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Highway1 and FATHOM take the startups on a tour of Bay Area factories

Every startup that comes to Highway1 plans to go to commercial production. But for many entrepreneurs, this is the first time they'll manufacture a consumer product. For this reason, we take our startups on a tour of factories around the Bay Area to introduce them to the world of manufacturing. This local tour is a preview of what they'll see when they head to China later in the program.

Today we feature a guest post about the Bay Area factory tours from Highway1 partner and advanced prototype fabricator FATHOM.

By Silas Alexander, FATHOM

Rapid prototyping techniques like 3D printing ignited a renaissance in hardware and encouraged new entrepreneurs to innovate with connected devices. This same convenience in prototyping can mask the complexity and scale of commercial manufacturing to an entrepreneur that has never shipped a consumer product. Helping startups bridge the gap from prototype to production is part of our mission at FATHOM.

“The sheer scale and size of the tools, and the presses, creates a sense of wonder for someone who hasn’t been at an injection molding facility before,” said Ben Bradley, SmartQuote Specialist at FATHOM. “It’s extremely important for these startups to understand the process and see it firsthand.”

Oftentimes, startups get comfortable with using 3D printing and other additive manufacturing technologies to develop prototypes through the iterative process, but there is much to consider when going from prototype to commercial production. FATHOM and Highway 1 frequently facilitate manufacturing tours like this one so hardware entrepreneurs can have a first-hand look at what goes into the tooling and injection molding process.

“This collaboration between FATHOM and Highway 1 provides a great opportunity for startups because they get to see real world examples of the product development cycle; from proof of concept models to actual production,” said Preeya Singh, Territory Manager at FATHOM. “It is important that these groups start conversations early on so companies like FATHOM can help mitigate a startup’s manufacturing risks, reduce time to market, and achieve a seamless transition from prototype to finished part.”

Seeing actual injection molded parts come through machine is key to realizing the pace and scale of production. This experience opens people up to the many realities that come with taking their design to production, and the risks involved if their design is not properly prepared for manufacturing at this scale.

“As we progress the design of our product to something that’s commercially viable, it was great to hear from the professionals in the room about what typical missteps are made as startups approach the manufacturing transfer phase,” said Tim Ahong, CTO of Sensassure. “Learning about both how much work is required after our design phase is complete—much more than we thought—and how to most efficiently bridge to production to complete that and to have the most successful commercialization process possible was extremely valuable.”

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Highway1, a division of PCH, is the premier hardware startup accelerator, located in San Francisco. We look for great hardware startups, with an exciting business idea and a compelling prototype. We help you design products that deliver real value to customers, that are delightful to use and that can be manufactured at scale.
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