Researching Your Next Idea: 3 Steps to Ensuring Success before Designing

For many inventors and start-ups, success or failure all hinge on proper initial research. This can be one of the hardest things for enthusiastic entrepreneurs to focus on. It is easy to get so excited and emotionally invested in your idea that you do not take the proper time to research your idea for viability and design goals. Failing to properly research your idea can lead to a less than stellar product or worse, a non-viable product that may be too difficult or too expensive to make and sell. We’ve broken down the main steps for the research process below. Follow these steps to give you a solid start on your research!

STEP 1: Feedback is King

Your idea may be the greatest thing since sliced bread. You may be the next great innovator of your time, but finding someone to help make your idea come to life is imperative. So how to you get this great idea out of your head and make it a reality? First, identify someone you trust who has a business mindset and experience in product design.

Once you have taken this first leap , it’s now time to protect yourself and all parties involved by signing an NDA (non-disclosure agreement). The NDA is an essential part of the development process, and you should have one in place for anyone you discuss detailed/technical information of your invention with.

Your qualified design team should be ready to test your products stability with a battery of questions including the ones below.

How does your product/idea solve a current problem?

You should be able to explain what solution your idea brings to the table. Some of the things to keep in mind should be why this idea came into your life in the first place. Is this something you need to help solve a problem in your daily career? Is this a new technology that you see as a useful application in either your professional or your personal life? What are the key features of this idea? Will this idea have value to others in a helpful manner? Are there already similar products on the market?

Be aware that if your idea is not a problem-solving idea, you will need to market to the end-user with different strategies. If your idea falls into a category such as luxury items, toys, novelty gifts, etc, then be sure you are ready to address your target market appropriately. Your idea isno less important, it just will require different ways in which to get it out into the public eye.

Lets talk Competition

Who has it already? Is there a similar product out there; if so how are they different? Is this a newer, more innovative item? What is its worth on the market? How is your idea a better solution than what is currently available? While your idea may be different, it may not be new or the only product available. Make sure that you are searching for similar items by searching multiple criteria.

Are you Special?

So your idea is different than the others, how so? What makes you stand out from the rest? What are the reasons someone should choose your product over the next? Do you have more options, a higher quality product, a lower price? Are you a completely new technology or something totally different?

If at this point you are confidently answering your questions and believe you have something great to stand behind then let’s keep moving forward!

STEP 2: GOALS! What are your goals for this item?

If you found an amazing idea to solve a problem that plagues so many and you’ve adjusted your idea based on research and feedback, you have now made it past the point many before you have failed.

During step 1 you thought about and realized where your concept came from. You know you are going to help many people with your solution. You know that people are waiting to buy your item, or you know that there are people looking to purchase your new want item, i.e. luxury item or toy.

What’s next to think about is the effort you must take to move on to the next phase. It’s time to ask yourself honestly: What’s your personal goal for this project? Where do you want to see your idea end up, what’s your vison? Are you looking to form a personal business around it? Are you looking to be the center of its development, or have someone else run it? Do you have someone in mind for this job? Is this project something to help you transition from your current employment position, and in what timeframe are you looking for? How much time are you willing to commit to the project? Do you have others willing to help develop it? Are you willing to share licensing with others?

Answering these questions openly and honestly to yourself helps to develop your business model. This is especially important if you are determined to lead this business. You need to have clear goals and values outlined from the beginning.

STEP 3: What can you afford?

Let’s be honest here, we all want to make money from our ideas and products. But the adage is true, it takes money to make money and being honest with how much money you are capable of spending to launch your product from the beginning is key. Effort is essential to getting the project done. Effort is a combination of time, money and skills.

Let’s look at the things you need to have to get your project going:

SKILLS:

What skills are you contributing, what skills do you need from others on your team? Are you able to do your own design work? Do you have a background in marketing? What do you know about intellectual property? Do you need designers with mechanical, electrical, software and technical backgrounds? What are the limits of your capability?

TIME:

Is time on your side? You need to look at all your professional and personal commitments to see how much time you have to be involved in your project. If you are going to manage it, how much time will you be hands on with it vs delegating? Do you need to hire someone to ensure the success of you and your project?

You need to be clear about the people and the skills of those people on the team you need to complete your project.

