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Frequently asked questions

What should I look for in a designer?

A good designer will add value to the design in terms of function; aesthetics are important but realistically form should follow function — the design should look good but it must also work!

Production costs are generally also a driving factor, the correct materials and manufacturing processes for the volume required can be critical to the success of a product.

The best designs are simple and as such are easier to protect more broadly with IP (Patents etc.).

What is 2D/3D CAD drawing?

Computer Aided Design (CAD). The drawing is easily transferable and less prone to incorrect interpretation being drawn accurately to scale. Most suppliers today require a drawing in digital format to produce components, this applies to a local UK supplier or one in China.

Different materials and processes require different manufacturing standards for the supplier to work to. These ensure the quality required is to the correct level.

There is no substitute for experience... it is advisable to check that your designer has the necessary experience in the particular process you need — or you may end up paying for the learning curve required for them to catch up.

Do I need to develop a design before production?

Yes. Development is critical to the products success.

Can the idea be manufactured? Can the cost be reduced to realistic levels for initial batch sizes through to mass production? Can the components be rationalised for lower stock levels? Is the idea safe? Will it meet current appropriate legislation?

There are many questions to answer; having a 3D rendered image is perhaps the easiest stage to attain. Having answers to some of these questions enables an easier route to investment if it is required, and importantly means less time to market.

Do I have to prototype and test my product?

If the design is required to meet current legislation the prototype will often need empirical testing by a third party such as an UKAS approved laboratory... simulations give confidence that the tests will be passed first time.

Finite element analysis (simulations for loading) saves time and money to do this, it allows the bench marking of several designs allowing a more efficient initial prototype.

Whilst prototypes can be expensive, 3D printing is making this cost more acceptable and now offers varied material options from plastics to metal.

How do I source suppliers?

Finding a good supplier can be surprisingly difficult.

Having experience in specific industries and a previous working relationship with suppliers makes this task painless – it can otherwise be a lucky dip. If you don’t have these advantages then recommendations from someone who has is invaluable.

Do I need market research?

Absolutely. Know the market size and competition — will the product sell with the proposed USP? What cost level is this being aimed at?

Market research is perhaps the first and foremost task any design requires before any large development investment, and most certainly prior to patenting. However there is a certain amount of chicken and egg scenario involved here with the idea. Having a basic understanding of the design and costs are necessary before you are able to investigate a market. An initial design concept may allow the design to evolve based upon subsequent market research.

When do I need a patent?

We would suggest that any design is checked against current patents prior to serious investment in a project. Market research is undertaken to ensure a market exists or a new one can be made — this must be done without the design being broadcast in any way. Remember that your idea may not be patentable if there is any prior art on the subject.

Once the design is substantially developed and you feel confident of the design viability now is the time to look for protection.

Patenting the design prematurely may mean re-writing the patent to suit the latest design; substantial revisions could mean a completely new patent and therefore further costs.

Perhaps more importantly, the closer to marketing and selling the idea that a patent is pending, the more protection you gain. You have 12 months once the application is made before it is published. During this time, any possible competition cannot be certain of what is actually covered by the patent and therefore will be unlikely to risk infringement.

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