We after about 5 years using the same template-based website platform we decided to move a fully customized WordPress site. We hope you like the simplicity and clean approach we took. One of the main focuses for us was the explanation of our breadth of services as well as typical expectations. The Frequently Asked Questions section covers the most common questions and will be updated accordingly.
So I have been busy the past couple weeks on a number of clients prototypes and I found a way of producing realistic representations of the end product. For one particular project, the client wanted to develop a thin curved form that could be worn under clothing (no futher details so not to compromise the IP). It was determined that the final material would most likely be one of the following:
1) Silicon Rubber
3) TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer)
I was contemplating investing in some simple CNC-milled mold cavities but, the cost was just too much for the purpose of validating a concept. I then stumbled upon a company that specializes in special effects make up and masks called Smooth-on (www.smooth-on.com). This company makes many different liquid molding compounds that can be used for prosthetic, masks, food, taxidermy and prototypes. In watching a video about how to create a 2-part mold, I was intrigued to say the least.
For me the first thing to do was to make the original model that would be used to create the negative void space within the 2-piece mold. Due to the thin curved nature of the clients product, I decided to work with an air-dry sculpting clay for the main form. Once this was dry, I filled in all of the small imperfections using melted beeswax. I was really impressed with the surface finish I gained using the wax. The final step was to go over the entire model surface with a propane torch to melt the wax completely smooth to the touch. Now I was ready to start with the mold.
To create the mold box, I went and purchased a series of 1/4″ thick acrylic sheet panels that would serve as the bottom and sides of the mold box. Using a hot glue gun and a mold strap, I secured the sides so they were ready to receive the clay and rubber. As noted in the video, I started with a layer of modeling clay on the bottom of the box to about 1″ of depth. I then placed the model into the clay so that the parting line would be across the top of the clay. I then smoothed the entire clay surface and placed some 3/8″ acorn nuts into the clay with the round portion facing up (these will serve as registration keys for the two mold halves).
I purchased the Smooth-on Mold Star 15 which is a Platinum cure Silicon with great elongation properties while also having the finishing properties I wanted. After the clay was ready, I then measured out equal parts of the Mold Star 15 mixture components and quickly mixed them together until a consistent color was achieved. I then poured the Silicon onto the clay and mold slowly to make sure there wasn’t any gas bubbles. After about 4 hours, I was ready to break down the mold box to prep for the second half. By removing the walls of the box I then flipped over the mold and removed all of the clay (making sure not to remove the actual model). I had an old paint brush handy that I used to further remove any trace of clay from the surfaces. The next step was to reassembly the mold box using the now cured first half as the base. Once the walls were secured in-place I sprayed a couple coatings of Ease Release 200 mold release onto the entire cured Silicon and model surfaces. Using a small amount of clay I created the pour spout that would later be used to pour the molding rubber. This can be seen in the video above.
I then mixed and poured the second half of Mold Star 15 onto the top of the mold half. After another 4 hours of waiting, the mold was finally ready to separate to see the resulting cavity. At first, the two mold halves were impossible to part. I then decided to use compressed air to injected through the pour spout which worked very well at parting the two halves. After initial inspection I was very pleased with the results (although not perfect).
Now I was ready to try molding the first sample. I chose to use the Body Double Silicon rubber to create a life-like finish on the clients product. This is also a 1-1 ratio mix that is really easy to use (although the high viscosity may warrant adding a thinner next time to allow for easier flowing into mold cavities). After another coating of mold release I started pouring the Body Double into the cavity through the pour spout. I allowed the sample to cure overnight and in the morning I parted the two halves to see my first molded sample. Not bad.
This was the first time I had ever created a mold using Silicon and I learned alot. First, I created a much larger mold box than needed which cost more in product and also made for a bulky mold. Next, the issues with the two part mold halves sticking may have been from some residual clay that was still on the surface so next time I will try and wash the surfaces. Last, to improved surface finish of the end sample, I will be adding a Silicon thinner to the mix to reduce the viscosity and improve pourability.
If you would like to see some more photos, please message me and I can share.
Thanks again for reading and please share our blog with your friends.
