Hard tech is concerned with solving the most pressing innovation and engineering challenges facing humanity, consistently pushing up against the edges of our imagination. Hard tech is both difficult to create, and literally hard – a tangible device rather than software or code. At PCDworks we’ve developed a proprietary innovation process focused on hard tech – helping you solve the unsolvable.
Is the PCDworks process right for you?
If you’re wondering if working with PCDworks makes sense for your organization, feel free to reach out (we love one-on-one conversations), but here are some fundamental characteristics that likely make us a good fit for each other:
- Your idea or product is predominantly a physical “hard tech” product.
Our expertise in electrical and mechanical engineering, material science, and mathematical and multi-physics modeling gives us the ability to conduct testing and certification up to (1A) Intrinsically Safe UL levels. We also provide Design for Manufacturing (DFM) experience and connections for sourcing and manufacturing in China, Romania, Germany, and the US.
- Your idea has been externally vetted.
You’re not the only one who thinks it’s a great idea, but have received some encouraging feedback participating in accelerator or incubator programs, award-based competitions, or have attracted funding such as grants or venture capital.
3. You're willing to put skin in the game.
You're able to come up with some initial funding which may be augmented by our investors, depending on where you are in your development process and the strength of your pitch.
- You need help designing or building the prototype.
This is where PCDworks excels. Big ideas only matter if they work in reality. This is what we help you figure out with our process. Does your idea work in the natural world or are you trying to bend the laws of physics? Can we find an adaptive fix to a similar problem that plants or other animals have already solved for us? Has someone used similar technology but in a completely different industry or through an entirely different methodology?
For an idea to become reality, we must imagine, design and build a solution that works within the laws of nature, takes into consideration chemistry, mathematical probability, and materials science, and works with the human psyche, while being ethical, sustainable, and profitable. It’s a tall order, but it’s exactly this confluence of hard but fascinating and interrelated issues we love to geek out over.
The PCDworks Process
We gain our knowledge and reduce risk by forming a hypothesis and then testing the hypothesis, time and time again. We're committed to getting physical—fast.
Here’s a quick rundown of our iterative, multi-step, proprietary process adapted from Toyota's Knowledge-Based System, as detailed by Ikujiro Nonaka’s “The Knowledge-Creating Company,” in Harvard Business Review.
Our research goes deep and wide to illuminate all the angles of the problem you bring to us, covering everything from the fundamental science, patents, historical roots of the issue, past and current approaches, and competitors.
If we’re tasked with developing a new pump, we’ll consider how the human heart pumps blood versus how a giraffe’s heart does. What can we learn from nature, the world around us, even the universe, about the problem we’re trying to solve together? Our intense curiosity leads us down rabbit holes that often unearth the most fascinating insights and opportunities for creativity and innovation.
Immersive Ideation Session
We invite you to our 80-acre campus in East Texas for several days to fully immerse yourself in our creative process. You'll have access to our expert team plus 20,000 sq ft of resource buildings, including a guest house with a gym, offices, and our brainstorming studio. Together, we generate as many conceptual solutions as possible, then put them through our judgment funnel to reduce them down to the most promising three or four.
Preliminary Proof of Concept Testing, Engineering Design, and Prototyping
This phase allows us to refine our concepts and utilize cheap ways to test engineering designs, first on paper, followed by mathematical models. Once we start testing every part of a concept in the real world, we rely on several labs fitted with proprietary testing tools and apparatuses, and our prototype shop. Multiple 3D printers, two CNC machines, and even a small foundry to cast metal are available to you around the clock. Plus, we recently added a pick and place machine to populate our own PCBs to be more independent from supply issues brought on by the pandemic.
Full Concept Testing, Engineering Design, and Integrated Prototyping
We take everything we learned in the preliminary phase to build a testable prototype that incorporates our engineering design concept. While we were testing bits and parts before, now we’re ready to test a fully integrated prototype. We test the feasibility and reliability of the entire system in real-life conditions to prove out the entire solution. This prototype functions but doesn’t look like the end product. In other words, we only care if it does what it’s supposed to do, not that it looks sleek while doing it.
Whether we’re developing an infrared burger grill to reduce grill time and fat content, or testing a solar-powered floating device for water quality testing, we have everything we need to help you build anything. Yes, anything.
Design for Manufacturing
With a tested, working prototype, we now take our industrial design, the nuances of the market, needs of the audience, and budget requirements into consideration to develop the manufacturing design. That final design is once again tested for compliance and reliability with the goal to finalize a “go to market” solution that checks all those boxes and can be released for the first full production run.
How does this process separate us from the pack?
Most incubators or accelerators provide office space and mentoring that target early business development challenges - things like market analysis, financial modeling, pitch development, and business model refinement. Those are all important.
However, to maximize valuation, you must also make significant strides in developing your technology. Many companies and investors have shied away from hard tech, because it takes so much more time, effort, and money to develop, but at PCDworks the hard stuff is our sweet spot. We love getting into the weeds with you, so you can move quickly through technology readiness levels, develop robust solutions, and use capital efficiently.
Development and Commercialization Under One Roof
Once your initial prototype is built and tested, tap into our 25 years of commercialization experience to help bring your product to market. We’ve learned from our decades of experience that too many excellent ideas and hungry entrepreneurs fizzle out between building early prototypes and full commercialization (entering the market with a finished product). We’ve worked with large multinational corporations and small startups alike, so our process always includes mentoring from seasoned industry veterans who can advise you on how to combine the best practices of major corporate players with the agility and drive of a startup.
When you partner with PCDworks, we throw all our weight behind you, including our technical skill, personal passion, network and industry connections, and guidance on everything ranging from pitching and marketing to attracting funding streams, sourcing vendors, negotiating contracts, navigating legal and regulatory issues, and protecting your intellectual property.
Think your idea and company are a good fit? We’d love to talk! Contact us.
Get Ready to Fail: The 3-Step Learning Cycle of Prototyping
In the early 1900s, Thomas Edison and his researchers were trying to develop a new kind of battery. They had been working on the problem for more than five months when Edison’s long-time associate Walter S. Mallory came to visit. As Mallory recounted, he found Edison at a long bench covered with hundreds of test cells. The researchers had done more than 9,000 experiments with such cells, but still they had not found a working solution...