The May/June 2016 of AZ Business Magazine focuses on innovation and technology business in Arizona. This includes our contribution to the discussion “Large tech companies are critical to a startup community.” In this article I make a case for remembering the big guys out there that train, spawn, fund, and even buy the startups that are out there.
PADT talks a lot about synergy as a key strength and a key element of the value we provide to our customers. Our three departments, Manufacturing, Services, and Sales, are in constant communication, always leveraging one another’s expertise to solve problems. Strong internal relationships — a consequence of being under the same roof — precipitate easy and abundant information and resource sharing. Communication, paradigm, alignment, synergy: clear as day.
But what does any of that mean?
When a PADT product development customer meets us for the first time, he or she may be shown a slide that looks like this:
Strong bilateral communication among the Product Development, 3D Printing, and Analysis groups means that the project is enriched by contributions from experts across several fields, multiplying the value we add in the development process. For instance, the product will likely someday run into a sticky problem without a clear solution. PADT can attack it from multiple angles, such as design adjustment, finite element analysis (FEA) optimization, and the iterative testing of 3D printed prototypes.
Ok, but still: what does any of that mean?
A longtime customer of PADT’s product development group recently ran into an urgent problem without a clear path to a solution. Their manufacturing partner called them and said that a particular subassembly in their design will cost three times more than expected, which would raise the price of the product above the maximum the market would bear. PADT was presented with the problem: how do we reduce the subassembly cost by 66% while maintaining overall performance, and how do we confidently select a solution in under a week?
PADT’s three engineering groups jumped in to help.
The Product Development group held a brainstorming session and came out with two adjustments to bring overall cost down. First, the subassembly of three bonded unique steel parts would be replaced by a single injection molded plastic part. This change reduces component cost to within the target, but also significantly reduces the final assembly’s structural integrity.
Secondly, a plastic stiffener truss was added between components to mitigate the reduction in overall stiffness. This change adds a little assembly cost, but also significantly increases the final assembly’s structural integrity, which had been weakened by the first change.
The Analysis group conducted a series of FEA simulations, first to determine the increased bending under load and second to select a material to balance the conflicting requirements for stiffness, strength, and cost. After multiple simulation iterations, it was determined that Product Development had selected a permissible path forward and that a glass-filled polypropylene provides the best combination of the three parameters.
The 3D Printing group then printed the new design for qualitative “look and feel” testing and quantitative force/deflection study. The group was able to closely match the properties of the selected material from their collection of printable filaments and top-shelf industrial printers, reproducing even the fine details — subtle fillets, radii — that boost strength but are missed with lower quality printers. Through prototype tests, it was determined that Analysis selected an appropriate material and Product Development selected an appropriate design.
In the end, PADT was able to confidently select a solution to the customer’s unique cost problem in under a week. Thanks to the synergy of three groups — Product Development, Analysis, and 3D Printing — the customer was able to stay on schedule and enter the market at a relevant price.
So how can PADT help my product?
PADT’s system for delivering services is a textbook example of synergy in action, and it represents a uniquely effective solution to your company’s product problems. Whether you’re in concept design or high-volume production, PADT will tailor-make a solution that fits your budget, schedule, and technical requirements.
Give us a call at 1–800–293-PADT or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In those documentaries on the animals of the desert, at some point they always say something like “the harsh environment shapes desert dwellers into uniquely strong and beautiful creatures.” The same is true for our tech startups. “6 things that make the Arizona technology startup community unique” takes a look at this environment and what we need to do to take advantage of it.
Getting a product from idea to the market is a lot of work. Much effort and attention is focused on figuring out the idea, but the part after that is usually portrayed as some romantic quest involving coffee, colocation spaces, and long hours. In this article, “So, you have an idea for a product, what next?” we offer up some practical advice on the steps you need to take to get going.
PADT and CEI are teaming up to answer any startup’s questions about engineering and manufacturing for their physical product. Over the years we have found lots of early stage companies who benefited from spending a little bit of time with an experienced product development engineer. Finding time for them to stop by PADT was always difficult to schedule and never seemed worked out. Or we would meet people at events and try and talk in a corner, still not good.
So last month during Phoenix StartupWeek CEI and PADT tried having some time where people could stop by and talk. It went really well for everyone involved, so Design Days was born.
