Imagineering, Got Ideas?
Updated on:  Thursday, December 17, 2015 01:46 PM

Walt Disney is credited  with having coined the word "Imagineering."  
As used in the title, Imagineering Ezine, it means: "the imaginative application of engineering sciences." 
Perhaps a more simple definition would be: "
being creative with engineering

View of Imagineering:  Fringe Science & the Lone Inventor   -   The Creative Person
Searching for New Ideas  -   Steps in Product Development   -   Ideas Lost & Found

I am contacted regularly by "inventors" or companies who think that they have a "better mouse trap."  They are excited about their ideas and are eager to take it to the market place.  The advice I give them is to slow down and do their homework. In order for a product to be successful, a series of product development steps must be followed.  It is better to take the it one step at a time time than to rush a product to market.  A wise inventor or company save time and money by taking time to properly develop the product.  It is costly to fix problems when the product is in the hands of consumers.

The steps outlined below were first included as a handout in an information package from a lecture I gave several years ago at the Rocky Mountain Inventors Congress in Denver, CO. I developed the list as a check list for moving a product from the concept stage toward full scale production. I hope you find it helpful.

I. Describe your product idea (Use a good laboratory notebook)

A. What does it do? What are its features?
B. What is it made of? Plastic? Wood? Metal?
C. What does it look like? (Make sketches)
D. What makes it unique or different? What need does it satisfy?
E. What are its advantages over existing products?
F. Who will buy it? Who will use it?
G. How will it be marketed? How many could be sold? Price?
H. What involvement will the inventor have in the product?

II. Product idea evaluation and market analysis

A. Technical evaluation

1. New or existing technologies?
2. Special plastic, metal or electronic parts?
3. Hazardous chemicals or materials?
4. Fire, electrical or environmental safety considerations?
5. Special approval? (U.L., FDA, FCC, EPA, FAA)
6. Special manufacturing methods?
7. Will the product have to function in harsh environments?

B. Legal evaluation

1. Can it be protected by patent, trademark, copyright?
2. Does is infringe on existing patents?
3. Does the idea violate any laws?
4. Is there a big product liability risk?

C. Market analysis

1. Do similar products exist?
2. Will large sales promotional efforts be required?
3. Is the market potential sufficient for investment?
4. Is the market trendy or seasonal?
5. Will special salesmen training be required?
6. Can the product be quickly cloned?
7. Will special product sales displays be required?
8. Does it depend on other products?
9. Will special service centers be required for repairs?
10. Is there a large profit margin?

D. Inventor evaluation

1. Does the inventor have the financial resources?
2. Can inventor obtain financing?
3. Will the inventor be able to spare the time?
4. Does the inventor have the necessary experience?
5. Does the inventor really want to develop product?

III. Preliminary Design and Engineering Specifications

A. Specify operating modes and features, life expectancy
B. Specify operating conditions, (Temp, shock, vibration)
C. Specify product size, shape, materials
D. Rough package design
E. Rough electronic circuit block diagram
F. Perform technology research if required

IV. Product Development Cost Estimates

A. Electronic Circuit Design labor
B. Mechanical package design labor
C. Prototype construction and testing labor
D. Materials and equipment
E. Computer programming
F. Complete system documentation labor
G. Marketing and promotional costs
H. Patent searches and patent applications
I. Company startup costs

V. Obtain preliminary development financing

A. Personal savings
B. Bank loan, second mortgage
C. Friends, relatives, etc.
D. Venture Capital
E. Limited partnerships
F. Public offering

VI. Design first working prototype and physical mockup

A. Approx. size and shape of finished product
B. Circuit design to satisfy specifications
C. Human engineered controls, attractive appearance

VII. Construct first working prototype and physical mockup

A. Breadboard electronics, hand wire, wire wrap
B. Wood or cardboard physical mockup
C. Separate electronics if necessary

VIII. Test Prototype

A. Correct operations
B. Meeting specifications
C. Temp., humidity, shock vibration sensitivity
D. Battery or power supply variations
F. Worst case conditions, component tolerances
G. Human engineered controls
H. Obtain potential user comments

IX. Obtain Additional financing

A. Show prototype to investors, use non-disclosure form
B. One year grace period to file for patent once disclosed

X. Design second revised prototype and physical mockup

A. Incorporate all necessary revisions, revise specs
B. Revise documentation

XI. Test second prototype

A. Test against revised specifications
B. Estimate manufacturing cost

XII. Design pre-production model

A. Add required revisions
B. Update all drawings

XIII. Construct pre-production model

A. Develop assembly procedures
B. Develop preliminary test procedures

XIV. Test pre-production model

A. Make sure everything fits
B. Perform shock, vibration tests
C. Demonstrate units to prospective buyers
D. Take promotional photos
E. Submit units for U.L., FCC, FDA approval
F. Estimate manufacturing costs

XV. Design production model

A. Finalize all drawings
B. Write operations manual
C. Design and build test fixtures and burn-in rack
D. Design shipping box and sales display

XVI. Construct Production model  - use assemble procedures
XVII. Test production model

A. Make sure everything works and fits
B. Revise written assembly procedures
C. Finalize operating specifications
D. Revise manufacturing cost figures
E. Determine selling price
F. Test market product

XVIII. System documentation

A. Schematics
B. Mechanical Drawings
C. Material lists
D. Printed circuit board artwork
E. PCB component layout
F. Assembly drawings
G. Assembly procedures
H. Test procedures
I. Test fixtures schematic, burn-in rack
J. Circuit description
K. Product operations and instructions
L. Quality control procedures
M. Product service information
O. Promotional and sales brochures
P. Shipping boxes

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