New product development is what stimulates commerce. And nothing succeeds like new products that really impress customers. This is the lesson of Apple Inc., and its legendary products the iPod, iPhone and iPad. The lesson here? Selling stuff is not difficult when you’ve done your product design homework.
So why doesn’t every company make great products? Because it takes time and costs money. And the financial analysis usually goes along the lines of: if we are going to sell X product we can’t afford to spend more than Y to develop and manufacture it. So there is a big issue about how much new product development is allowed to cost.
Personally, I think there is a hidden fallacy in the logic here. If the financial projection is based on product X, is there a calculation that defines what happens when the product is truly superior? How many extra units of sale occur beyond the projected amount when the product is really outstanding? Does the seller get to charge a little more for excellence? Those are difficult questions for marketers to answer.
The primary goal of this discussion is to focus on a strategy for cost reduction in new product development. The opportunity presented by the 3D printing revolution is the ability to quickly and inexpensively produce prototype parts before machining takes place. Test assembly of parts for fit and functionality allows developers to validate parts before a final decision is made to manufacturing a part. Lowest cost manufacturing strategies can be explored quickly given the fact that 3D printing can iterate parts in hours instead of the weeks that having a machine shop would take.
With an in-house printer, iterations can be done in hours. Time is money in this context. This is what makes 3D printing so valuable, not only are parts low cost, but you can make changes on the fly in hours. This means time to market is reduced as well.
The lower cost of this aspect of the prototyping process makes it possible to experiment in the process without the concern about cost building up. This also makes it reasonable to explore alternative solutions. The more possibilities that are considered, the more likely that there will be a breakthrough that no one else has considered.
These explorations may lead to solutions that have exceptional performance, but may lead to unique manufacturing strategies as well. So the best products in the market may also be more profitable as well. This is the kind of innovation that we need to grow on.