We were asked by a client recently: “Why do I need to get a prototype made of my product? Can’t I go straight into production?”
The prototyping stage is one of the most important parts of the product design process. Prototyping your product will actually save time and money overall, so we would always recommend that getting a prototype made.
A prototype is essentially a physical 3D version of your product or part. It is a replica of how your finished product will look and feel, and possibly even perform (if it’s a working prototype rather than just aesthetic).
The prototype could be a DIY version, made out of cardboard or other materials readily available, or you could employ a prototyping company like us to professionally make it for you.
Depending on the product being developed and the materials it’s made of, the process to create a prototype can vary. We will typically use a 3D printer which uses different types of plastics (with different properties). It is possible to get prototypes made in other materials such as wood, metal and fabric.
Our MD Simon recently posted a video about the importance of prototyping in the product development process:
As Simon described in the video there are 3 main reasons for prototyping – all of which will save you time and money on your overall project. There will be a cost involved in getting the prototype professionally made, but the benefits far outweigh the cost.
Working with 3D CAD and photorealistic renders give us an excellent impression of what a product will look and perform like, but nothing really compares to holding the product in your hands and being able to examine it. When your product is ready for manufacture there may be expensive tooling costs, depending on the design. If you were to get the tools made without checking the design first, it could be a very costly mistake to make. Making a prototype allows you to make iterative changes to the design – a much more time and cost-effective method.
Secondly, having a prototype allows you to test the functionality – making sure that any parts fit together correctly, that it is durable and won’t break. It is far cheaper to conduct these tests with a prototype than with final production parts.
Finally, having a physical prototype means you can get feedback from real life customers. The feedback could be positive or negative – both are valuable and can provide some great insights, which you may even use to refine your product design. Again, it’s much more cost effective to make these changes now rather than later in the production process when you’ve invested into tooling.
You can also show the prototype to investors and board members – you’ll be taken more seriously when presenting a prototype rather than just a concept or an idea.
Prototyping is an essential stage of product development; it’s why we invested into a rapid prototyping machine (3D printer). We bought our Prusa Research printer at the start of 2020 and it’s been used on almost every one of our projects since.
If you are creative, you can choose to make a DIY prototype, which will give you a rough idea of what your product will look and feel like. It’s a relatively low-cost option and will give you an indication whether the product will be manufacturable. But in order to test it properly and to make sure the product will be fit for purpose, you will need to have the prototype professionally made.
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