Prototyping is an essential part of the product design process. There are many forms of prototype from basic mock ups through to fully functioning models for sales purposes. Different prototypes will be required depending upon your end goal for the product idea however all new products are likely to require a prototype of some description. Here are some different types of prototype with an explanation of each. It would not be sensible to produce a fully functioning and realistic prototype at great expense before the basic elements such as form, style and functionality are tested. In most cases the prototype is only required to prove that the concept design is correct before proceeding to manufacture however the complexity of the design will determine the quantity and types of prototypes required. If the design idea includes electronics for example, there may be the need to prototype both the casing/enclosure and the actual electronics separately prior to assembling them together into a working prototype. For more info please read: Why prototype an invention idea?
Product Design Prototypes
If you intend to licence or sell your design or any of it’s intellectual property then you may require a sales prototype. For example if you were to be in a Dragon’s Den situation and you had one chance to show off the product then you would want it to be as close to the real thing as possible. This is the most expensive form of prototype and not generally necessary or worthwhile in many cases.
Design Validation Prototype
This prototype is intended to prove that the design works without wasting time and money on appearance. If the product was a wall bracket then the design could be 3D printed in a suitably strong material that would allow for testing. The prototype would not look like the final mass-produced product but it would enable the approval of size, shape, fit and the functionality of items such as clips, fixing or moving parts. The overriding purpose of this prototype is to identify areas for improvement and confirm key aspects of the design are correct.
Display Only Prototype
This is a prototype designed simply to show off the visual aspects of the design only. This could be for display at an exhibition or for marketing photographs to be taken. The surface quality would be emulating that of the final mass produced product. For example the surfaces may be polished and spray painted to look like moulded plastic.
Working Test Prototype
Before an investment is made in full scale manufacture the functionality of a design may need to be fully tested. If this involves moving parts or electronics then these would need to work in order to demonstrate that the design is correct. In some cases this form of prototype can be used for compliance testing and legislative approvals prior to full scale manufacture.
3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping
3D printing is the most common form of prototype manufacture process. One-off parts for a new design can quickly and cost effectively be produced in different materials and quality levels. Designs of varying complexities can be built and in your hands within a matter of days. We have built up partnerships with some of the best prototyping companies in the world to bring you the most appropriate material and cost options for your project.
Idea Reality work with a number of electronics specialists to bring design capability to different types of electronic product designs. Our associates specialise in different areas of electronics from solar power to miniature PCB design. Rather than offering a limited in-house service we believe in maintaining a network of specialists with a range of skills to fit the specifics of each individual project.