IdeaWorks FAQ

Obviously the information on this site is somewhat generalized and as such, you may still have a few questions to ask before moving forward.  We’ve outlined some common questions in the search-tool below.  Feel free to scan through the list and of course, contact us directly if you cannot find the answer you seek.

Tooling is so expensive, can I just order 3D printed parts instead?

Years ago, we used to build prototypes by machining parts on a manual /CNC mill, or by hand-fabricating the parts using shop equipment.  When affordable 3D printing hit the scene, we embraced the quick-turnaround and low cost nature of the process.  However, its very important to understand that though 3D Print technologies  (like SLS, SLA, FDM, etc) create parts that “LOOK” just like plastic injection molded parts, they actually pale in comparison where strength and durability are concerned.  In short, Rapid Prototype plastic parts are fantastic for fit and finish, but far more brittle and intolerant to impact than their injection-plastic counterparts.

I just need a prototype, can you help me with that?

Absolutely!.   Prototypes these days are most commonly generated using rapid prototype machines (which are basically high-end 3D printers).   This equipment needs a 3D model to evaluate before it can build tangible geometry and that’s where we can help.  We’ll work closely with you to develop your parts in a “virtual” environment that lets us collaborate and refine the concept as a whole.  Once you’re happy with it, we’ll send the exports over to our favorite service provider (or one of your choosing) so they can give you a quote for the printing (AKA “growing”) of your parts.  We’ll also help you source any parts that are off-the-shelf; and assembly the parts so you have a complete and functional product to test and show.   Because every product is different, this general overview is abstract at best; so be sure to give us a call to talk through some of the specifics.

I want to create some renderings / animations for marketing, can you help?

Absolutely!  In most cases we can take your existing CAD documents and apply materials and lighting in a way to really showcase the best attributes in a CG environment.  The photos that we generate are very often indistinguishable from actual product shots, and much easier to capture (thanks to the infinite control of lighting, cameras, and other variables in a CG environment).   Nearly every image you see in our portfolio is actually a CG illustration!

Can you help me show my create user manuals and guides

You bet!  In most cases we can take your existing CAD documents and either render them to a photorealistic state, or a purely illustrative (i.e. cell shade, half tones, outlines, cross-hatch, etc).  Once the models are prepared, generating various views and animations becomes quite simple and far more cost-effective and visually “perfect” that trying to take photos or drafting the views by traditional means.stion coming soon]

I just need some nice product pictures of my product, not CAD, can you help?

Sure thing!  For project that only need illustration (not production CAD documents) we’ll create mockups in a 3D environment that are visually correct, but non “functional”.  Think of them like the computer-graphic equivalent to stage-props.   We also have access to enormous libraries of pre-made content that we can use to add additional objects to the product shots to give them added realism, but which don’t require our own labor and time.  In a nutshell, if it can me imagined, we can probably render it.

I already have a CAD design, but need some simple changes, can you help?

The short answer is “Yes” there is a lot that we can do to help you get the updated files you need; but qualifying the word “simple” will depend on the format and condition of the files that you have available.    For example, If you’ve got source files (*.sldprt | *.sldasm | *.slddrw) then making changes is generally very easy.   In most cases, its also easy to make changes to export formats (*.x_t | *.STP | *.IGS),  However, if the only files you have available are in a protected format (*.easm | *.edrw | *eprt | *.pdf) then we have no way to directly import the geometry, and therefore the parts will need to be reconstructed.    Sometimes we can find workarounds to the general rule, so its generally best to let us review your files first hand before settling on a course of action.

Can you make changes once the product is in production?

Absolutely!  Its important to note that there are two kinds of changes that can be made to your existing tooling: “Steel-safe” and “non-steel-safe”.  “Steel-safe” changes generally mean steel is being removed from the mold (which means plastic is being added) and these are the easiest changes to make.   “Non-Steel-Safe” changes mean steel needs to be welded back into the mold and then re-shaped, which is very common but not as easy for the tooling engineers to complete.  Since “Steel-Safe” changes are always preferred; we go to great lengths to assure that your design adjustments are thoughtfully executed to minimize the complexity of the change and subsequently, your expenditures.

How do you handle design changes?

If your question relates to Billing, we simply track the time it takes to apply the changes and invoice accordingly.

For CAD file management; we follow industry-standard practices for keeping track of revision states.  When we release a production packet, we note all of the exported files with a “Rev-A” (Revision-A) status.  When changes are made to any of the parts, that part gets a new revision letter (“Rev-B”).  Additionally, the assembly file (which contains a revision table for each part in the assembly) also gets its own increase in revision to reflect the updated table.   

I just want to sell my idea, can you help me with that?

We can certainly help you create an appealing presentation for your product, and even take it though a round or two of Industrial Design refinement so that the concept presents itself as a polished and market-optimized idea with easy-to-see viability.  We do not have connections in place to sell an idea on your behalf, but rather we can help you maximize the designs value.

My factory requested me to seek a Designer before they can proceed, why?

In all likelihood, this is a polite way of saying “Your current design isn’t yet optimized for tooling and fabrication”  or “The current design is too complex and its cost-prohibitive to built it as-is.“.   We see quite a few projects in this stage and are happy to report that its generally very easy to review and refine the design for tooling compliance and and fabrication-friendliness.

My factory says I need 3D CAD, is that something you do?

