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[Image from Inventaholic]

Perry Kaye is a great inventor I met at Maker Faire Austin in 2007. Recently, we have had several conversations about the process for bringing a product to market. He has set up a site around the idea of inventing for regular people.

Invention is not always about money. For many of us inventing is primarily the quest for discovery and advancement. Fun seeking also plays a major roll. No, it’s not always about profit. Because attempting to monetize every inventive product is silly. Superman does not require a Visa Card before he’ll rescue you.

And right now, the World needs an ocean of Super-men/women (i.e. heroes) who help first and worry about money later. How do we inspire philanthropic inventaholics?

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[Image from Inventaholic]

One of the great things that I recall from our conversations is the idea of having a process for creating designs that solve a problem.

  • Identify the need. There is some problem that needs a solution.
  • Gather some information: What do you need to know about the problem?
  • Build a working prototype of your solution. Gather whatever materials make it work.
  • Test it out and get some feedback: How well does it work?
  • Then onto the manufacturing process: Identify the techniques and processes to actually make some working models of the device.
  • Create a process for making 5 to 10 copies of the design
  • Create a workflow for making 50 to 100 units of the design
  • Create another plan for making 500 to 1,000 units of the design.

By having a decent design, and a plan for making the design in various quantities, you can make your design in however many units you can sell. If you get an order for 20, run your plan for 10 twice. If you get an order for 4,000, run your plan for 1,000 four times. If you need more that that, hopefully you are making money off of it and can hire out for parts of the manufacturing process.

Well, you see, Perry is an Inventaholic. If you feel like you might or could be an Inventaholic, then make sure you come play with him at the Inventaholic Prototype Playground at Maker Faire.

Chris Connors

Making things is the best way to learn about our world.


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Comments

  1. Jim Tobias says:

    I would add a step as part of “gather some information”: find out what people are doing now to address their need. In the pen-holding case, there are dozens of solutions out there already, both commercial products and DIY. Occupational therapists work on things like this all the time. I’m not saying there’s no room for innovation, just saying that input from a diverse and mature profession might be a good idea before inflicting a brainstorm on someone. In fact, some solutions may further damage the user’s hand or arm, or prevent rehabilitation. I’m not throwing cold water except to rinse off the glitter.

  2. hurf durf says:

    because making a profit off your ideas and hard work is so gauche.

  3. Dustbuster says:

    “because making a profit off your ideas and hard work is so gauche”

    …or because some people are extremely poor (think the developing world) and need support but cannot bear the burden of your profit margin. Focusing on the profit motive can be very useful and powerful, but it means that important problems that need solving for which profit is difficult or impossible (or negative) get put to the bottom of the priority pile.