Identifying a Problem
A few springs ago, Tom, an avid gardener, planted seeds that did not germinate. This was because the unusually frigid overnight temperatures that spring caused the plants to die before germination. Disappointed in losing his crop Tom started diligently working on a solution.
Finding and Testing a Solution
After much thought Tom developed an ingenious idea borrowing from the greenhouse concept. He envisioned miniature shelters that could individually enclose and protect each individual seed and plant from the elements. He also designed 4 pyramid style walls that could be independently opened. This allowed the gardener to gradually “harden off” the plants by increasing the exposure to the cooler temperatures over time. Tom then made a proof-of-concept prototype to test his theory and it worked!
Product Design Evolution
However due to the shelter being very small they did not hold the heat through the entire night. To solve this problem Tom added a water filled bladder base. The suns light would heat the bladder throughout the day and then slowly release the heat through the night, keeping the seeds and plants warm until the morning.
Engineering, 3D CAD, Costing
Feeling that his concept was well developed and validated Tom hired us for the preparation and filing of his patent application. For the next year, Tom introduced his patent-pending invention to manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to see if there was interest in a manufacturing partnership or reselling his product. After talking with many people Tom was encouraged but felt he needed to develop his product further.
Having taken his product development as far as he could himself he approached us to assist him with the design and construction of a high quality prototype. Though Tom had already made a proof-of-concept prototype there were still a lot of variables that had to be figured out such as the best features, components, materials and methods of attachment for the base and side walls. After several months of research, collaboration and vetting various designs and features we agreed on a design for the prototype. Here is the first prototype we built for Tom.
While there were things Tom liked about the prototype, the general agreement after examining and testing it was that it could be further improved. Finding areas of change and improvement once a prototype is physically made and tested is very common. Based on the tests, we collaborated and brainstormed a new version of his product. There were several improvements with regard to component design, materials, construction and methods of attachment.
"It is amazing to see how far my invention has come since working with Dirt Cheap Prototypes. DCP has been with me every step of the way from concept to retailer acceptance. They have been there to sound out ideas, as well as instructional in ways to improve my system. Communication is fantastic. Open discussions are common and productive. I would recommend Dirt Cheap Prototypes and staff to anyone looking to further an idea that they have."
Tom D. - OR
Other Interesting Facts & Tidbits
1st Prototype lessons
Tom and our team pushed hard to complete the first protoype project in the fall so he could submit it to major gardening Resellers for consideration in their spring publications.
However when we examined the prototype together we did not feel it was quite ready for commercialization.
Taking a collective deep breath we took what we learned from close examination and testing of the prototype and brainstormed the new prototype.
The 2nd prototype was much improved. After some minor adjustments we went into production together. Tom has received his inventory and already has retailer interest in carrying his product.
Communication from Client after Receiving 2nd Prototype
"I see what you mean on the size of the clips. I have to go out of town today but will be back tonight. I am going to cut one clip into 4 pieces and see if it doesn't make it easier to get the sides closed.
I think we are very close to the final concept. It may be just adding a slightly bigger tab to the walls and using 1/2 to 1/3 of the current sized clip to slide on to it.
Funny how it is coming full circle. You had mentioned that though.
Looking forward to talking Tuesday."
Virtually & Physically Prototyped +Manufacturing Coordination + Retail Package Design
Engineering & Design