The Kai by Design Process

Over the years I’ve found that projects work out best when broken down into a series of concise steps. Moving through phases, like those outlined below, can remove excess cost and rework, and make sure that the final product meets all the necessary requirements. In order to reach a working prototype, I recommend the following phases:
Problem Definition or Product Manifesto
Why is this new product necessary? What’s the problem you’re trying to solve? What are similar products on the market, and how would you like yours to be unique? Who will your target market be? How many of this product do you want to produce in the first year – or the first ten years? These are questions I like to discuss with my clients right at the start of our relationship, to ensure I’ve got a good 50,000-foot view of their goals.
Specification Development
Great products start with clear vision, and we always need to spend a little time upfront defining the outcomes of the design. For each project, we have to discuss the overall size and weight, the cycles of use, how much weight the product should hold, and other practical details – quantiitative statements which are yes/no tests of the design. Of course, in every design there are trade-offs, so we’ll also need to discuss priorities in the design, looking at the importance of cost versus longevity, strength versus weight, and similar considerations – these are more qualitative, and will be considered on a sliding scale of cost-benefit.
Concept Development
We may have a great big picture concept, but to get started on the design, we have to explore the mechanical options and the other design details. I typically brainstorm a large number of design concepts, then send the best 3-4 concept sketches to you for discussion. With my client’s input, I’ll develop a more detailed set of sketches for a refined final concept, or if necessary expand the project with more iterations. Sometimes these concepts are simple hand-sketches on paper, but sometimes these concepts can be more complex computer models; always, the process has to scale to match the project.
Detailed Design
Taking the concept we’ve developed, I refine the design further with 3D models in SolidWorks and the selection of standard components (springs, screws, etc.). You can review the models with software I will provide (on most tablets, Macs or PCs), and I can incorporate a set of refinements so the final design is exactly right. For more complex designs, or designs with heavy aesthetic elements, I like to expand this part of the project to include multiple iterations of back-and-forth design, allowing us to work closely together to create a truly remarkable end design.
Realistic Renderings
Using the models generated in the detailed design, I create 4-6 photo-like renderings of the design from several angles and in several positions to clearly illustrate its aesthetics and functions. These high-resolution images can be used with PhotoShop to apply whatever background or surroundings you feel best display the design. Of course, we can also expand with more renderings if you like – and for some projects, where the goal is licensing the idea to larger corporations, this is the final and most dramatic step, seeing a design go from a simple model to photolike pictures. (More info on short-cycle concept designs coming soon.)
Prototype Preparation
In order to really test the design, we’ll create a 3D printed (plastic parts) and machined (metal components) prototype of the design. For the plastic components, I export STL files for printing and assist you with the process of ordering the parts. With any machined components, I have several sources who can provide you with bids, and I act as a consultant to help clarify the details. Of course, for the non-custom components, I’ll also provide a bill of materials with quantities of each component and links for purchase. With all the parts, you’ll have everything you need to assemble your first product and complete live tests.
Ready to move forward?
If you have a great idea you’d like to start taking to market, contact me today to setup a free initial consultation!