It’s often stated that 3D printing is useful for big companies to more efficiently produce prototypes, but it’s also essential for small startup companies, too.
We’re looking at the process used by Canadian startup Lift Innovations to develop their first product, “The Clipper”, an advanced herb grinder. The small company is really just a small group of designers and marketers looking to efficiently launch a new product.
By having access to 3D printing technology, they were able to quickly iterate through several different designs before they arrived on the final structure. Here you can see several generations of the design as it evolved.
Jesse Marr of Lift Innovations explains:
We started prototyping The Clipper at Assentworks in the fall of 2014, using the Fortus 3D printer. We went through dozens of redesigns and several prints before taking The Clipper to a local machinist, where we continued prototyping with 6160 aluminum.
3D printing has made our development process affordable enough to bootstrap our way to our crowdfunding campaign, launching November 24th. 3D printing has also been a time-effective way to test preliminary concepts without have to wait for a 3rd party to deliver.
You’d think a grinder would be a pretty basic thing to design, but apparently not. Marr explains further:
Traditional grinder are hard to use and herd to clean, causing your grinder to seize up and break. The Clipper uses a rotating stainless steel blade, and a patent pending wedge design to cut your herb, instead of mulching fine material into tight spaces.
Could this product have been developed in the past? Perhaps, but at far greater cost, as each iteration would have required the small company to invest in expensive CNC prototypes. Most likely they would have had a limited budget and thus limited prototyping ability - in other words, fewer prototypes to discover what works and what doesn’t. Worse, if they couldn’t get it right in a few iterations, they might not have gone any further. As it is, 3D printing was critical to their success and the product is available for order today.