After her young daughter spilled Cheerios all over the back seat of the minivan for the (last) time, Melinda Shepard shared the idea of a “spill-proof bowl” with her husband Brad, an engineer. Brad Shepard turned to the engineers at Enventys, a “one-stop shop for inventors,” who used 3D printing technology to turn Shepard’s bowl-in-bowl concept into the Gyro Bowl, a marketable end-use product.
Charlotte, N.C.-based Enventys provides the integrated resources inventors need and helps them turn great ideas into real products. Services span from industrial design, engineering and prototyping, advertising and branding, interactive and Web, video production and public relations.
Ian Kovacevich, vice president of engineering and design at the company, gives an inside look into his part of the process: product styling and prototyping. “Once the ideation process has taken place, we validate it through consumer research and style the product from sketches to 3D virtual CAD modeling. After conceptualizing several different styles, we build out the leading designs with the Dimension 3D printer and take one to market.”
For the Gyro Bowl, the design team produced a series of builds on the Dimension machine, each more defined than the one before. In fact, the final iteration was so similar to the end-use product that they used the Dimension-produced prototype as a demo for potential retail partners. The Gyro Bowl is now launching in several markets including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Europe with retail, online and TV direct response campaigns.
Feeling the 3D Difference
“Often times, it’s impossible to make final judgment from a sketch. People can look at a rendering or 3D CAD on a screen, but, sensibly, they’re not willing to make a tooling investment decision based on a rendering,” said Kovacevich.
By allowing customers to touch a physical prototype, Kovacevich can communicate clearly and quickly to determine whether or not the design is on the right track. “You can’t say ‘yes’ to an idea until you can say ‘yes’ with your eyes closed. We need the reaction from physical touch – too big, too small, too fiddly.”
Before the Dimension printer, Kovacevich found it problematic to quickly test ideas with minimal setup. “We sent 100% of the parts to outside bureaus but explored alternative options when we realized what a day is worth in cost,” he said. “Now, we can justify running parts several times a week. And it’s also a sales tool. We give several tours a day through our offices and the 3D printer is often a favorite stop for potential clients.”
“Having the printer speeds our process, which is essential considering we are hired based on our ability to move through the design process quickly and efficiently,” he continued. “The printer has helped us in our work tremendously. We work all day and print all night. Parts are ready in the morning, and then we’re able to make adjustments to the design through the day and repeat.”
Aside from the Gyro Bowl, Kovacevich has found numerous uses for this 3D printing technology. “We use the Dimension 3D Printer for a broad range of applications, from simple models to more complex test parts used to qualify function in safety certification standards – and everywhere in between.”