Hardware product development used to take years to complete. The long cycle and the high entry barriers were some of the reasons why (at least in the early startup boom), most new startups focused on developing software solutions and apps.
Over the past couple of years, however, the landscape has been changing rapidly. New technologies allow for hardware product development to be more accessible. The same new technologies are shortening the development cycle.
Rapid Prototyping with 3D Printing
Prototyping has always been a pain point in hardware development. Before new products can be tested, prototypes must be made. In the old days, the process required a lot of manual work and was often perceived as being too expensive for smaller companies.
3D printing is the technology that transformed rapid prototyping into an accessible technology. Anyone can pick up a 3D printer, design CAD models, and create tangible prototypes using materials like ABS plastic and composite.
In fact, 3D printing has gotten more advanced in several different ways. ABS is no longer the only material you can work with when 3D printing product prototypes. It is also possible to 3D print wood, metal, and vinyl, which means rapid prototyping can now be used for more comprehensive testing.
Better Internals with Circuit Design Tools
The tools made available to product designers and developers have always advanced. One of the most exciting innovations can be seen in modern board design tools like Altium Designer. It is more than just an ordinary schematic design tool – so much more. It is equipped with a vast array of tools that help product developers design boards, test them, and optimize the board configurations in a granular way. The built-in electronic simulation software allows for board configurations to be tested before actual prototypes are made.
There is also a built-in 3D tool for pre-production purposes. This means you can source components and test if they fit on the actual board without doing manual work. Combined with the simulation tool mentioned earlier, developing gadgets and IoT devices becomes substantially easier to do.
Faster Development with Starter Kits
Product developers and startups don’t even have to start from scratch since there are now ready-made development platforms to use. Platforms like the Raspberry Pi and Arduino are designed with immense flexibility for this exact purpose.
Instead of building something from scratch, you can turn to OEMs for starter kits. The approach doesn’t just cut development time but also lowers development cost by a substantial margin. On top of that, more parts of the development process can be outsourced.
Starter kits and base platforms also offer one additional benefit: experience. The available platforms are developed by experts in their respective fields, promising immense reliability and access to more resources. Many issues commonly found in new product development are already solved out of the box.
A community of Product Developers
The internet as a whole is the most valuable technology of them all. Thanks to online forums, there are now countless communities of product developers, hardware specialists, and scientists – all of which can be leveraged for better and faster product development.
Whenever you run into problems that you cannot solve while developing a product, you can enlist the help of online community members. There are also services that connect you with specialists in various fields should you need help with specific technologies or issues.
Communities around the previous technologies are also widely available. On top of that, you can now rely on additional resources like templates, 3D models, schematics, and designs to further shorten your product development cycle.
The market is responding to the presence of these technologies positively. We’re seeing an influx of hardware startups working towards solving real-world problems. Expect to see more innovations in the near future.