Notes? Never Heard of Her: 12 Ways to Document your Hardware Concept

by | Dec 23, 2019

I can always appreciate a “TLDR” memo at the top of any “X Ways to Y”, but I think the body of the article is simple enough and worth the read to get your product prepared for prototyping on a shoestring budget. The original author, founder, and owner of one of Ioterra's vetted partners, Chris McCoy with You3Dit was able to provide easy enough steps in “normal” language that I think entrepreneurs can benefit from.

Let’s break down each step:

1. Take Photos of the Problem/Sketch out the Use Case
No matter how embarrassed you might feel about your drawing skills, normally “napkin sketches” that you scribble are very helpful when approaching an engineer. Then make sure to take pictures, take scans, and utilize Google Image Search.

2. Write Down a Basic Description of How Your Hardware Concept Solves Problem(s)
Document it where you can (such as an email or my personal favorite, Evernote), and make the description sweet and simple. As McCoy mentions, imagine you’re explaining it to a five-year-old.

3. Write Down 3 Different Types of People Who You Believe Want this Solution
I totally agree with McCoy on this - in my experience with marketing, this is basically creating “personas”: outlining the types of people who would use the product/service. Consider your personas’ demographics, the challenges they face, and the goals they have.

4. List the Top 5 Materials Your Hardware Product Should be Made From
McCoy lists the six fundamental classes of materials:
  • Plastics
  • Metals
  • Elastomers
  • Glasses
  • Ceramics
  • hybrid materials
McCoy provides some resources to checkout to determine which material would be best for your product.

5. To Implement IoT, or to Not Implement IoT
I already have biased input on this since I work for Ioterra, but I’ll level with you: if your product can benefit by incorporating a communication protocol in order to provide yourself insights and give your customers more satisfaction - do it.

6. Determining Patent Worthy Designs
Patent prosecutors are looking for “new”, “useful”, and “non-obvious” designs in order to help inventors craft Intellectual Property (IP) protection. Read more on his blog to learn what McCoy means.

7. Getting Ready with your Patent Worthy Designs
Following up from tip #6, document the patented aspect(s) of your product and how to use it.

8. Budget How Much your Product will cost to Prototype
There’s not a “definitely going to be this number” method to determine your costs, but it’s important to consider how much money you have to work with and how working with companies like McCoy’s can figure out how to best work with your budget.

9. Why is the Problem Important to Solve Now?
McCoy provides resources on prototyping for business and how time, execution, idea, business model and funding play big factors in a company’s success.

10. Get Feedback
Talk to those personas you hypothesized earlier: did your idea address their challenges? Would it help them achieve their goals? What other features seemed feasible to add or subtract?

11. Talk to a Patent Attorney
By this point, you should consult with an attorney or resource. McCoy figures that after all the energy and interest in your concept, you’re committed to creating your product. Personally, I think if you have access to a library/university that is a USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) certified resource center - visit there first to research all of your options and determine whom to work with.

12. Build your concept!
Not so much a “documentation step” and rather more of a call to action, McCoy ends here to help you consider utilizing You3Dit to begin prototyping. I couldn’t endorse this more since the company’s barrier of cost is really low and the quality you can expect is high.

Read all the details I didn’t mention and more by visiting his blog.
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