We used VR to increase the user experience and won!

Virtual reality – the fully immersive experience that brings you to another world (or makes you run into a wall) is so much more than video games or simulated roller coasters. Virtual reality is ushering in a new era of product development through a virtual prototyping environment – something we are perfecting here at Catania. As a team, we strive to redefine the user experience across the whole product and development lifecycle, and the virtual prototyping environment is just one (a big one) of the ways we are working to make this happen.

 

So, how does a virtual prototyping environment elevate the customer experience? Let us count the ways:

  • Reducing time to market: Virtual prototyping environments provide the ability to prototype a proposed design in a virtual environment – giving customers a real look at their vision AND providing a shorter time-to-market by reducing the scope and effort of engineering changes.
  • See your product come to life:  A virtual prototyping environment allows for a more accurate and customized view of your prototype before moving to the final design and manufacturing process. You’ll be able to change colors and materials, feel and interact with your product, and much more.
  • A really, really, cool experience: A little cherry on top, customers get their own award-winning virtual reality experience. Catania, as a first-time attendee, was honored by the Synapse Florida team as one of the “Best Experience” Awards at Synapse Orlando in 2022 with their booth featuring their virtual prototyping environment.

“We focus very heavily on user experience, and you’ve heard us talk about user experience and how important it is to us. To be honored with something that says best experience just goes to show that our hard work and effort are really paying off,” Catania Founder & CEO, Stefanie Catania

To learn more about how Catania can help you with your products or ideas contact us directly on our website (link here). We promise we won’t let you run into any walls.

Responding to Shark Tank, Design for Cost

Image of person holding a redesigned smaller pulley with the large pulley in the background.

Have you ever made the observation of how products get smaller? Have you ever looked at computers from the 70s and compared them to today’s computers, and asked, how did that happen? 

 

As engineers and designers, we do that all the time. We do it in part because we’re curious about things and we do it because that’s our job. In fact, we do it so much, we even have a name for it, which is, Design for Cost.

The best example of our work doing this is the SwiftPaws pulley. The SwiftPaws pulley, as seen on Shark Tank, was designed by the team at Catania. That system was put together to serve as a toy for dogs. The first pulley was designed for size and strength. However, if you watch the episodes from Shark Tank, you will see that the challenge with the system is the cost to produce. While it was designed to withstand the challenges of wear and tear by our pets, the too-market cost was too high. So, we went to work, looking for ways to improve the product without compromising on quality or the end-user experience.

The process known as Design for Cost required our designers and engineers to look at the original design and ask, how can we get the same functionality and durability at half the size? Where can we cut back and make it more efficient? And what areas need to remain the same? 

Within those questions, we decided to go with the easy target first. For us, that was downsizing the pulley. This was the most-simple reduction of the overall scale of the product and immediately bring down some costs. However, whenever you reduce a product in total scale you must always test it to maintain functionality. So, once the new pulley was designed we printed it out, using our in-house 3D printing system, to save us time and energy in making mistakes. 

Second, once we knew the pulley would work we looked to cut back in other areas of scale. We made note that the original pulley housing was overdone and added a great deal of cost and process to produce. When looking at it critically, we noted that it was made from six separate design parts that needed to be assembled in production. To simplify, we designed a unique one-piece clasp that wrapped around the pulley and secured it, and the pulley line, in place. Wha-la!

In the end, the new SwiftPaws pulley should reduce the cost of each pulley by as much as 80%, allowing SwiftPaws to pass on savings to their customers. This change and a few others will bring the price point down and let our client service a broader market.  We couldn’t be more proud.

To learn more about how Catania can help you with the Design for Cost for your products or ideas contact us directly on our website (link here).

Reverse engineering to develop a better product.

Person looking at a custom designed wheel, with the title reading "Design for Manufacturing: Simplifying with Reverse Engineering".

Ever torn something apart or broken something down piece by piece to see what’s inside? 

In the process did you discover something new, like how it was made? 

I know that I have. Recently, I took apart one of my son’s remote-controlled toys and what I found was that it was surprisingly complex. It was full of small gears, circuit boards, and each piece was well placed inside its designated area. It gave me a bunch of new ideas for our products and was a successful practice in reverse engineering. Except the part where my son wanted me to put it back together to play with.

Reverse engineering is a commonly used practice and one we use a ton around the office at Catania. Because we work on such a large spectrum of products, reverse engineering has become a valuable process. As much as we like to believe we are experts at everything, we are not. Reverse engineering is an educational tool that saves time and money by allowing us to take something that has already been engineered and fabricated, and learn from it. This helps us to better design products that we can specifically tailor to our client’s needs. It’s so critical to our internal processes that we decided to write out the steps and share how it’s done.

How do we reverse engineer a product? 

Let’s use one of our recent projects, the AbSculpt, as an example. For this product, the customer wanted to build a first of its kind bi-directional resistance ab roller with a wheel that offers more stability and size for the athlete. 

In designing the wheel, we had multiple challenges. How do we create the tire? What size of tire should we use? What materials would be right for the tire and product and how do we mold the rubber of the tire to the rim? It was not easy.

We followed these 4 steps.

Step 1: We Looked for a Similar Product

First, we designed a concept and created a prototype for the project, so we knew what the wheel needed to look like. We were able to find a similar product at a local supply company. But it’s more common for us to search the web. 

We try to find something that fits into the design, taking into account the size and shape, but just as importantly, the cost. This tells us that if someone else can make it within our budget, we should be able to make a comparable product at a similar cost, and in this case, that’s exactly what happened. 

Step 2: Disassemble and Analyze  

Before dissecting the tire, or anything else for that matter, we look to see what we can learn from the outside. 

