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The power of forward-thinking!

- by Matt Stevenson

Innovation comes in many forms and from many places these days.  In 2019 Popular Science rated some of the most important gadget innovations as 5G Cellular, HTC's VIVE Pro Eye, Apple's Pro Display XDR, DJI's Osmo Pocket, and so forth.  Other than electronics what do these gadgets have in common? They all contain innovation and PCBs.  They see a need that is not being served, a platform that can be improved or an exciting direction to take something and they make it happen. 

Paramount in all of this innovation is the ability to concept, design, prototype, and build an effective project that will be accepted in the market place.  Today’s innovators need to be skilled in so many disciplines or have these resources available to them in order to be successful.  Disciplines like mechanical and electrical engineering, PCB design and layout, PCB assembly, troubleshooter, product design engineering, marketing, and sales just to start with. 

What cannot be lost in all of this is planning and forward-thinking, without it, you could be the proud inventor of one of the most infamous launches in history: like the Amazon Fire phone, Google+, or New Coke®.  Any product without market research, product validation, patent searches, prototyping, product feedback, and iterative improvement is destined to be less than successful and may never get out of the drawing phase.  Innovating is hard work and to develop a product that is going to be successful in the market is very hard, but not impossible.  

For many people, the joy of innovation comes in the tinkering and building of a working prototype in their garage and thinking outside the rectangle to create something successful. For countless others, it fails and ends before it begins.  Take the time upfront to do the legwork to really understand what people want or need, how many of them are there, are there other products or patents that satisfy this need, talk to people, they may be able to help improve your concept, but don’t be afraid to pull the plug if the research is not showing that there is a viable market for the product.  I have seen many examples of a product going to market and failing because the inventor was convinced that it was a home run and ignored all of the signs pointing to bust.

Once you have done your research and planning and have determined that this is a good idea, now comes the fun (and the cash investment), and building the prototype.  Designing a product and getting it to something tangible that you can have people interact with, touch, and feel.  Sometimes this can be done in your shop by taking pieces from existing products and combining and/ or modifying them; other times you need to build it from scratch.  Based on the interactions between the prototype and the people in the target market is where the true improvements occur.  The more people that can see it, touch it, and play with it, the better the feedback and the better the end product will be.  Yes, it may take time and several iterations but ultimately will be worth the effort.   

Be an innovator, make cool things, design the next biggest thing, solve a problem, design a PCB; but don’t forget to think ahead and do your research and avoid the dreaded flop. 

Stay safe out there.


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