Producing the first products for a start-up can be an exciting and challenging process. It is important to have a clear understanding of the product design and the manufacturing process.
After the design is outlined, the first step is to create functional prototypes, which can be made using 3D printing and by handcrafting methods, like metalwork, milling, lasercutting and soldering. This helps to finalize the product design to the last millimeters and it will uncover any potential problems that need to be addressed before mass production begins.
Once the prototypes are complete, the next step is to create 10-50 functional samples using similar methods as for prototyping, which is often metalwork, 3D printing or vacuum casting. Vacuum casting can imitate injection moulding, resulting in a sample that is 99% identical to the mass-produced product. These samples can be used for user testing and crowdfunding. By creating functional samples, a start-up can ensure that their product design is as good as it can be before high volume production begins. It may seem like a step that can be eliminated, but creating these samples can reduce the financial risk involved with injection moulding.
Finally, the production of more than 500 units (but preferably at least 1000) will be made using mass production methods. This is where the scale of the production process really ramps up, and where a start-up will need to have a solid understanding of their production processes and supply chain management. By using mass production methods, a start-up can produce high-quality products in large quantities, which will help to reduce costs and increase efficiency.
In conclusion, producing the first products for a start-up requires a clear understanding of the product design and materials, as well as a well-planned production process. As a founder, you might not be able to see the full picture, but you probably can tell that it is a high risk, high return business where lots of businesses fail. With the right guidance you can reduce this risk: a designer, a sourcing agent, or a contract manufacturing agent work in your best interest. Unfortunately, most manufacturers don’t care about your business and can’t be trusted to give you the best advice. Therefore our recommendation is to work with people who are not far away from you and who have a track record of success.