The prototyping process for developing new products, while necessary, is still a long, expensive and often laborious process. When you think about how often a product needs to be redesigned after early prototypes failed to work or look as intended it’s almost shocking that new products are created at all. It isn’t uncommon for even the smallest of products to run through dozens of prototypes with twice as many design revisions being made. Even with timelines sped up with the use of 3D printing and rapid prototyping, the strain on companies and designers can be both financially and mentally draining.
Beyond any associated cost or design challenges there is still a chance that the designers are missing a major flaw that could cost a company millions of dollars if their product is sent to market. Even with multiple prototypes there is no guarantee, it is entirely possible that the people working on a design are missing something obvious that could prevent their product from working as intended. The risk associated with launching new products is the primary reason why many of the objects that we use every day aren’t always as functional or reliable as they could be.
When it comes to digital products like software or video games, the industry has a pretty good system in place to prevent poorly designed products from hitting the market. Beta releases are not uncommon, and they cast a wide net to pull in dedicated users to test early or revised versions and help find flaws or glitches that the design team may have missed. As a former Google employee who helped develop Google Chrome, Google Plus and Google Wallet, Bhold founder Susan Taing is quite familiar with the process and came up with the idea of using 3D printing to apply the beta testing model to the development of the physical products that she sells.
Bhold Labs gathers a dedicated group of product testers from all over the world and distributes 3D printable files for many of Bhold’s products, allowing them to print them out and test how they work in real world conditions. Products like iPhone holders, travel hooks and cord management devices are all evaluated for flaws by their network of volunteer testers, who provide their feedback with an easy to define and organize reviewing system. They are simply asked a series of questions about how the product worked, how they used it and the quality of the design using number rankings.
When Taing first started using her 3D printer to design and build small products she initially just asked friends to try them out. While they often provided her with invaluable feedback, she was aware of the fact that it was an unreliable and unsustainable testing model so she decided to broaden her testing group. She announced the Bhold Labs open-access beta testing initiative in 2014 at Maker Faire and invited anyone with a 3D printer to download and test her line of Bhold products. She quickly grew her circle of beta testers from a handful to hundreds, each with a different perspective and experience using her product. With this beta process her products can often go through almost a hundred different iterations before she settles on the final product design to be mass produced and sent to market.
While most of her products are made using traditional manufacturing technologies, she does sell 3D printed versions of many of her designs through Shapeways. Taing hopeful that eventually 3D printing will allow her to simply sell digital versions of many of her products, but she doesn’t think that the quality is consistent enough, nor are there enough materials available. But 3D printing still remains a major part of her product development cycle, and she recently partnered with Dutch 3D printer manufacturer Ultimaker to allow anyone with one of their printers to access her product prototypes.
Here is a brief video about some of the Bhold products available:
You can find the entire catalogue of Bhold products here, and you can sign up for Bhold Labs beta testing program here. Tell us your thoughts on this new service in the Bhold 3D Printing Tester Service forum over at 3DPB.com.
You May Also Like
3D Printing Webinar and Virtual Event Roundup: February 21, 2021
This coming week is chock full of webinars, with three a day for three days running. So without further ado, let’s dive right in! TriMech on Sweeps and Threads in...
The Future of Bound Metal 3D Printing for ExOne
Bound metal 3D printing is becoming one of the most productive metal additive manufacturing (AM) technologies for creating high-performance parts on-site. One of the few firms pioneering this emerging technology...
AMS 2021: The Gaps in Automating 3D Printing for Production
As exciting as all of the verticals discussed at the online Additive Manufacturing Strategies summit were, automation is a personal favorite as it addresses the gaps between 3D printing and...
ExOne (XONE) Releases Office-Friendly Bound Metal 3D Printer
The competition in Binder Jet is heating up. Just a week ago, Desktop Metal (NYSE: DM) announced the two-step bound metal Studio 2 System. By eliminating one step of the...
View our broad assortment of in house and third party products.