I am asking your support for Odyssey Solutions in the Intuit Small Business Big Game contest. The winning company will get a commercial during the Super Bowl. We made it to the second round so every vote counts.
Well the long awaited season of Shark Tank is here. I am excited after the marathon build up from last week.
This is a pre-show poll to see who is watching the show tonight.
And now for our weekly reviews of the Shark Tank products and entrepreneurs.
We for the first time had all 5 sharks on the show at one time and it made for some great TV.
First in the Tank
Inventor: Josh Brooks
Product / Company: Postcards on the Run
Asking: $300k for 5% stake in the company
Postcards on the Run
Josh started this company with some help from a couple rounds of Investor contribution (including Selena Gomez). With an initial investment of $1.6mm USD and sales of $450k in 21 months and residual cash flow of $180k remaining, Josh is seeking funding for growth and marketing to further expose his brand. The product is rather unique in that an app is installed onto a mobile phone for free then after paying a $2.49 fee, the user takes a photo and writes a personal message. The results is a glossy 4×6 postcard delivered to the recipient of choice. So far he has 500k downloads of the app and a 180 transactions meaning a conversion rate of 36% (assuming single transactions). In most app-based businesses this would be a very good conversion. I wonder how many users are repeat users or if the drop off is high. That information was not discussed during the pitch. Mark Cuban was rather brutal with Josh stating that he was valuing the company on tech bubble figures. He didnt think it was a good time to invest so he bowed out. The rest of the Sharks soon followed out except for Robert. Robert said that he felt a connection to the product because he thinks his kids would use it and so he offered $300k for 10%. After some back and forth and good negotiating on both parts a deal was struck for $300k for 7.5% stake.
Feedback: Again, I think this product is one that is unique and novel indeed but, I would like to see the future plan for the business (additional streams, ad revenue, etc,…). Josh was proud to state he came from Myspace and he has a strong background in the Social Media segment. Good indeed but having the foresight to see a need to adapt the business plan to address user behavior is even more valuable. I will say that I travel alot overseas and using this app would be a cool way to personalize a postcard for a loved one. I really want to know how things are going after the Tank and to see if cash flow has improved.
Inventors: Lynnae and Ali
Company: Lynnaes Pickles
Asking: $125k for 20% stake
The two women enter the Tank to promote a gourmet pickle business based in Tacoma Washington. Founded on their Grandma’s recipes, they created a brand and a business serving local and nationwide retailers. With $144k in sales in 12 months the girls are looking to get some more money to help boost inventory and grow exposure. They are working with a distribution company now and in 26 states, pretty impressive really. The pickle jars retail for $6.99, wholesale for $4, and COGS is $1.93. The girls talked about Target showing interest in having them in their new gourmet foods sections. The Sharks were not impressed with the financials and the high cost and the uncertainty of the larger market.
Feedback: I always struggle with the food company pitches mainly because rarely is there anything proprietary and the possibility for running into a larger player that is looking to dominate a small segment is all too real. I do think they might be better off approaching a food products manufacturer to see about lowering the costs and then reducing the price point down to $4.99 might make this move faster. Updates anyone?
Inventors: Richard and Albert Amini
Asking: $50k for 20%
Two Doctors and Brothers Richard and Albert have a company that will hopefully eliminate the need to carry an outdated pager to get in touch with doctors. The pitch was not all that clear as they continued to mention “social media” but with not explanation as to what that all means. The idea is that Doctors would sign up to the website (much like Facebook) then post their specialities and accreditations (I guess). The Sharks ate them alive and within a matter of minutes, the guys left empty handed.
Feedback: If you watched the episode then I wont repeat the things the Sharks had to say but, I will say that as a patient, I find a huge amount of credibility checking that would need to be performed to vet the Doctors. Also, it was unclear as to how the company would generate money. Again, I would guess advertising and membership fees but who knows.
