Rapid commercial prototyping company, PiMios, has built a disruptive business model around decentralization. Founder and CEO Nick Anthony discusses how rapid commercial prototyping is gaining traction.

PiMios, a rapid commercial prototyping company, has built a disruptive business model around de-centralization. Through a distributed network of experts in manufacturing, engineering, design, sales and business development, the company allows clients to leverage the innovative strength and problem-solving muscle of an army of engineers. Founder and CEO Nick Anthony talks about how rapid commercial prototyping is gaining traction – and why.

FIRST OF ALL, WHAT IS RAPID COMMERCIAL PROTOTYPING?

Rapid commercial prototyping is an emerging methodology that allows a company to speedily test a market with a new product, or technology, to validate assumptions, gather feedback and scale for production if the pilot is successful. It bypasses more cumbersome traditional R&D to quickly prove whether a new concept for a product has promise.

It also removes the risk for focused companies to develop a product that's already proven ? instead of gambling tens or hundreds of thousands on traditional R&D that may or may not succeed. Rapid commercial prototyping allows mature corporations to operate “quick-and-nimble,” just like smaller, innovative companies. It means no more sinking six- and seven-figure budgets into R&D cycles that may not deliver ROI.

Consider when a company hits a "prove-it" wall: Clients ask for evidence that a design will succeed. The more radical and bold the design, the bigger a problem this is for the frustrated designer. Here is where rapid prototyping comes in. During each iterative test of the emerging prototype with the user, the process generates bits of data that the client can see and gain confidence from.

WHO IS TRYING THIS AND HOW HAS IT PAID OFF?

GE has invested in rapid prototyping centers and microfactories in Kentucky and Pennsylvania. They have a focus on additive manufacturing, specifically for appliances. They’ve focused on crowdsourced innovation and have enjoyed success with product innovations for conventional ovens. TechShop is a fast-growing company with locations across the country that house rapid prototyping equipment. Their core user-base is made up of entrepreneurs who want to develop products quickly and get to market. The payment company Square started at TechShop and saw $1 billion in sales in 2014.

IDEO, founded by Tim Brown, markets itself as a global design and innovation consulting firm. They house their own internal silo of engineers, designers and equipment where the company generates prototypes. IDEO has a reputation of high quality deliverables and is geared towards high net worth clients.

WHY WOULD AN ESTABLISHED COMPANY CONSIDER OUTSOURCING R&D OR AUGMENTING INTERNAL R&D?

The best rapid prototyping firms can:

• Remove risk of new product development;

• Leverage big data analytics to gain insight into consumer behavior to identify the trends that lead to breakthrough technologies;

• Reduce the number of cycles to bring a new product to market, enabling a company to go from concept to market-ready prototype in 90 days or fewer;

• Allow a client to pay for a deliverable instead of gambling on an idea developed internally; and

• Empower clients to operate with more agility like smaller, more aggressive companies.

HOW DO YOU NAVIGATE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY?

To ensure a client's intellectual property is protected, rapid prototyping companies can employ the same safeguards used by contract manufacturers and military designs, such as modularizing the design so that each piece does not disclose enough information to replicate easily. The other option is to open source the design if no new intellectual property exists in the development
so you get many more eyes on a single problem, providing robust support and security.

HOW COULD RAPID PROTOTYPING SHAPE THE MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY AS A WHOLE?

This approach allows manufacturers to take advantage of development of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. In 2013 the IoT market was $3 trillion, and by 2020, it is projected to be $7 trillion.

It also creates more connections. Rapid prototyping companies act as a sales force for manufacturers by driving business to them for the development of new products and devices for clients outside of their existing portfolio. Rapid prototyping firms also leverage contract manufacturers to scale the prototypes for production.

Many rapid prototyping clients are Fortune 500 companies who do not specialize in engineering product innovation. They already have the marketing and distribution channels available, which means they can support a product launch, but they do not have the production capabilities to experiment with new technologies that rapid prototyping firms can provide. Rapid prototyping creates an option for those companies to outsource the development of new products, putting more innovative solutions on the market and challenging more companies to try harder.

The end result is an industry that is more nimble, creative and innovative ? a win for manufacturers who aim for better than status quo, and a win for consumers who benefit from companies competing for their business. Based in Pittsburgh, PiMios is a rapid prototyping firm that helps companies innovate their products to increase revenue and/or market share in their segments. We source teams of engineers, makers and hackers to deliver a marketready prototype.

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