Our first one will be held on April 14, 2016 at CEI’s offices in Phoenix. The idea is simple, you get one hour with an experienced mechanical engineer to talk about whatever you want. We can spend the time talking about:
- Suggestions for how to properly design your product
- Get contacts at local resources that can help you
- Brainstorm solutions to technical problems
- Discuss the weather (it’s your hour)
- Get an idea of what it would take to design and prototype your product
- Answer questions about software and hardware tools you may need
- Bounce ideas off someone new
- Review manufacturing options
- Get advice on the next steps you should be taking
- Or whatever else you want to discuss
You don’t have to be an existing CEI client, a new company or an old one. You just need to want to talk to our engineers.
Sign up for one of the available one hour slots here. Our plan is to do this once a month, and if it works, try some other incubators as well.
Here is some basic information you should be aware of:
- Do not ask for Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). PADT engineers operate under a strict company code of ethics; therefore no additional NDA is required.
- This is meant for companies developing physical products, not software.
- It is open to companies at ANY stage of development, not just startups. Entrepreneurs of any age, including students, are also welcome.
- This is not a discussion about funding nor is it a sales pitch (from either side)
- Do not expect a functioning prototype or design nor will PADT engineers solve your technical problems. To fully engage in PADT’s design, prototyping and simulation services, there will be a cost involved to be agreed upon by both parties.
Raising money is critical, but at some point it became what startups were about. In “When did starting a new company become about funding?” I take a look at this phenomenon and offer some reasons why we should focus more on the product or service.
Have an idea for a product and feel like you need a prototype.Tishin Donkersley from the Arizona Tech Beat asked me over to their offices to do a short interview and share some pointers on the subject. Take a look at the result here.
I talk about trends in the 3D Printing world that impact startups who have a need for prototypes, and share a few pointers on getting a prototype made.
While you are there, take a look around the sight. AZ Tech Beat is one of the best places to find out what is going on in the Arizona Tech Community as well as in tech in general. I especially like their gadget updates.
This Thursday PADT was asked to help participate in a lunch and learn entitled “The Startup Lifecycle.” The event was a joint presentation of the Arizona Technology Council and the Maricopa Corporate College and it was held at CEI’s fantastic facilities. Given our background, we were asked to talk about Product Development, and specifically on Minimum Viable Products and Lean Manufacturing Principles.
You can download my presentation here, or read on to learn more about the event.
There were four presenters. Hart Schafer the Founder & CEO of TheraSpace and an experienced Adobe guy, among other things, kicked things off with a great discussion on customer validation and discovery. He pointed out the common mistakes in thinking you know your customers and finding out you were wrong to late. Some great examples were given and he shared some practical ways to really find the Problem-Solution fit.
Next was yours truly, talking about those uncomfortable bits in the middle, where you need to actually design your product, then make it. I covered the concept of a Minimum Viable Product and how to use product development to come up with one. We also touched on how lean product development can be applied in a startup environment.
Then I dived into lean manufacturing, which is a topic worthy of several Lunch and Learns on its own. The bottom line was that Startups can effectively apply lean manufacturing to get a better product to market faster, and on budget. I included some examples and advice on how to implement it.
As mentioned above, you can download my presentation here.
This is a picture of me gesturing widely as I explained how a simple cake doughnut is a Minimum Viable Product and one with frosting and sprinkles was not. All the time hearing Homer Simpson saying “doooonuts” in my head.
NExt up was Nate Curran, the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at CEI. He went in to how to commercialize a product. Another huge topic, but he boiled it down to some basics on commercialization, marketing, and sales. The last speaker was Russ Yelton, the CEO of Pinnacle Transplant Technologies, a successful startup that was a client at CEI. After we talked about what you should do, he shared the real world and how to scale and grow. The big takeaway from his talk for me was the importance of people and culture when you scale and grow.
After a great Q&A session, we posed for a picture:
As always with events at CEI, the venue was great. And, also as always with AZ Tech Council events, the audience was smart, engaged, and full of their own ideas worth sharing. Yet another indication of the growing and improving startup ecosystem in Arizona.
The Phoenix area startup community gathered last night at the Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation to celebrate the grand opening of PADT's StartUpLabs. It was a bit warm for April but around 120 people made it out to the Gateway Community College campus to tour the facility, enjoy some food and beverage, and to hear a few words from representatives from a collection of three and four letter acronyms: CEI, PADT, the ACA, ATI, and PCC*. PADT StartUpLabs is a facility at CEI focused on delivering 3D Printing and Design services to early stage startups, rounding out the already excellent offerings at CEI including business planning, leadership training, marketing, and legal services.
