Do you want an idea for a new product that hasn’t already been made yet? No worries! Before asking a producer to manufacture it, you need a prototype.
Prototype manufacturing is the first unreleased version of your product.
Many entrepreneurs skip the prototyping stage because they want to sell their inventions and start making money.
However, making prototypes will save time and money in the long term. Most businesses can use a CNC machining prototype or a 3D-printed one.
If you need help with how to create your product’s first physical version. Then this guide will help you in this regard and share the process of prototype development so that you can start mass production accurately.
Table of Contents
What Is a Prototype?
It is an early, unreleased version of the product. Entrepreneurs create prototypes to look at the finished product, solve any incorrect or faulty functions, and collect feedback from their target market before investing in mass production.
There are two types of prototypes you can create:
- Visual Prototypes, also known as virtual prototypes, show how your product will look.
- Functional Prototypes, also called working models, show how your product will work.
Tim Ferriss, the author of the 4-Hour Work Week, says, “It is not always mandatory to have both prototypes. You must comprehend the purpose of your prototype. Is it your responsibility to evaluate manufacturing? Is it to resell it to customers? Or Is it to be tested or sold on Kickstarter? You must first determine your goal and keep it in mind.”
Why Are Prototypes Necessary?
Here are the top 4 reasons why prototypes are necessary for product development.
- Cost: Prototypes allow you to lower costs before manufacturing.
- Gain Funding: To gain investors’ trust, you must show what you are selling. So that your investor can invest thousands to millions of dollars.
- Consumer Feedback: It is an important way to learn what other people think of your design.
- Testing: Since prototypes are lower cost than production units, testing as early as possible will allow you to make design changes without breaking the bank.
What Are the Different Types of Prototypes?
There are 3 different types of prototypes:
It is an early version of a product used to test its practicality and collect user feedback. It is tough and doesn’t include all of the features that will be included in the final product.
Alpha prototypes notify users of potential problems and take feedback from users about what they like and don’t like about the product.
These prototypes are machined and printed, mostly functional, and used for debugging and troubleshooting design flaws.
It can also demo products so that it can gain consumer feedback and investor funding.
These prototypes are fully functional models that resemble what the customer wants as a finished product. These prototypes are used for testing new products before they go into production.
What Is the Prototype Manufacturing Process?
It is the process of a series of steps to make prototypes from start to finish.
In a nutshell, the prototype constructing process is integral to launching new products to market and ensuring they meet customers’ needs. Therefore, manufacturers will create high-quality prototypes with careful planning to help them achieve their goals.
The first step in the prototype construction process is to generate an idea for a new product. It may involve
- Brainstorming sessions.
- Market research and analysis.
- User interviews and surveys.
It is the process of making a product, which includes:
- The appearance of a product.
- How the product can work.
- Making a decision on what the product should do.
The design process starts with the acknowledgment of the customer’s needs.
It is done by researching the problem or opportunity and discussing it with potential customers. Don’t worry! We are bringing you some tips on how to better understand the needs of your customers in a better way.
When the needs are understood, the designers generate ideas for solving problems or taking advantage of opportunities.
Furthermore, these ideas were tested on customers in order to judge which ones were the best.
The most popular ideas were switched into prototypes and tested to ensure they met the customer’s needs.
The final product or service is created after being approved.
3. 3D Modeling
It is mandatory to create a 3D model in order to make a prototype of the product. It involves using computer-aided design (CAD) software to generate digital models of the parts and components that can be used in the prototype.
Moreover, a 3D printer is a game changer for small businesses. It allows designers to change their designs quickly and test different ideas without the expense of prototype creation and testing.
4. Prototype Creation
After creating a 3D model, the next step is manufacturing an actual prototype using different materials and technologies.
The prototype creation process includes the following steps:
- Choosing appropriate materials and technologies based on the design requirements of the prototype.
- Molding and cutting parts based on CAD files provided by designers
- Assembling these components into a functioning prototype will be tested for accuracy and usability.
5. Prototype Testing
When a prototype has been created, it is tested to assure that it will meet the requirements specified by the customer.
It uses different types of testing methods and tools, such as:
- User testing in a lab setting with real-world users or online prototype usability tests
- Quality assurance testing is performed to ensure that there are no flaws or malfunctions.
Therefore, these tests help identify any issues with the prototype design and allow designers to make changes before proceeding to production.
Overall, this manufacturing process is iterative, with ideas being developed, refined, and repeatedly tested until a final product is ready for mass production.
While this process is time-consuming and complicated, it ultimately helps to ensure.
Which Is the Best Prototype Manufacturing Process for You? CNC Machining vs. 3D Printing
One of the best decisions you’ll have to make during prototyping is your manufacturing technique. Most businesses will use CNC machining or 3D printing to make prototypes.
Additive (3D printing) and subtractive (CNC machining) manufacturing have advantages and disadvantages. So you need to be familiar with these techniques for effective prototype creation.
Moreover, additive manufacturing is less wasteful than subtractive manufacturing. If sustainability or material cost is a key requirement of your business, 3D printing is the best option.
However, you may have access to fewer materials than with CNC machining. Many common prototype substances, like precious metals, need specialized 3D printers.
If you intend to manufacture in-house, you must ensure that your company’s 3D printer can use the desired prototype material.
CNC machining can produce larger items than a 3D printer. The manufactured object’s size will be limited to the print bed’s size.
Thus, 3D printing is generally faster than CNC machining for small-volume manufacturing. If you want the quickest prototyping possible, it will most likely produce better results.
Overall, the prototype manufacturing process is essential for launching new products to market and guarantees that they meet industry standards for quality and usability.
With proper planning and testing of prototype creation, businesses can successfully let their prototypes go into production and launch successful products on a larger scale.