While a lot of startups operating today produce software-based solutions, more and more companies are tackling the everyday problems we face using hardware. Nest with its smart thermostats is a very good example of a startup that leveraged hardware solutions to solve energy efficiency problems in households.
Today, more startups are following in Nest’s footsteps, especially with hardware development becoming more accessible. The tools are widely available, hardware platforms and boards are easier to develop, and prototyping is easier than ever. Before you jump straight to realizing your hardware product ideas, however, here are a few things you need to know first.
One of the key advantages of developing a hardware solution today is that you have simulation software helping you every step of the way. It would be a waste not to utilize those apps to help you get your product idea to its mature state.
When designing a circuit board, for instance, you can test for conflicts and efficiency in a virtual environment; most of the time, that virtual environment is available on the board design app directly. This eliminates the need to produce the actual boards for testing.
The same goes for component clearance. By simulating the board or hardware as a 3D unit, you can check if the components fit well together, and whether the board is easy enough to assemble in an efficient way.
It is also a good idea to source components early. The design of your hardware should be influenced by not only the parts required to get it working but also the availability and pricing of those parts. Without early sourcing, moving from prototyping to production can be difficult.
We discussed how you can source electronic components in a previous article, but a lot has changed since. Today, you don’t have to jump through hoops to find a capacitors distributor from Octopart that can provide steady supply and offer reliable parts.
The sooner you source your components, the easier it will be to build prototypes and prepare for production. You will also have the opportunity to compare parts based on their capabilities, prices, and overall form factors.
Lastly, it is highly recommended to start prototyping early. Despite today’s simulations being incredibly reliable, some things cannot be fully simulated, such as user experience and how users actually interact with your hardware solution.
Thanks to 3D printing, circuit board printing, automatic assembly, and other technologies, rapid prototyping isn’t a problem. It is not only quick and reliable but also very affordable, even to smaller companies and individual inventors.
When you have a prototype in hand, you get to test how the device feels when used. This too is an important part of developing a hardware-based product. Your future customers are more drawn to products that look good, feel good, and function well when used.
Combined, the three tips we discussed in this article will help you take even the most basic hardware idea to its mature state, and from the mature state to production. You can get the product into the hands of excited customers in as little as a few weeks with the resources available today.