1 of 4
Shells RPD International
2 of 4
D-Key RPD International
3 of 4
Headphones RPD International
4 of 4
SLS part RPD International
18 months ago Josh Valman founded Miproto — a way to make product design and development accessible to everyone — a website where you could upload all of your product ideas and have them developed and manufactured ready for market. The platform proved a success not only for the general public to which it was aimed, but also with small and large companies alike. This realisation lead to further research and the development of a new, commercially biased platform — RPD International.
Make yourself accessible
At 17 years old, Josh Valman was working in freelance product design, when he noticed a trend: “Many people were coming to me with their product ideas because I was accessible,” he explained. “It struck me that it was easier for them to come to a ‘kid’ and have him take on the work, than it was to sit down in front of a panel of designers at a firm and have their idea scrutinised to the nth degree. It was that spirit of accessibility that we embodied into the new company.
When the company went to raise further funding, the use by commercial users became more apparent. Josh realised that the same problems Miproto encountered when dealing with the general public were still going on in a professional environment — even big companies were dealing with terrible supply chains. “It would be taking them months and months to get things on the table. So by using the engineers and factories we had brought together for Miproto we created a platform for companies.”
“RPD powers design and manufacturing departments for companies around the world. It’s a platform for any company to integrate into their firm — for example TCT could run tct.rpdintl.com — anyone at TCT could log in and start working on a product they wanted to develop, have it priced, have it made into 3D drawings, rapid prototyped, or manufactured all the way up to a million units.
Many companies have in-house facilities and systems for product development already, but they’re complex and wrestling with legacy issues. Plus not everyone in that company can use them, as Josh explained: “One of the companies that is using the RPD platform has over 10,000 employees but only the ‘top’ 1000 employees has access to the manufacturing facilities. If one of the other 9,000 employees has an idea, it’s very difficult for them to interrupt the system and experiment.
“In that situation, they’re using RPD to power lower level teams. By validating ideas externally, before dedicating expensive internal resources, companies can greatly expand the number of minds contributing to corporate innovation. An idea doesn’t always come from experience. That’s 9,000 new contributors, with 0 new hires.”
The platform is also used extensively by creative branding and marketing industries. Creative firms are using RPD to power ‘IDEO’ like departments, producing and delivering physical prototypes and products as part of their service. The simplified process takes the expense out of manufacturing for these companies, allowing them to upload simple hand sketches and deliver physical products in a matter of days and weeks.
The Miproto and RPD platforms empower non-technical users to realise their products with the knowledge that the engineers and manufacturers they are tapping into are qualified and vetted.
“Technically everything done on the RPD platform is done ‘in-house’ by us. We have teams of engineers all over the world that are specialised in different areas — from a nuclear submarine engineer to graduate and undergraduate designers and engineers that are building a portfolio. We can associate the right designers with the right projects.
In terms of actually getting products made, Josh explained: “We have nine factories - five in the UK, four in China — that are specialised in different aspects of production, different materials, different production run lengths etc., we are expanding that network at the moment and looking for more international facilities for a global client base.
“At it’s core the RPD platform is an accessible closed-network of expertise in engineering and manufacturing. Each engineer is personally interviewed and the output of each factory is assessed to ensure it meets the standards people need and expect. We have around 300 applicants per position and would recruit maybe five people from that pool, so the quality is very high.
Augment, don’t replace
For larger companies and OEM, the platform offers the ability to expand their capabilities, rather than replace exiting facilities. “The end-game for the RPD platform is that any company could customise the experience with their branding, releasing it to their internal teams or even to end customers.” explained Josh.
“We found that a lot of companies were using Miproto — which was intended to be a consumer platform — just to have access to these facilities. We spoke to them and realised that something like RPD would make their life a lot easier. Big name brands really value their designers but a lot of them work in 2D and outsource the work of turning those designs in to viable 3D CAD and prototypes. This outsourcing is done with multiple companies, taking excessive time and money. RPD doesn’t replace any designer; it is simply a more efficient way to execute on ideas.”
“RPD differs from the Miproto platform in that there are local project managers — if you pay the enterprise rate you will have a dedicated person at RPD who knows all of the projects undertaken by your company and who can act as a liaison between RPD, the company using the platform and the departments involved in each project. The Miproto platform is more guided for individual people who have an idea and want help to get it made — there’s more hand holding.
RPD is available with plans starting from a £100+VAT monthly deposit. Each project is then priced and billed individually, based on an hourly rate and manufacturing costs. Josh explains “The monthly deposit is a way for us to make sure we always have enough project managers. That way, there’s always somebody you can call and say ‘help!’” He continues: “Effectively, the larger the monthly deposit, the more projects you can do in a month and the cheaper they are. We also have several corporate plans that include things such as dedicated internal project managers for the customer.”
The potential of the RPD platform is obvious for SMEs and larger OEMs alike. Specifically, the ability to either follow through an entire development cycle or just pick sketch-to-CAD, 2D-to-3D, CAD-to–prototype or prototype-to-production assistance could be invaluable in relieving bottlenecks for established organisations, as well as helping to push startups forward.
Accessibility and ‘democratisation’ are buzz words in the product development space at the moment, as manufacturing becomes more versatile and consumer demand for bespoke, personalised or customised products — across everything from fashion to healthcare — grows.