Inventors: Cole Edgar and James McDonald
Asking: $250k for 10% stake
NO IMAGE DUE TO SERVER CRASHING (Good thing normally)
So, these two Texas Entrepreneurs came into the Tank with a cake pop minus the stick called Sweet Ballz. With a background in the food industry and business development, they had a fast launch of the product with a huge deal going with 711. Racking in $700k in only 90 days is the real deal and I loved how dropped that on the Sharks rather nonchalant. The current demand is creating a lead time of 22 days which is tough especially considering the shelf life of 45 days. The money would be used to beef up supply and reduce lead time as well as expand into other customers. The numbers on the company are MSRP $1.99-2.49 with a cost of $0.86. I am sure that with a ramped up production they would be able to drive costs down below $0.50. All five Sharks put offers on the table but it came down to a deal from Mark/Barbara $250k-25% or Kevin/Robert/Lori $250k-30%. The Sweet Ballz go for the Cuban led offer and for good reason.
Feedback: Again a food product but, they say you invest in the man not the product and I think that was the big selling point here. The two guys proved they can get this company growing with solid sales history. I would imagine Cuban pushing the product to all of his businesses and Barbara would be looking at the broader retail deals (supermarkets, pharmacies and department stores). I think this will do well. I am interested in any updates….
Thanks again for reading and please come by again for the next weeks posting.
Happy Holidays Shark Tank fans. The much anticipated holiday episode of The Shark Tank aired this evening and as expected, the show was very entertaining. We saw some great product pitches with solid sales, some niche business models that need more time and some hard headed Entrepreneurs that didn’t want to listen to the Sharks had to say. As always read through and make comments with your takes on the products and whether you would purchase any on your own.
The pitch began with the two ladies describing how they met and how once they became Mothers, the options for social locations for their children and themselves was limited. Most of the play areas were dirty, outdated and with no focus on the Mothers. They came up with the idea…
With the growing improvements in technology and the resultant resolution that is now coming from the desktop 3D printers, I decided I needed to start looking at purchasing one for use in rapid prototyping client projects.
For Odyssey Solutions, the most critical three factors I was using to select our printer were: reliability, print resolution and overall print build volume. The reliability and resolution seem obvious enough but, in order to be able to accommodate the largest possible parts I had to narrow down the list to just a few.
When you Google 3D Printers you will most likely come across Makerbot (recently merged with Stratasys), 3D Systems or a seemingly endless list of small start ups. Makerbot for example is probably the most notable name in the industry as they were one of the first to really perfect the consumer 3D Printer. The Replicator 2 and now 2x are sleek, eye-catching products that had some serious time spent in the aesthetics department. However, it seemed that there were far too many people complaining about reliability and print consistency.
Makerbot Replicator 2 3D Printer
So I then looked at the 3D systems Cube and Cube X systems. Both are rather pricey for what they deliver. The Cube X is a larger printer with a very sizable build volume, it also comes in an optional multi-extrusion head system.
3D Systems Cube 3D Printer
3D Systems Cube X 3D Printer
Another thing that tends to differentiate the 3D printers is the print media that is used. Most commonly used is a extrusion filament process that draws a small diameter plastic thread from a spool through a heated extrusion head and out onto the printing surface. The two most widely used materials are ABS (plastic) and PLA (biodegrable plastic made from plants). There are many advantages and drawbacks to both materials but, most people would agree having the capability to print both is preferred. PLA is a fast, non-toxic material that can be recycled. ABS on the other hand tends to produce finer resolution prints and more suitable for parts where stress will be seen. Both the 3D Systems and the Replicator 2x models can accommodate both printing materials but, the price tags were what turned me off.
I then came across a smaller start up company called Type A Machines, a San Fran-based tech company that is focused on the open-source side of things. From reviews I read, their first generation machine the Series 1 (a primarily wood-based skeleton) performed well for the mid-range of users. The price tag was almost half that of the aforementioned models. I then heard they were going to be rolling out a Pro model which would be constructed of high strength steel and glass making is more suitable for high volume, high resolution print users. I contacted them directly by email to find out more and see when the release date would be. The following day Sara from Type A invited me to become a Beta tester for this new system. Not only would I get the latest and greatest model from them before anyone else but, I would also be prioritized for any upgrades later on (heated build platform, wifi and modular wire management systems). The best part about this was the build volume was 12″x12″x12″, much more than any competitive product out there. This meant that I would be able to handle many of my clients prints in-house as opposed to using a third party. So I decided to take them up on the offer. The order is placed and being filled at the moment.
