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15 Essential Acronyms for the Hardware Entrepreneur

This little glossary lists some of the most common concepts used by companies producing hardware. They will help you get things right along the process of prototyping, manufacturing and distributing your product.

Here they are:

BOM (Bill of Materials)

The complete list of all parts, components and materials needed to build your product.

Example: BOM Printrbot (Google Spreadsheet)

CM (Contract Manufacturer)

A Contract Manufacturer is a manufacturer that contracts with a firm for components or products.

CNC Machines

They are Computer Numerical Control machines tools, which means that the computer analyses your CAD model and send it automatically to the machine. These machines don’t require any crafting skills, but programming and the right configuration.

Read about the 5 keys CNC machines in a Fab Lab

Design intent

A first CAD design of your product to have some ideas about how it will look like.

Digital Fabrication

It is the process of fabricating parts from 3D models made on the computer. Pieces can be made with additive or subtractive fabrication technique but always require computer assisted designs (CAD) files and CNC machines.

DFM (Design for Manufacturing)

Design for Manufacturing is a way of designing your product to make it ready for manufacturing. It requires you to choose your manufacturing techniques beforehand. Pay a great attention to DFM guidelines once you pick your manufacturing process. It will save you time and money.

DFA (Design for Assembly)

Design for Assembly is the art of designing your product to make it as easy to assembly as possible. Some of the good practices are to reduce the number of parts as much as possible and to design parts that can easily move, get inserted or grasped. One of the big deal with 3D printing is its ability to avoid the need of assembly.

EMS (Electronics Manufacturing Services)

Contract manufacturers in the electronics field that not only make products, but offer assistance with the design and supply chain.

Lean Startup

A business strategy developed by Eric Ries that drastically reduce time and waste of resource while making the startup more responsive to consumer demand.

MVP (Minimum Viable Product)

MVP is not the Most Valuable Player but the Minimum Viable Product. The concept has been popularized by the “lean startup” strategy: “the minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

It’s a version of your product that you can test with early-adopters but not yet launch on the market. A great way to iterate and make your product ready for its market.

Open Source Hardware

Open source hardware is hardware whose design is made publicly available so that anyone can study, modify, distribute, make, and sell the design or hardware based on that design.

Rapid Prototyping

Rapid Prototyping is a group of techniques for quickly fabricate a prototype (scale model, parts…) using CAD software. CNC machines used for rapid prototyping can be: laser-cutting, 3D printers, CNC mill, CNC router…

RFQ (Request for Quotation) / RFP (Request for Proposals)

A document that an organization submits to one or more potential suppliers eliciting quotations for a product or service. RFP (Request for Proposals) are customarily used when the requesting organization’s requirements are more complex.

TTM (Time to Market)

TTM is the length of time it takes from a product being conceived until its being available for sale.


The usability is the ease of use of a product or a service for a human. It is different from user satisfaction and user experience.


There are many other important words for hardware startups. Which one should I add to the list ?

See you,





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