What is a Prototype and How to Make a Prototype

As a hardware manufacturing solution provider, we’re often asked to provide detail information about prototyping, ranging from what is a prototype to how exactly are prototypes made.

In this post, we’ll share with you some of the very basic information you need to know about prototype. By doing so, we hope that you’ll have a better idea of how prototype can help you save money, get funding and make it easier get a design patent.

What does it mean to prototype something

When we talk about the prototype of a product, we usually mean the sample or a model for the testing of a concept. There are 3 mains types of prototypes that we usually refer to:

  • A conceptual prototype shows you how your product will look like in the product development process;
  • A functional prototype helps you test how your product will work; and
  • A production prototype designs and manufactures a product as close to the product delivered as possible.

These 3 types of product prototype serves different goals at different stages of the product development process. The conceptual prototype can be just a rough draft of your final product,  while the production prototype requires it to be a ready-to-produce version of your final product. It’s crucial that you understand which sort of product prototype you’re looking to do.

What are the differences between a model and a prototype

We mentioned “model” in the first section, and some of you may wonder, how is prototype different from model? And here are the answers.

Model

  • Just for display, so it can only be a showcase of what the actual product would be;
  • Not necessarily functional;
  • Comparatively cheap to make.

Prototype

  • Fully functional, so it contains both the exterior and interior of the product;
  • Is the closest version to the actual product;
  • More complicated and functional than a model, because it needs to be used for performance evaluation of the product or tests;
  • Relatively expensive to produce, but just when compared with model.

That said, product prototyping outweighs modeling in becoming the first step of the whole product development process.

Why is prototype important

From a product concept to its mass production, product prototype plays in important role in the middle. Without it, your mass production plan will face huge risks. The following are just some of them:

  • You don’t actually know how the market will react to your product;
  • You might end up wasting tons of time and money on mass production if you don’t run a small scale of experiment to see how far your product can go;
  • You may need outside funding to keep your production moving on, but it won’t be possible without a prototype;
  • It’s money and time wasting to adjust product details in the middle of product development;
  • You need professional skills and expertise from developers and engineers to control the overall mass production process. This alone could be quite a challenge for many small scale firms.

How to build your product’s  prototype

Generally speaking, here are the 3 steps to create your product’s prototype:

1) Create a concept sketch. This is a step that visualize your product idea or concept;

2) Develop a virtual prototype. In this step, you may need the help from tools such as AutoCAD to make the 2-D or 3-D models of your product;

3) Build a physical prototype. If you don’t have the skills or expertise to build the physical prototype by yourself, it’s time to consider getting help from the professionals. A professional prototype designer or engineer should be your first go-to option if your budget is tight. But if you’re looking to mass produce your products some day, it’s crucial that you reach out for a skilled manufacturer for your product prototype.

When reaching out, make sure that:

  • You’ve fully communicated your design details with the manufacturer;
  • You’ve evaluated all the costs required for the prototyping, including the setup fee and shipping costs.

That’s about include what we have on product prototype. Feel free to let us know if you need more information about prototyping, or if you have any question regarding your product’s prototype. We’d be more than glad to help you out.

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