Absolutely!  These days, production toolers, fabricators, and even prototype service bureaus all require the same exact ‘3D CAD solid-models’ for their software and CNC machines.    Solidworks has evolved to be the industry standard for parametric solid-modeling and it’s been our undisputed tool of choice for over 16 years; nearly every project we develop leaves our studio with a complete 3D CAD production packet.

Can you help me find suppliers?

Absolutely,  We’ve been doing this long enough to meet some great people in the industry that share our sentiments on design and client relations; and will happily connect you directly with them so that you can gather pricing info and maybe even a source your tooling and production.

What happens when IdeaWorks is finished with the design?

Following the CAD development stage, we typically push for a prototype that allows everyone (including you) to evaluate the overall design for fit and finish.  Once complete with the prototype stage, we typically hand you a production packet ( which is a complete set of fabrication-ready “blueprints” and tooling exports) so that you can begin the process of tooling and production.  If you don’t have a supplier already in mind, we have some fantastic resources that will get you started.

Can you help me design a website?

We’ve been known to design a few few websites here and there but in truth, our core skill set mostly relates to Industrial Design and Product Development and as such, were just not the most cost-effective resource for designing a web presence.  If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you could explore a WordPress (which is very easy to learn and amazingly well supported with 3rd party integration) or simply locate a local graphics artist who can build a site to your specification or your vision.

Can you help me design a logo?

We’ve been known to design a few logos here and there but in truth, our core skill set mostly relates to Industrial Design and Product Development and as such, were just not the most cost-effective resource for designing logos and brand identities.   Additionally, the advent of fixed-price logomills  has made getting high quality, custom logos extremely easy.

Do I need a business plan?

If you’re trying to start a business entity and solicit funding, A Business plan is often a helpful way to sell story or investors and banks.  However, to kick off the design cycle for a new product, a Design Brief is far more appropriate and useful.

What do I need to begin the process?

Some of our clients have come to us with little more than a napkin sketch; while others have arrived with fully functional proof-of-concept mock-ups.  It really varies but generally speaking, its best if you can spend a little time qualifying your needs and project requirements with a complete Design Brief as that will allow us to hit the ground running.

How can I get a patent?

Patent paperwork for submission is available at the USPTO office but in all honesty; we’re highly recommend seeking the advisement of a patent attorney or patent group like LegalZoom.   Many words int he english language have both a common meaning and a legal meaning; and only someone educated and experienced with Patent law can tell you the proper verbiage to get you the most bulletproof coverage.

Do I need a patent before I start the design process?

Not at all, In fact there are a lot of benefits to waiting to secure your patent until after we’ve completed the Conceptual Exploration and Refinement stages of your project.  Its not at all uncommon that we stumble on a really novel feature idea or new application that can be added right to your patent claims.

How do I protect my idea?

The most common measure our clients use to protect their ideas is to seek out a patent.  There are a number of patent types and each has its own pros and cons; so its generally best to seek out the advice of a patent attorney or a patent group like LegalZoom.

Will you steal my idea?

This is probably the most common question we get, and the answer is a resounding NO!  We’re strictly a design service provider and the bulk of our work comes from repeat and referred clients; Stealing ideas would not only get us regularly sued, but would destroy our referral network.   We even post our pre-signed NDA right on our contact page so that uneasy clients can put into place a contractual agreement before they even pick up the phone.

Can you help me find investors?

Not directly, but we frequently help our clients build impressive presentations and illustrations so that they can make a powerful impression with the investment audience they seek (be that angel investors or crowdsource funding campaigns).

How long will it take?

The turnaround time, like the costs, are really dependant on the complexity and component count of the product.  Its also important to note that because we leave the door open to continuous and ongoing design review throughout the development process; sometimes redirections or scope expansion can play a part in the overall development time.  Regardless, we make it a point to continually track the budget and also keep you well informed on the outlook on any deliverables directly ahead.

What do I get for the money I spend?

It really depends on where you want to go with your product.  For most, a production-packet that contains everything a fabricator would need to tooling and manufacture is the desired deliverable.  For others, its little more that rendering and animations to help spice up a presentation or trade show event.  Regardless, if you let us know where you want to go, we’ll suggest the deliverables that make the most sense (both logistically and financially).

Do you ever take on profit-sharing / joint-venture projects?

Unfortunately No, we do not typically co-invest or ask for rights in lieu of billable time  because it creates a conflict of interest in terms of billing and ownership rights.

How do you charge?

We bill on an hourly “time and materials” basis, that is invoiced every 2 weeks under ‘Net-15’  terms.  To kick off we typically ask for a retainer-deposit that is later applied to the open invoices.

Are estimates free?

Absolutely!  We’ll provide you not only with an estimate, but also a complete step-by-step breakdown that explains how and why we came up with the estimate cost.

How many products have you designed that I might recognize?

Quite a few!  If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our Portfolio Gallery as it showcases quite a few of the projects that we’ve worked on over the years.    Some of out past work has to be kept in confidence so obviously isn’t an exhaustive list.

How much will it cost?

We work strictly on a time-and-materials basis, so the costs associated with any given project are solely dependant on the complexity and part count.  Once you bring us up to speed on the project and where you hope to take it; we typically compose a complete roadmap for the design and development that not only serves as your’ project estimate, but also our milestone task list.