After years of trying and failing as an entrepreneur, suddenly everything went in my direction. Much of it is luck, but I also believe my experience played a role. Here is how easy it can be done.
In my position as a product development engineer, I used 3D printing a lot. I found it amazing how you can turn an idea into a solid product in hours. So, in October 2015 I bought my own printer, a MakerBot Z18.
I used it to help out on my existing projects, but one day I decided to invent something new. Something simple and useful. I have too many balls in the air at the same time to keep my garage and workshop tidy, but I really like it when they are. I looked down in my box of ratchet strap slings, and it was a mess. I know why. It is great when the slings are rolled up and ready for use, but it just takes too long to roll them up. Ok, there was a problem. A good start.
In my imagination I can build a machine and test it in seconds. I can picture it with its moving parts and I can change parts in no time to see how this affects the output of the machine, but before I try to imagine the solution, I always analyze the problem. I analyze it to its simplest fractions and end up with physical theories from Newton, Pascal, Bernoulli and so on. Then I can start building the solution in my head.
To get the idea out of my head, I build the solution in CAD software. Then I can present it to others and adjust, correct, and improve it, until it becomes usable. Everything up to this stage is fairly cheap, and I can do it mostly myself. Normally, this is the point where it starts to cost money, and tings are beginning to consume a lot of time. The next step would involve prototyping and buying services like machining from others. The 3D printer changed all that.
On the evening the 2. November 2015 I started to work on a solution for my ratchet strap mess. I used my order nary recipe – analyze – imagine – CAD – and now 3D print. I did all this in one evening. The 3D print took about 6 hours, so I didn’t get to test the solution before the morning after. It worked perfect, the first time. I have a lot of tools in my garage, but my MakerBot is now, by far, my favorite.
The post continues below the images.
I started showing the webbing roller to friends, and they asked if I would sell them one. One person asked if I could make a larger one. The one I made was to roll up 1” straps. This is the type normally used on car trailers and cargo vans. I then designed a bigger one that could be used for 2” straps, the type normally used on flatbed trucks, and in industry in general. This one took 40 hours to print, but it came out perfect, and worked great.
To see if there was a market for these tools, I started to showing them to possible distributors. I asked them to sign a non-disclosure agreement first, since it wasn’t patent pending at the time. The distributors loved it and I offered one of them the distribution in Norway if they made an order large enough to cover the patent application, production of injection molds and the first production. To cover these costs, they had to order 10 000 sets, and said they would do this if they got the distribution in Scandinavia. I said yes and the order was signed 06. January 2016, two months and 4 days after I started working on a solution.
As I write this blog post the injection molds are being machined, and we will have injection molded product samples in week 7. If we accept the samples as they are, the lot of 10 000 sets will be delivered in week 10. I am now looking for distributors outside Scandinavia.
If you like what you just read, maybe your friends will too, if you share it with them?