In about 4 weeks I will have the machine and I will then post a follow-up blog on the results.
I am excited to announce that Odyssey Solutions LLC has formed OSI Golf (http://www.osigolf.com) to solely focus on the development, manufacturing and sales of our innovative golf training aids. Over the past couple of years we have spent countless hours designing and launching out golf training products to the market. We now feel that the OSI Golf brand will stand alone and continue to grow our business for the many years to come.
The decision to re-brand the company was based on two points
1) Some confusion with our company and the company that manufacturers golf putters; Odyssey Golf
2) Shorter domain with a modernized web presence allows us to rank higher in the search rankings on Google, Bing and Yahoo.
The New OSI Golf Logo
Simultaneously, we spent a good amount of resources on product photography to capture not just the products themselves but, to also see them in action. After all a golf training aid sells it self if it clearly illustrates how it works and the benefits.
Here are a sample of the great photos…
WrisTRAINER Swing Sequence
Finally, I wanted to share with you all the images of the products themselves…
Come and check us out at http://www.osigolf.com for more information. You can also follow-us on Twitter @osigolfco
These two long-time fishing and hunting buddies tell the story about how when they were hunting and a shotgun shell fell into the water it floated. It gave them the idea to make the fishing bobber company Shell Bobbers. I liked the method of pitching and how they incorporated the manufacturing into the sales pitch with I thought was very engaging. The cost to make each bobber is about $1 and they retail for $8.99. The sales to date it about $1000 (or 440 units). They have been selling in various hardware stores but need help getting into the larger retail outlets. They hold a provisional patent but, didn’t do a thorough research on existing patents. They have a trademark as well. Kevin started with a rather rough offer for $80k for 50% with a residual profit per until cash is paid back. Mark then offers a straight $80k for 33% and they do the deal.
Feedback: Like I said, the concept is solid and a novelty and certainly the fishing and hunting segment is enormous. I noticed on their website that they have some photos with the Duck Dynasty guys and I was actually thinking about that during the show. The Duck Dynasty guys would be the ultimate endorsers for this product. I believe to get this into the big box retailers, they need to invest in flashy packaging and a good marketing plan to show how to maximize the sales. I would like to see if the Shell Bobber is in the Bass Pro Shops this year.
This Mother and Daughter pair have been making cupcakes in Boston for some time now but, they wanted to expand their sales capabilities and shipping around your conventional cupcake just was too messy and logical. The idea for the cupcake in a jar was born. The pitch is for gourmet cupcakes cooked in the jar and available to shipping and retail. They have sold about $73k year to date with $360k in forecasted sales for this year. The cupcakes have a shelf life of 7-10 days (without preservatives). The cost to make each is $2.15 and sells for $5.95 but with wholesale, they only make $0.85/jar. All Sharks bow out except Kevin who proposes a rather dirty deal of $75k for zero equity but with a perpetuity royalty of $0.50/unit. The girls exit to discuss then come back to negotiate a $0.45 a final deal.
Feedback: While I do think the whole cupcake crazy is going to be short lived once people realize they are loaded with fat and calories but, for sake of the hot segment this is a really creative way of presenting the cupcake. After all, the one thing I hate about cupcakes are that they are messy. The jar solves this by incorporating a spoon. I understand that walking into the tank you are under some pressure to get a deal done but, I would have recommended to play hard ball with Kevin. Kevin’s deal was nothing but a loan with a lifetime commitment, never advised no matter the situation. Because now they are forced to pay Kevin his share for every unit and that means a lot more when the company grows and sales are skyrocketing. All this for a $75k loan!
