6 tips on the effective use of prototypes

One of the most underused ‘tools’ in almost every industry today is the use of prototypes.

While every product designer wants a working model to show potential partners, manufacturers and/or buyers, there is much more to a prototype than that.

Did you know that most prototypes go through several incarnations before they actually become a scaled, working model? Well, that’s the truth and there are more uses for a prototype than those mentioned above, but we’ll get into a bit more depth on those uses as well. Let’s look at the following tips on how to effectively develop and use prototypes to their best advantage.

1. To Get a Look at Initial Designs

Most often design begins with a sketchpad or a CAD (Computer-Aided Design) program, however, that leaves a lot to be desired when you are building a complex tool or piece of machinery. There’s always something lacking in a two-dimensional representation of the product you are designing and often it takes one or more prototypes to get that stage right. What you will need is a company capable and willing to take on low volume production so that you don’t need large minimum orders at this stage of development.

2. Help with Scaling to Size

Sometimes it takes a few attempts to make the adjustments necessary when scaling to size. Imagine a pocket-sized driverless vehicle with all the technology built into the ‘real thing’ and you will see that sometimes scaled prototypes don’t have the capabilities required to send products to testing and quality control. By contracting a company that offers prototyping services, you may be able to begin scaling up to size as development progresses.

3. When Working Models Are Needed

Speaking of the technology involved in self-driving vehicles, you will begin to understand how some products need to move on to the ‘to scale’ prototype. Although you may not be developing a product anywhere near as technologically advanced or quite as large, you can understand just how important that to-scale working model can be. As each stage moves on, you will want rapid prototyping services to test each adjustment or addition made warranted by the previous prototype.

4. To Realize That All Prototyping Services Are Not Created Equal

Another aspect of using prototypes effectively is to realize that not all prototyping services are created equal. Some have more advanced technology than others and some have been using CAD and CAM (Computer Assisted Manufacturing) throughout their processes. Of note here would be, Chinese prototype manufacturers, Rapid Direct, that saw a need more than a decade ago and were pioneers in the field of hi-tech CAD/CAM prototype manufacturing. When it comes to rapid prototyping China excels and this company, Rapid Direct, leads the pack. They can offer a wide range of prototyping services, from metal fabrication to injection molding.

5. To Build Enthusiasm in Your Market

As mentioned early on, one of the ways in which prototypes have been historically used is to create and build enthusiasm with a product or company’s market. It could be to gain financial backing or it could be to introduce a product line to build enthusiasm within a potential customer base. However, when it comes to using prototypes for this purpose, it is vital to find low volume manufacturing because you will almost always be working with a scaled model. Yes, sometimes you will be working with a model manufactured in its final form and size, but for larger products, you will typically see smaller versions. The company you choose should have the capacity to manufacture within as little as 24 hours and get that order out to you immediately. That’s another benefit of working with Rapid Direct because that’s a huge part of what they can offer.

6. To Benefit from Collaboration

When you have your prototype manufactured by a company like Rapid Direct with more than 150 engineers on staff specializing in everything from appearance to reverse engineering, you get the benefit of collaboration. These professionals can often spot flaws in designs or aspects which could perform better with a few minor tweaks.

This is collaboration at its finest and an invaluable resource only available when contracting with the right prototype manufacturers.

In summing up, your key takeaway should be that prototypes can be worth so much more than you give them credit for. They are obviously important for that last minute checks and balances necessary before going into major production and as a marketing and financing tool but they can also be a great way to get input from other professionals who may see something you’ve missed.

They say that two heads are better than one and when it comes to the development of prototypes, this adage becomes doubly important. With rapid production and the invaluable expertise of engineers, you can have a working prototype that solves almost any issue you are faced with. That’s what prototypes should be all about!