Four Key Uses of Prototyping
Prototyping helps evaluate and test a design, clarify production costs, sell a product and secure patents.
Whatever the item a company intends to produce, creating a prototype is crucial to the design process. Moldmakers would be wise to stay on top of technology developments and consider their use to improve the service they provide. Following are four reasons why prototyping is important.
1. Evaluating and Testing the Design
Unfortunately, ideas and drawings of a design can sometimes be a far cry from the real world in which the product will be used. By creating a prototype, it is possible to sit down with a real version of the product and determine which aspects are worthwhile and which parts need to be revised or discarded. In this process, it may be possible to find glaring omissions that, on paper, weren’t noticeable.
Additionally, creating a prototype will allow the design team to not only evaluate, but also test the product before going into full production. Imagine ordering tens of thousands of units, only to discover one part isn’t as strong as it needs to be.
If corporate giants can make mistakes, it is all the more important for smaller companies to not forget the importance of prototyping before beginning production.
2. Clarifying Production Costs and Issues
By prototyping before production begins, it is possible to take a glimpse at the production process and see if any steps can be changed, combined or even removed. This not only streamlines production, but keeps the cost of the actual production to a minimum.
Subsequently, if there are any difficulties in production or perhaps processes that can create problems for the final product, it is much better to see these before production starts.
Prototyping can also help the design team ascertain the optimal method for production: injection molding, silicone molds, die cast, stamped metal, etc.
3. Selling the Product to Others
Just like it is far easier to see if there are any problems with a design by holding an actual working model, it is also far easier to sell to potential customers when they have a prototype to hold and manipulate at a marketing presentation. Without a prototype, it’s only a concept. It can be difficult to get a potential client to commit to the purchase of a concept. With a prototype in hand, the concept instantly becomes real and it is far easier to sign a purchase order.
The customer needs to be taken into consideration during the prototype phase as well. No matter how great the designers and testers think a prototype may be, real consumers may not like certain aspects of it. If the end customer doesn’t like it, they won’t buy it, which is why focus groups and external testing with prototypes needs to be addressed before production begins.
Without a prototype, it’s only a concept. It can be difficult to get a potential client to commit to the purchase of a concept.
If a product is new enough or unique enough, patents need to be considered. It’s no use to design and manufacture a great product only to have another company start producing a remarkably similar product because the original company failed to patent key aspects of the design.
By having a working prototype, it is much easier to sit down with a patent attorney and see what design aspects may be patentable. On the reverse side, it is possible to see what parts of the prototype and design violate patents of other individuals and how they can be changed before production—and the chance of a lawsuit—begins.
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