Arron is a passionate individual looking to revolutionize the way we consume power. His company Fremont Electric has invented a Faraday induction-based personal charger for mobile electronics. The nPower PEG is a unique product that has a backing of 5 or so utility patents. The black cylindrical tubing houses a induction coil and concentric magnet that with motion will create a charge that is stored in the integral battery. Your device can then be plugged into the device to gain as much as 25% charge. he retails the product for $199 and has sold about 1300 units so far but the cost is a bit high. He explains the end goal is to apply his concept to mass power generation in the way of floating wave buoys. While the Sharks are all intrigued by the idea, they are also confused at how the personal device will lead to the large scale development. Kevin even comments that he would be interested in licensing the idea to a company like GE but he would not want to do all of the leg work. No deal is made.
Feedback: For all of the pitches I have seen on the show, this one has the most potential wide spread impact on the world energy consumption. The problem with the pitch is the valuation of the nPower PEG (nearly $10million!) that really is an investment for the development of the wave generation device. There is no clear track record for the wave generation system but, I do think Arron is more than knowledgeable so I do think he is the right man for the job. I only wish he instead approached the Sharks for the small device only and requested much smaller investment to get that product rolling and into the masses. Later taking the profits and investing into the next generation systems. It is all about how you present the idea. Arron you can always send me one of the products and I can personally review it for you.
Nate developed his adjustable belt without the holes after he struggled to find belts that didn’t wear out and that had more fine adjustments than the normal 1 inch increments. He has been selling the belts through various smaller retailers and has sold $39k so far. The belts cost him $5.50 to make where he retails them for $39.95 and wholesales for $15. He is a very good salesman and this no more evident than when he tells the Sharks about when he arrived to LA and immediately went door to door to sell 20 belts! Lori, Robert and Kevin all bow out. Daymond offers the $50k for 40% stake for the purpose of licensing the belt to fashion companies. Nate negotiates the stake down to 37.5%.
Feedback: Watching Nate really is inspiring to anyone with a product idea. There are three things needed for a successful product-based business; proprietary concept, profitable model and a passionate leader. Nate certainly has the last one nailed down. They dont make sales guys like him anymore and it is a pleasure to see his passion and drive. I am sure his biz will be a success especially with Daymond backing the product. I am very impressed he has driven the costing down to $5.50 which is a very tough thing to do without mammoth volumes. I will say that I have seen this belt design before on the golf circuit (different company). That doesn’t mean it can’t make it, it just means marketing is where he will need to differentiate himself.
Thanks again for reading and please come by again for the next weeks posting.
I thought of something today as I was driving that I would like to share with you all. My background is in Mechanical Engineering and Sales and Marketing so when I look at product development I am typically using logic to define how a potential product will satisfy a gap in the current product offering. In other words, by analyzing the final consumers “needs” and “tendancies” I can better design the product so that it is what is referred to as “fit-for-purpose”.
What I have learned over the past couple of years is that while functionality is critical to the overall success and durability of a product, buyers more often than not will choose a product that is also asthetically pleasing to the eye. This comes as no surprise really as we know that good Industrial Design is also key to the successful longevity and impact on the market.
So what does all of this mean? Let me explain by a series of questions you should ask yourself before embarking on the PD journey.
1) Who is the target audience (consumer)?
2) What is the problem that is being addressed with the propsed product idea?
3) What are the existing products on the market?
4) How are these products failing to address the defined market gap?
5) What are the decision factors the consumer uses to choose a product (i.e., weight, shape, size, color, simplicity, etc,…)?
6) What is the budget thresholds (not just the high limit but the preceived low value)?
While these are not the end-all, be-all list of questions but, they more often than not will shed some light on the direction you need to be going in. What you will find is that questions 1 through 4 will be defining the customer and problem while 5 and 6 will help in creating needs analysis. The final question I wrote above about budget is an interesting one. You may immediately think that the purpose of this type of question is to define the maximum amount of money the consumer is willing to part ways with in order to solve the problem or market gaps. This is only partially true. Planning to price an item as the lowest in the space will also be trouble. You must think about your product as highly valuable in terms of addressing a need and then pricing it accordingly. We refer to this as “Value Pricing”.
Question 5 is where good Industrial Design comes in handy. To make a product functional is one thing but also making it attractive and sexy, this is what differentiates 2 products through the eyes of the consumer. If you lack an artistic eye for design, it would be well worth consulting with an Industrial Designer to have them help make your product most widely accepted by the final consumer.
