March 31, 2020 Last updated March 18th, 2021 1,262 Reads share

What’s Involved in Creating a Prototype?

Image Credit: DepositPhotos

Getting a prototype made for your product is an essential step between the design and production processes. Before you can make a start on production and start marketing your product to the public, you’ll need to refine your design and come up with a working model. Depending on the product, a basic prototype could even be made with household materials. But there’s no end of 3D printing firms, CNC machining services, and other places that can build you a solid prototype in a short amount of time. In order to get your prototype made and get the answers that you need from it, you need a well-thought-out design and a company that is the right fit for you. 

Designing Your Product

First of all, you need to design your product. Start with the following:

Consider Competing Products

Unless you’ve managed to come up with something completely unique and original, chances are your product is going to have some competition. Get those products and thoroughly examine them; take them apart if you have to. Look at all the materials that are used and determine how you can improve on not only your own design but theirs. For software products like apps, explore the coding and find ways to improve and make your product more successful. Just don’t copy the design – incorporate what you learn to refine your own.

Make a Sketch

Write down or type out ideas for your product. If you can, draw or get somebody else to draw what your product is going to look like. This will help you get a rough idea of how the first prototype is going to look and allow you to quickly notice any issues or flaws in order to improve the design as much as possible before you invest in prototype building. Use your sketch to determine the features that are necessary for your design. When it comes to prototyping, you should choose the few features that are essential for your design to function and limit any expensive extras.

Get a CAD of Your Prototype

A professional can help you obtain a computer-aided design of your prototype, which will be more detailed compared to your sketch. It’s this design that you will need to give the prototype manufacturer in order to ensure that they have the clearest and most detailed idea of your product.

Create a Handmade Version

You may be able to make a small version of your prototype at home in order to save money. Sometimes, a physical product can be made from household items that you have spare. This sample design of your product may make it easier to explain to both prototype manufacturers and investors, and will also help you refine your design even further.

Use a Modeling Program

Thanks to technology, you can also use computer software to put together a digital prototype. There are various software options that you can use to turn your idea into an interactive 3D design yourself. Try programs like InVision or Prototyping on Paper, which allow you to upload designs and create interactive models that mimic how users will handle your product.

Building Your Prototype

Once you’ve got the design side of things nailed and have made any necessary refinements and changes, it’s time to invest in getting the first prototype built. You should:

Find a Prototype Manufacturer That’s Right for You

Making a prototype involves a lot of different factors including injection molding and rapid tooling, assembly, and labor. All of this can often make it expensive. Do some research and find a prototype maker that fits your budget. You may be able to save both time and money by opting for a prototype maker that offers services like online CNC machining. Rapid Direct offers online prototype manufacturing and rapid prototyping services. You can read more about their services here.

Protect Your Design

When consulting with prototype companies and finding the right option for you, be sure to ask about their credentials and view a portfolio of past work, in order to make sure that your prototype is going to be good quality and true to your design. Even if you already have a patent, trademark or copyright, it’s a wise idea to have the company or designer sign a non-disclosure agreement before you hire them. This will serve as legal protection in the event of your design being stolen.

Consider 3D Printing

3D printing is rapidly expanding and it’s often used these days for making prototypes. It uses CAD designed from with computer-made or scanned 3D models to layer materials and create a working prototype. There are many firms offering 3D printing as a simple and often less expensive alternative for making a prototype that you might be able to take advantage of depending on the type of product you are manufacturing. You can even get a 3D printer for your home if you want to take the route of doing it yourself.

Getting Funding

A good prototype will make your product more appealing to both your target market and any potential investors in your company. You may need to pitch your product idea to outside sources in order to make the production of your product a reality; you can do this in several ways such as finding investors through networking, pitching your product to investment companies, or crowdfunding. Remember that the better your prototype is, the more chance you’ve got of securing the funding you need.

Get Pre-Orders and Fill Them

Once you’ve got the above steps completed, make as many of your products as you can sell. During the prototyping stage, it might be worth taking pre-orders for your product from customers who are interested in buying it, so you have a better idea of how many of your products you will need to make. Be careful not to make too many as the initial construction cost of a prototype can be very expensive, so you don’t want to end up stuck with a large inventory that you are struggling to shift. And bear in mind that as you try to sell your product, you will likely need to go back and make updates and improvements to the design.

Using your Prototype For Market Research

The main aim of a prototype is to get a working model that represents what your finished product is going to look and act like. It should only contain the main features of the product in order to give yourself, your target market and potential investors a clear idea of what to expect without being too costly to produce. 

There are several ways that you can use your prototype for market research. Ask members of your target market or people who are experts in the specific field to try it out and provide you with honest feedback on what they think and any improvements that they would suggest to you. Find people who would be willing to buy it and ask how much they would spend and what you can do to encourage them to spend more. If somebody wouldn’t buy it, ask them why and if anything would change their mind. Use this information to make improvements during the manufacturing process. 

Creating a prototype is a crucial step to turn your idea into a product that can be sold.


prototype design -DepositPhotos

Isabella Goode

Isabella Goode

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