version of the product design is used for prototype testing and design validation. The other design is then intended for mass production. This concurrent engineering approach, while resource intensive, yields the lowest risk approach and the fastest time to market.
  • Practicing what’s known as agile development has sped up the evolution of digital technologies, too. With more and more frequency, vendors provide software and systems before offering updates based on users’ requirements. These much quicker implementations mean that technological improvements can be made as users continue to think about their use cases. After all, it’s only when technology is deployed that users know what else they need to build upon it.

Most new product developers are curious as to the length of time the entire process will take. The answer is it’s completely variable, depending on product complexity, industry type, certification requirements, etc. Generally speaking, it can range anywhere from six months to two years to go from idea to getting the product onto store shelves. For example, medical devices usually take longer (3 to 5 years) due to extra certifications and approvals that are required.

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Copyright ©John Trenary 2021

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