These are just some things to be thinking about when you start to develop that next great invention idea.
As always, please share your comments with the world by posting a question below.
Probably the most important step in invention validation is the patent research. The purpose of performing such study will not only bring to light some of the competitive products and what specifically they claim as innovative but, it also will determine if you can pursue your idea without infringing on an existing patent.
The entire patent system is incredibly cumbersome and intimidating to most people and frankly, the search tool is very difficult to understand so I wanted to help shed some light on how a patent search is normally performed.
Step One: Gather a detailed summary of what specifically your idea does and more importantly how it works (or the planned mechanism to the best of your ability).
This sometimes is easier said than done. I often have clients that will come to me with an invention idea but, they have not fully envisioned how it will work (meaning mechanically). They know what consumer problem or need it addresses but, as far as the detailed workings are concerned they have not gotten that far. In order to perform a good patent search you will need to have done some upfront work in conceptualization or at least a good sketch to show how your product will function.
Step Two: Start with a basic keyword search.
This is sometimes the easiest step to help narrow the search down. What I recommend is starting with an online search tool such as Google Patents (http://www.google.com/patents) and type in a 3-8 word phrase that best describes your product such as “Adjustable Hair Dryer”. Normally, this is will yield a long list of results based on the most accurate matches. You will normally only need the first couple of listings to see how the similar “prior art” or previously filed patents are categorized within the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Google Patents Search Tool
Step Three: Identify the best fit Class and Sub-Class categories.
After finding some relevant matches you now can see how they have been categorized within the USPTO database. All patents are stored in a Class/Sub-Class style of organization. This means the classification for the product type and the below more detailed category. If you look at a patent you will see the “Current U.S. Classification” listed as shown below. The first number is the Class and the second is the Sub-Class. Using tools like Google Patents you can also click these numbers and you will be directed to a definition listing at the USPTO.gov website. Once you have made it to the definition page, there will be a red letter P that signifies all patents filled under this Class/SubClass. Click the P and you will then see all patents.
Google Patent Selection with Highlighted Areas of Interest
Displaying all Categorized Patents
After looking through a number of matching patents I will normally save the PDF versions to my computer to more thoroughly review them later on.
Step Four: Dig deep to find flush out any overlapping prior art.
This is the part that is often best to have an expert assist you because the standard patent language is often very “lawyer-friendly”. However, once you have your set of patents to look through there is really only two areas of interest that need to be reviewed; Drawings and Claims. The drawings are a graphical representation of an embodiment of the invention and can help you in understanding the language that is written in the claims. The claims are the set of specific characteristics of the invention that are thought to be unique and therefore patentable. You should start with claim 1 and read through it slowly to see if your invention at all covers the same details. If not, proceed to the second claim. Claims can be written as independent or dependent (based on a previous claim). For this reason, if the primary claim appears to be different from yours then under most cases, the subsequent dependent claims can be skipped. You would continue this process with all relevant prior art until you have clearly identified all concerning claims. The other thing to note is that while there may a patent in the system, it doesn’t mean it is still valid. The Inventor must stay current with the required maintenance fees to keep the patent active in the system.
NOTE: while a patent search is important, there are still no guarantees that a Patent Examiner will approve your patent. The proposed invention must be truly novel and non-obvious through the eyes of the reviewer.
Step Five: Proceed on or back to the drawing board.
Don’t be discouraged if at first you find some existing patents that appear to be blocking you in your pursuit of product development. This just means you need to further refine the product design or add some unique functionality that is not already covered by the existing products. This would be a good time to consult a seasoned Industrial Designer or Product Development Consultant to help you get back on track.
I hope this has been informative to my readers and if you have any further questions, please submit a question in the comment section below and I will respond.
Best of luck to all you Innovators and Entrepreneurs.
If you are an Entreprenuer with a great product idea but, have not made any progress with the development, my company Odyssey Solutions can help. We offer a full turnkey suite of services to help turn that great idea of yours into a product. All while you retain all intellectual property. To see our full list of services click the link below.