Do you have an idea for an electronic product that you know will sell? Do you know how to create it?
Back in the days, my friends Olav and Elias and I were certain that we had a revolutionary product idea. We wanted to develop a touch-less controller for games, so that you could play games with your body as the controller.
We had learned a lot about circuit design at the University, but had very little practical experience. And we had never developed an electronic product before.
So many things could go wrong…
“What if we sell the product to someone and it fails after just a few days? We would look so stupid! We would lose so much money! Our reputation would be ruined! People would be angry with us! Oh no!”
These were real fears, because even though we were able to make something that worked, we had no idea how to make sure it worked for a long time.
So, how do you go all the way from idea to a finished, sellable product you’re confident about?
Step 1: Proof Of Concept
Start by developing a proof-of-concept.
This is a simple version of your idea that demonstrates what you want it to do.
If you do this first step correctly, it can make the rest of the steps easier and cheaper.
You can create your proof-of-concept by:
- Modifying something existing into doing what you want
- Using standard modules and pre-made software connected to do what you want
- Develop a simple version of the circuit yourself
This is a fun step!
If you’re just starting out, I recommend you brush up on some basics for this step.
The result from this phase is often a clumsy, awkward device that looks horrible – but shows the concept of the product.
Step 2: Develop Electronics
It doesn’t matter if you’re an experienced electronics designer that wants to design the product yourself, or a complete beginner that wants to hire someone – this steps becomes much easier and cheaper if you’ve developed your proof-of-concept from the previous step.
Then you need to get some prototypes made. It doesn’t have to be very expensive. Here’s a nice tool for comparing prices of getting prototypes made.
You probably have to go a few rounds here before you have the final design to manufacture.
Step 3: Develop The Enclosure
Ok, so you have the electronics down.
But, for most end-products you want to have an enclosure for the electronics.
Start with something simple. You could for example make a plastic project box.
Unless you know what you’re doing, you should probably get some professional help to create the final version of the enclosure.
Where To Can You Learn More?
I often say that electronics is fun, simple and cheap. But when developing a real product, it can get a bit complicated, frustrating and expensive.
But it doesn’t have to be.
John Teel has written an excellent article describing how to develop a new electronic product for the market. If you’re serious about developing a new product, it’s a must-read.
He offers a service where he will analyze your product idea and give you a cost estimate for developing it. He’ll also help you develop your product with fixed prices you can see up front.
Anyway, to finish of the story of our “revolutionary” product idea. Before we had the chance to launch our product, Microsoft launched the Kinect and took the world by storm.
Suddenly our idea wasn’t that revolutionary anymore…