Hardware Is Hard, But It Doesn’t Have to Be
Creators walk through the nitty gritty of product development at CES
Hardware Studio Live took the expertise of independent hardware creators to the CES floor, sharing not just what cool new tech is out there, but the nuts and bolts of how it gets made. Here’s what four makers had to say about what to look out for when it comes to getting your hardware startup from dream idea to a real life product:
Creator: Omri Yoffe, CEO
Product: Lifebeam, an artificial intelligence personal trainer for your body and mind
On creating hardware for “the Olympics of hardware” – wearables: “We went through probably hundreds of versions—and I’m not kidding. We started with a very different form factor and ended up with this current one.” Yoffe said each one of those were to adapt to not only the difficulty of designing something for comfort in a multidimensional environment—the human ear—but not sacrificing accuracy and data for that comfort. The takeaway? A smart design process and a willingness to prototype—a lot.
On picking the right manufacturing partner: “We had three main battles that we fought: hardware, software and content. I think the most brutal battle was hardware because we were creating something that no one else had ever created.” This is a battle many creators face, but Yoffe said the key was having a partner you could trust with open communication to manage the process. “We created a very tight relationship with our manufacturing team. I think the key guideline I would give to makers is to have an in-house understanding of what’s being made on the outside. You’re not just delegating things and waiting for them to fall together in two months.”
Creator: Dr. Mike Butera, CEO
Product: Artiphon, a digital multi-instrument (one instrument that can be played as many)
On picking the right sensors: “There were a few design challenges with the sensors. One was basic sensitivity … the ergonomics and the haptics of the interface overlay were a big deal to us, and then having the sensor respond to that. The next step is pressure sensitivity, getting a dynamic range in there so it’s what your fingers want to do. It’s all about connecting human anatomy through the technology,” according to Butera. He said that they had to be flexible, using certain products that were customarily saved for wearables in order to make their project work.
On shifting from prototyping to scalable manufacturing: “One of the unique things about this is that we spent about four years of R&D on this prior to launching. We went through about seven prototype generations from industrial design and interface. We progressively got much closer to it. We were still doing 3D printing and soft molds for the Kickstarter launch but we were working with manufacturers to figure out what was possible.” Many projects work with 3D printed pieces and then have to be remade in order to scale. Focusing on scalability early helped Artiphon succeed.
Creators: Bruce Shapiro, CEO and Micah Roth, COO
Product: Sisyphus, a kinectic art sculpture embedded into a table
On how communities can help get products to market: “As soon as I joined this maker space, everyone said, ‘You have to meet Micah.’” Shapiro talked about maker spaces and how bringing his experience with merging machinery and artwork with Micah’s technical knowledge helped really make this a product that could actually be launched in market. Leveraging a community of individuals whether in person or online can help not only validate an idea but also give you new partners or initial backers as a support system through the product development process.
On having to scale—fast—when demand outpaced supply: “We spent a few years in the maker space prototyping iteration over iteration in the maker space. Then we started thinking about making a hundred of those,” Micah said. But when they got to Kickstarter, the order went from 100 to 1,500—the most successful art project ever on the platform. “That drastically changed our plans … When you get a surprising response you weren’t suspecting, your plans on how to fulfill needs to change.” Having backup plans and second sourcing for parts of the technology were crucial to changing the scale of what needed to be produced. Although Sisyphus did this post-launch, a thorough design review can help give you those plans ahead of time.
All this was knowledge just from one day of Hardware Studio Live at CES. To catch recordings on all the products and experts, check out https://live.hardware.studio/. For more on what Avnet has to offer makers like the ones above, and makers like you, check out our resources for makers.