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Innovation is Difficult

October 31, 2010

Filed under: additive manufacturing,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 09:56

Creating a new product and making it a success can be downright difficult. The invention that is often required can be daunting. Jeff Disher, president of Disher Design & Manufacturing, discussed the subject in an article he authored for the September/October 2010 issue of Time Compression titled How to Achieve Success in Innovation.

Disher explained that only 50% of all patent applications were awarded in the past four years, according to the U.S. Patent Office. What’s more, he said that only 2% of all patents awarded reach the marketplace, citing The Innovators Bible as the source. He goes on to say that only 25% of inventions that reach the marketplace achieve profitable volume, according to the Product Development Institute. For all patent applications, only 0.25% are successful, so Disher put it like this: If you’re playing baseball, it’d be like getting a hit every 400 times at bat.

If you are an inventor or have an idea for a new product, all of this is not particularly good news. In fact, the odds are so much against you that I recommend you consider your options and decisions very carefully. Investors are well aware of these challenges, so financial support can be a very big hurdle. Be careful when using your own money because no one likes to lose it. I don’t mean to discourage you, but be vigilant and realistic.

The good news is that using additive manufacturing to produce some types of products is breaking the rules of product development and commercialization. If you can use additive manufacturing to avoid tooling, cost and risk are reduced to a minimum. Also, unconventional methods of marketing and distribution (e.g., Shapeways), make it far easier for someone to introduce a new product—if that product can  be produced by additive manufacturing.