MONEY:

Money can be a stumbling block for many great ideas. Unfortunately, research and development can be expensive. Starting from the ground floor and running with your idea to maturity to marketing and full production will take time and money. You need to know your limits when entertaining the idea of development. Developing things on your own may sound much more financially feasible, but the money you may save could cost you time and your idea may soon become someone else’s. Another pitfall many fall in is taking time and money to develop an idea/product as cheaply as possible, then realizing much must be re-done to truly manufacture the product to get to market. There are many sources of funding you should look into during this phase, including: grants, partnerships, awards, crowdfunding, venture capitalists, angel investors, loans and more.

Remember…. Often, time is money.

So there you have it, start with these steps and work hard, and you will be well on your way to success! We would be happy to discuss any ideas or questions you may come across during your research. Until then, good luck!

Catania on how Groundswell Startups Assist Companies With Venture Capital Funds

We have loved being a part of the Groundswell Startups community and are happy to see such a great article summarizing the hard work and fantastic resources available in one area.

As Groundswell COO Jarin Eisenberg states: “We see Groundswell Startups as being a catalyst for change. We have created a space where people can take risks, pursue their dreams, and do it within a community of incredibly talented individuals who are willing to step in and help. They are deeply invested in each other’s success.”

“Everything you need to get your business started can be found through the connections made at Groundswell,” said Stefanie Catania, CEO/CFO of Catania Enterprises.

Grassroots High-Tech Incubator Groundswell Startups Assists Companies With Venture Capital Funds

Generative Design

Ever wondered how those buildings with web like arches and products with futuristic looking structures are even made? It’s all through generative design! Which can be performed right from the desk of an engineer!

What is Generative Design?

Generative design is an iterative design process which utilizes software and calculations to generate multiple solutions with respect to constraints and multiple variables. In engineering, generative design is partly carried out by a specific technology found in CAD software such as SOLIDWORKS and Autodesk Fusion 360, called topology optimization. Generative design and topology optimization cannot be used interchangeably though, Topology Optimization generally finds a single solution, whereas generative design can use topology optimization and other tools to generate a set of solutions. To put it simply, generative design builds on the foundation of topology optimization to better come up with more fine-tuned solutions.

What is Topology Optimization?

Topology Optimization is a set of processes and software that optimizes a parts structure with regards to user defined constraints and external forces. Although the software optimizes the part, it can only successfully do so when the engineer correctly defines weight constraints, areas of optimization, and loading scenarios. The CAD model shown below has been optimized to use less material while also maintaining the structural integrity to deal with external forces.

How is Generative Design Executed?

In a CAD application such as PTC Creo, a part can be optimized by inputting engineering and non-engineering requirements (such as material availability and cost), the software will then optimize the design and offer a set of solutions, which the user can choose to their liking. Depending on the software, the design can also be optimized for a specific type of manufacturing, such as additive manufacturing or “3D Printing”.

In Fusion 360, a generative design study can be set up in just a few simple steps. First, the model can be analyzed using Finite Element Analysis (FEA) on the original model. In the function tree, depending on the number of parts in the model, multiple geometries or parts can be selected to either preserve their shape or be subjected to the topology optimization. In doing this, the software will avoid certain regions where it will not modify the structure and other regions where it absolutely must.

Next, constraints can be applied to different regions to simulate real life scenarios, where a component may be fixed to a surface and can’t move. Load cases are then applied as needed to the correct regions and the user can also define specific directions. The most important part of the process though, is defining the studies’ “Objectives and Limits”.

The user can select to minimize mass or maximize stiffness as their object and a safety factor as the limit. In doing so, the software knows to reduce mass or maximize safety while referencing a factor of safety. A factor of safety establishes a limit to express how much stronger the design is than the intended load.

From here, the difference between generative design and topology optimization can be seen. The user can now choose which manufacturing method the component will be fabricated by, as well as the material type. The parameters and variables are now all set, and the study is ready to go! Multiple studies are run if needed and different outcomes are produced. The user can then choose or filter the different designs using a filter and FEA results of each different outcome.

What’s the Link with Additive Manufacturing?

When paired with additive manufacturing capabilites, the creativeness of the design and manufacturability is almost endless. The technology of 3D printing offers a wider range of possibilities in manufacturing, when compared to traditional subtractive manufacturing, such as a CNC Mill. A component like one shown below would be almost impossible to manufacture using a CNC mill due to multiple areas the end-mill could not reach and the organic shape produced by generative design. The final design cut weight by 42%, which reduced costs due to material pricing.

Additive manufacturing is also used for rapid prototyping for components. Rapid prototyping can be seamlessly paired with generative design as it offers a quick design solutions which can then be 3D printed in a matter of hours. In addition, 3D printing is a quick way to test the multiple generative design outcomes in a real-world scenario. With the case of complex structures, a CNC mill may take many hours of labor and incur massive tooling and labor costs. Which in turn, can be very detrimental to a business when coming up with a product or providing services.