With the tire, we looked for what process was used to manufacture the rim (injection molding, casting, etc). In this case, both the tire and the rim were made with  injection molding. 

Next, we looked at where the parting lines for the tooling were placed. This helped with the design for manufacturing aspects of the shape.

To learn how the wheel and tire were mated together, we cut the assembly in half. This was necessary because we needed to see whether the tire was overmolded onto the rim, or if it was a second part that was assembled later. 

Step 3: Implementation 

We took what we learned from Step 2 and came up with a design for a product we felt confident would work. 

Then we took what we had to the manufacturers and asked for additional feedback. This allowed us to make the final changes to optimize the design for their particular manufacturing processes. 

Step 4: Review 

This is a product that will be mass produced and sold commercially. Cost, durability, functionality, and style were all variables that we fine tuned to make a product that will be successful. In order to change one of these variables, we must understand how it will affect the others. This is the delicate balance that is required for success. 

With a working prototype in hand, we examined every step from design to manufacturing to make sure we solved the problem in the best way possible. 

At Catania, we don’t reinvent the wheel. We just make it better.

From mailbox to MilaBox, Shipping Rethought

An artistic mailbox with words overtop reading "The MilaBox, A Look at Catania Design Process".

“Find a job you enjoy doing and you’ll never work a day in your life.”  Mark Twain’s famous quote is more than just lip service. It’s our mantra.

Passion is contagious. It flows from one person to another, feeding the energy and drive from employees to customers. The projects that have the most success are those that our team and customers are most excited about. When we have these types of projects, our passion for design and product development translates into helping our customers realize their dreams. 

Customers come to us with a dream of a product that they want to be made into a reality. In order to give them the very best experience and end product, we have to share their passion for the project. If we don’t, then we know we’re not the best fit for them. That’s why we pursue work we know we will be great at and help potential customers find a team better suited to their needs when we are not the best fit.

A good example of a recent project that inspired us is the MilaBox. MilaBox is a creative new look at the traditional mailbox. This design took the ‘bread loaf on a post’ look we all know and turned it into a smart mailbox – an exclusive experience in receiving and delivering mail packages. 

Before we started the project, we went through several iterations of concepts and styles. We reviewed and onboarded the customer with our team. We then worked with the customer to get the exact design he wanted for his product launch. What we came up with was pretty AWESOME.

How Our Passion Translates into Artistic Production

Focusing our business development to match our skill sets ensures that when we take on a project, we’re giving it more than 100%.  Working on something that you’re both good at and enjoy doing, creates a more efficient work flow and creates a better end product. 

OUR STEPS TO GETTING STARTED

  1. Initial Consultation – we learn about clients and our clients can learn about us. 
    • If we aren’t the best fit, we help them find a team that is. 
  2. Research & Concepts – we deliver several conceptual ideas of an idea for a low-cost, fixed fee.  
    • We don’t expect anyone to sign any contracts with us before knowing how we may approach their idea. 
  3. Review & Initiate Design Phase Contract – once concepts are delivered, customers can then decide to move forward with us or take another path.

These steps have allowed us to better tailor the level of complexity and future costs to the customer’s needs.  This is a win-win for both our team and our customers where they better understand how we are going to approach their project and we better understand how we can best meet all their needs. 

The Catania team takes our customers’ projects seriously. We want to be passionate about what we deliver and passionate about what we do.

Catania is WHERE PASSION MEETS INNOVATION.  

Come check us out!

 

 

 

Corporate Office
2412 Irwin St.
Melbourne FL 32901

The Future of Ab Workouts – User Experience

A product is more than the end result of an idea made into a real-life design. It’s your baby. Your brainchild. But seeing your dream made into a reality shouldn’t signal the finish line. The ultimate goal of any product is to serve its user beyond the original concept to give them the best results and experience possible.

The concept of user experience isn’t new, but it’s more important now than ever in today’s competitive global market.  Here at Catania, we are passionate about creating designs that not only satisfy the customer’s expectations but also anticipate the user’s needs and wants—even if they aren’t aware of what those might be.

 

 

How exactly do we do that? We start by doing a deep dive into the user’s basic senses. Then, we ask questions and figure out how someone would use the product. Watching, “or imagining through a series of activities”, how the user interacts with the product allows us to anticipate potential problems and fix them while the product is still in the creation phase.  

Recently a customer came to us with their design for an ab roller, now named the Ab Sculpt. The customer knew that he wanted the design to have better resistance than other ab rollers on the market. The solutions we came up with work, but through pre-product testing, we realized the tire generated too much heat, making it unsafe for the end-user. We developed a heatsink that draws heat away from the system, protecting the user.

Enhancing user experience also involves the integration of aesthetics, the five senses, and perceived value. How a product looks, feels, and how easily it can be used all contribute to the user’s negative or positive reactions.

Users Experience is all 5 senses, perceived value, and influence

In the case of the Ab Sculpt, we anticipated features that would make it more valuable to use. We made the handles removable with 3 different angle settings and added a repetition counter that faces the user.

Creating an excellent user experience is more than just about the finished product. It involves all the stages of development, taking into account a user’s first interaction, subsequent experiences, maintenance, and the end result.

Making it all work together seamlessly is what we do at Catania.

 

3 Steps to Ensuring Success before Designing

Text reads "From Render to Reality" and shows the 3D CAD version of the design as the "Render" and the final picture of the prototype as "Reality"

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 to discuss detailed/technical information about your invention with.

Your qualified design team should be ready to test your product’s 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 is no less important, it just will require different ways in which to get it out into the public eye.

Let’s 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. The effort is essential to getting the project done. The 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, and 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!