When you are trying to take an idea and turn it into something real you follow a general process. The more complicated the product then additional steps are added. What is more complicated? A basic product is a solid or hollow piece of something. It could be metal, wood, plastic, etc. If there are multiple pieces and they need to fit together then you just added complexity. If those pieces need to be water proof then you just added complexity. If you need to insert circuit boards then you just added complexity. If it needs to connect to a power outlet, transmit wirelessly, be fire resistant, etc. then you add complexity. The point here is complexity adds cost, time and risk of failure into a project. Complexity aside there is a general start to finish process for taking an idea and moving it out to the market.
Here is a basic outline:
1. Create a business background document (what is the industry, who buys it, what is the general industry pricing) READ ARTICLE
2. Functional definition (what does it need to do)
3. Design specifics (general requirements on durability, use, etc.)
4. Industrial design (usually using 3D CAD software)
5. Mechanical engineering feasibility (just make sure there are no hidden "gotchas")
6. Electronics engineering feasibility
7. Patent/trademark filings (if you want, this can be skipped and a search on preexisting patents can be conducted)
8. Engineering design (the specifics to build it)
9. Prototype development (you try the concept out and make changes, sometimes repeats many times)
10. Manufacturing cost determination (including build of materials cost, labor costs, Non-recurring engineering costs)
11. Manufacturing and tooling quotes
12. Marketing/Sales/Distribution (which can start once you know manufactured costs)
13. Certifications (such as FCC or UL approval)
14. Packaging (this includes product labels, boxes, manuals, etc.)
15. First production and test
16. Full production
17. Logistics (where does it need to go and when)
18. Field failures and returns issues
As you can see from the list above there is a lot to do. Some people will start their process by filing for patents. In my opinion this is a mistake. The specifics and little details that the engineers will come up with may hold a wealth of ideas you'll want to patent. Usually if you start with patents at the concept stage then you'll have process patents. Process patents tend to have lots of conflicts with prior filings and they tend to be difficult to defend if it comes down to a suit. The actual engineering specifics tend to be more likely to be approved by the patent office and can be the biggest barrier to competitors.
In future articles we'll start to explore details on these different steps.