With all of the flexibility in generative design, the process allows engineers to be much more creative without sacrificing the components intended function. Generative design allows the engineers to focus their skills on solving complex designs, as opposed to manually revising the design and spending time on the revisions. When paired with additive manufacturing, the opportunities for rapid prototyping and testing are endless. Some may say these two technologies were made for each other. Generative design continues to push the boundaries of engineering and is a very promising outlook for the future.

 

Catania Enterprises provides product design services that can be optimized using generative design. Our team of engineers are experienced in providing optimized solutions that satisfy the customer’s needs while reducing manufacturing costs.

Please Contact Catania Enterprises for more information on how we can help you bring your ideas to life.

Follow us on social media for more information on current design innovations!

Form and Function: The Catania Enterprises Approach

A feature on Good Morning America is a big deal for any business, but for a small business, it is game-changing. Groundswell member Catania Enterprises teamed up with Amaranth Vase Company to produce a reimagined flower vase so innovative, it was promoted on Good Morning America’s “Deals & Steals” this fall.

Talk to any entrepreneur and they will tell you that business success is impossible without the right team and some room for trial and error. When Amaranth Vase Company needed help bringing their unique flower vase idea to fruition, they found the budding partnership with Catania Enterprises to be just what they needed to put their ideas in motion.

Raymond and Stefanie Catania of Catania Enterprises recall meeting the founder of the Amaranth Vase Company, Mendel Schectman, years ago. Schectman had an idea for a modern flower vase that made stem trimming and replacing the water much easier, but struggled to find the right company to help move the idea into production. Showing the long-term value of networking, the Catanias and Schectman were reunited and proved to be that perfect team for the project. Together, the partners solved design, engineering and production challenges needed to put the vase into the market. Then, this fall, it was showcased as a problem-solving product from a small business during Good Morning America’s “Deals & Steals.

catania vase

Catania Combines Form and Function

When asked what sets Catania Enterprises apart from other development companies, Raymond highlighted the marriage of design and functionality. “We have a breadth of experience, which helps us to take on nearly any task and run with it with little or no startup time,” he said. “We have the ability to work through even the toughest problems that customers can throw at us. On the inventor side, we strive to provide well thought-out designs that have an artistic and quality feel to them that really helps products stand out in the market.”

In the case of the vase design, Schectman has plenty of experience in online sales and marketing, but needed help with the design and the engineering of the product. Instead of navigating the “form versus function” battle between two teams, they together came up with the current Tapered Diamond design now seen on the vases. The complex geometries posed some manufacturing challenges, but Catania was able to work through the engineering and aesthetics of the final product. It was Catania’s combined expertise that not only saved Amaranth money, but time.

“I especially love when an inventor truly believes in their idea and can make me believe too. That is when I know it is going to be something great. I feed off of their excitement.” – Raymond Catania

raymond

A History with Groundswell Startups

Catania Enterprises has a long history with the Groundswell community, helping companies grow with “The Triad” approach. Customizable for every project, Catania combines each company’s three big needs, technicalscheduling and cost, to come up with a personalized engineering experience. At Groundswell, they began applying that technique to Tomahawk Robotics. Catania provided mechanical design for early projects and has seen tremendous growth since those small beginnings. As the company expanded, and after seeing how Groundswell supported companies through to their successes, Raymond and Stefanie decided to officially join the community. Since becoming members, their portfolio has expanded, providing mechanical engineering help to SwiftPaws, machining services to CFD, and proposal work with Sentry View Systems.

bike 1

What started as a passion project for their two sons turned into another beautiful product

 

Catania has prioritized networking over the years, and has worked with many companies. But what makes Groundswell Startups so unique? According to Raymond, it’s the level of member support. While traveling and networking along the east coast, they said that while they met amazing people at other incubators, “none of them compared to Groundswell’s ability to take an interest in your company and introduce you to others that can help you both succeed. It is these connections and passion for helping others that sets Groundswell apart.”

IMG_20200614_202349Raymond & Stefanie love to travel and gain inspiration from the people they meet and places they go

When Catania looks to the future, one thing is clear: growth. Catania Enterprises is excited about the possibility of expanding their team. However, it is not a process they take on lightly. Catania values relationships and quality of service, so they make sure that every member of the team upholds those values to their high standards. That way, all who work with Catania Enterprises can be confident that they are investing in a long term, exciting and successful partnership.