It was an opportunity for those who came to tour the facilities and network with others in the startup community including investors, inventors, entrepreneurs, professional service providers, and some students. You can read the press release below or download a PDF here. In addition we enjoyed entertainment from Rachel Lydia Ellis and Colten Reece Hood and demonstration from Falcon Robotics of their latest robot that featured an amazing vision system.
If you would like to learn more about PADT StartUpLabs, please visit the website: www.padtinc.com/startup or contact us at 480.813.4884.
Here are some images from the event:
The displays in the lab are ready to go and are a great example of the marketing help CEI offers their clients.
* The acronyms translate to:
CEI: Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation
PADT: Phoenix Analysis & Design Technologies
ACA: Arizona commerce Authority
ATI: Arizona Technology Investors
PCC:Phoenix City Council… OK, that one is a stretch to make the joke work.
Phoenix Startup Week has started! One of the key events on the first day centered on tours and talks at CEI, which kikced off with tours of PADT StartUpLabs, the advanced 3D Printing facility for startups located at CEI. This was followed with CEI tours and an afternoon of talks on Medical Device startups. Then the tours repeated for those who could not make the early ones.
There is a great article in AZ Tech Beat today covering the event and what we are doing at PADT StartupLabs:
Attendance was great, with a cross section of startups, established companies, the press, and people active in supporting the startup community. The visits gave us a change to explain how PADT is working with CEI to provide 3D Printing and design expertise to new companies at a reduced price, focusing on getting them over the early stages of product development quickly and effectively.
Right now PADT StartUpLabs is focused on working with other tenants at CEI. Engineers from PADT hold regular office hours to answer questions about 3D Printing and product development. Clients can also set up a consultation with anyone on our staff to talk about simulation, product design or test, quality systems, or manufacturing. The goal is to eventually expand these services to a broader audience.
This week's events are being followed closely on the twittersphere: #PHXStartupWeek, #yesphx. Or if you are middle-aged like me and use Facebook, like Phoenix Startup Week.
We hope to run in to lots of you at upcoming events!
Not in Phoenix?
Many of you who read this blog are not from the Phoenix area. You may be wondering "What, a vibrant startup community? I thought Phoenix was old people and nutty gun-totting right-wing nut-jobs?" Well, we certainly have a few of those but since WWII when large aerospace and electronics companies moved to the valley, Phoenix has been a major high-technology hub. It is an easy place to start a business and has all the resources and talent to be successful. PADT has been helping startups in the area for over 20 years now, and we continue to see a steady increase in the number and diversity of new companies that we interact with. So don't believe what you see on the news, this is a vibrant, high-tech place with great people and a business friendly outlook, affordable housing, and weather that doesn't force us to spend the morning shoveling out our driveways.
Every innovator faces the same problem: how do I make sure that I have protection for my Intellectual Property (IP). Back “in the day” when I started in this world we wrote everything down in a numbered lab book and that was the record. But these days we just never write anything down, it is all electronic. Spending hours printing and pasting into a notebook just does not work.
Enter Traklight. This is a portal for people with IP that needs to be protected, from at-home inventors to full sized companies. We met the people behind the site through some mutual friends and had a sit down with them to understand what they were offering. We were so impressed we thought it was definitely worth sharing.
ID your IP
There first offering is a wizard that… well I could write something or just quote their site:
If you don’t know what Intellectual Property you possess, our ID Your IP questionnaire walks you through interactive questions and provides a Potential Intellectual Property report. If you want to identify your risk of losing your IP, take our IP Risk Quiz.
For an established company like PADT, we really like their IP Vault. This is a resource for organizing all your files with time stamps that help prove what you came up with, when you came up with it. Not only does it organize and stamp your IP, it also stores it securely in the cloud so you do not have to worry about loosing it, or even if you do backups, you do not have to worry about moving it if you or your computer moves. Very useful.
As a leader in modern IP protection, the folks at TrakLight.com have also stepped up and created a resource for people creating IP called IP-Cloud. There are some great links here, everything from lawyers to marketing companies to software developers. PADT is even listed.
The best way to learn about TrakLight.com is to visit their website at… you guessed it: http://www.traklight.com.
You can also watch their cool video: