Successfully bringing a new consumer product to market requires the right combination of capital expense, launch timing, and level of acceptable launch risk. Traditionally, successfully mitigating these barriers to entry has been extremely difficult for small companies because one or all three of these variables become too unavoidable and prevent the product launch from being successful. But by leveraging additive manufacturing technology (e.g. 3-D Printing), the winds are starting to shift for many small companies, and traditional product launch difficulties have never been more conquerable.
Small growing companies are now able to reduce upfront capital expenses, take their products to market faster, and significantly reduce launch risk through the use of high-quality additive manufacturing.
3 Tips for Launching Your Consumer Product with Additive Manufacturing
1. Reduce Upfront Capital Expense
Traditionally, taking a new product to market requires a major capital expense up front, justified through market research, in order to obtain the first units to sell. Custom, bespoke, products aren’t created from existing tooling or assembly processes. For many products, the cost of the tools and gauges can greatly exceed the expected revenue generated for the first years of a products life. This fact alone will prevent many products from ever going to market.
In these cases, additive manufacturing can be a great tool to reduce launch expenses, for two reasons: first, whole products or specific product components can be created without the use of expensive tools, and second, manufacturing tools themselves can be created using additive manufacturing methods at a cost point that’s much lower than traditional tools.
Additive manufacturing can also reduce costs by removing the need for some of the product assembly because moveable pieces and connections can be printed, already connected and functional, without assembly. Currently, there are limitations to this, but the quality and capabilities of these applications are constantly improving.
2. Get To Market Faster
In many scenarios, the company with the best profit margin or lowest price point doesn’t capture the lions share of the market. Often, it’s the company that gets to market first that wins the market and is in the best position for sustained success.
Traditional manufacturing processes that require upfront tooling development can significantly extend launch timelines and it’s not uncommon for simple tool manufacturing to take upwards of six months. But by taking advantage of additive manufacturing techniques, a company can take a new product to market in a fraction of the time, compared to the time it takes to procure traditional tooling, perform the necessary quality tests, and produce the first units.
Furthermore, while additive manufacturing, in its current cutting-edge state, isn’t a long term production solution, it can be a very useful stopgap to get to market while your long-term production tooling is being manufactured.
3. De-risk Your Production Launch
It takes hard work and careful preparation to take that first unit to market, but your commercial launch story doesn’t end there. The winners and of a marketplace are defined by those who can continue to supply a given product customers want without interruptions. Many companies that hit stumbling blocks early during their new product launches didn’t have the foresight to develop a supply chain structure and processes flexible enough to allow them to quickly pivot as they receive marketplace feedback, or to pilot ideas on small scale before a large-scale launch.
In many cases, by using additive manufacturing processes, a company can explore both scenarios. For instance, components built using additive manufacturing processes can adjust designs based on market feedback at a moment’s notice. Traditionally, if a design change is desired, it’d be very costly and time consuming because expensive production tools would need to be re-cut or scrapped altogether to facilitate the required change. In addition, using additive manufacturing to produce low-volume samples for market testing prior to launch can greatly increase your confidence that it meets the market’s needs before a large-scale launch.
Additive manufacturing has many benefits that can help mitigate the impacts of cost, timing, and risk in your commercial product launch. All companies creating plans to take new products to market should seriously explore ways they can exploit additive manufacturing to out-maneuver their competitor sand win more market share.