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How can we create our prototype? In product development manufacturing processes, a prototype must exist unless the product is already being built. Is it really necessary to learn how to build a good prototype for a startup or a crowdfunding platform?
Are you an entrepreneur looking for a physical product prototype?
The best way to get feedback from users is by building a physical product prototype. This allows entrepreneurs to test all their assumptions about how users interact with their products or local service. If they make any changes to the product after building the prototype, the best time for these changes is before full production starts.
Geolance has been helping entrepreneurs build high-quality prototypes since 2010 and we’re excited to work with you! We have helped hundreds of startups and small businesses bring their ideas into reality through our prototyping product development services. Our engineering team will help guide you through every step of your project so that it comes out exactly as planned. You can rest easy knowing that your idea is in good hands when working with us!
Questions and Answers
Not everyone has the skills to build a prototype. Sometimes you need someone else's help to build it, especially since the costs of designing and building prototypes are growing rapidly. Some startups may attempt to find an internal engineer or skilled maker at their customer base who can build the prototype - but this does not always happen. An internal resource that can create a prototype is often limited by the time, money, and/or skillset that these resources have in using hardware electronics prototyping tools such as Arduino Uno R3, Raspberry Pi 3 Model B single-board computer, SparkFun RedBoard (an Arduino compatible board), etc. The following article is intended for entrepreneurs who do not have enough resources in their company to build the prototype of their idea.
What is a Prototype?
The main difference between an art project and a prototype is that the prototype has all the features needed for production, while it does not necessarily look nice at this stage. The purpose of building prototypes is often - but not always - to receive feedback from potential customers/users of your product. This can be done by showing or handing out prototypes, or using tools such as InVision (a software that allows you to create clickable prototypes online which you can show and test on different devices). What do we mean by "show and test"? We mean explaining what you're trying to do with your product and then letting people try it out for themselves! If you don't know how your product works, you can only guess which of the features are intuitive and which aren't. By showing your prototype, you can figure out what people think about it; if they understand its benefits (something very different from knowing them), or even where they get stuck during their time using it.
Does building a Prototype take a long time?
It depends on what kind of prototype you need to build. Many entrepreneurs have already decided in advance before talking with manufacturers or prototyping companies to build a quick prototype. I recommend "quick" because this may be your first impression when trying to convince potential customers that they want exactly what you're selling! Your rapid prototyping company can give you an idea of the time needed to create the prototype, but it also depends on several factors. If a quick prototype is not enough and you need a more complete prototype to test your product, you should expect that "long term" prototyping will take significantly longer than "quick".
How much does creating a Prototype cost?
Building a good prototype costs money! Like many aspects of business, it's important to have enough financial resources for prototyping. In most cases, the amount required for prototyping is directly related to the project itself - if building a simple device or software is less expensive than producing complex hardware manufacture products, so too will be the cost for prototyping. But expect to invest at least one-third of your entire budget for creating a prototype, so if you have other things that will cost you 20k, then prototyping costs should not exceed 6-7k.
What kind of Prototype can I build?
There are three types of prototypes: physical products, software simulation products, and non-standard prototypes (we'll ignore the last option in this article). Building a Physical Product Prototype is usually the final step for entrepreneurs to get their product ready to be built because it allows them to test all their assumptions about how users interact with their product or service. If they make any changes to the product after building the prototype, the best time for these changes is before full production starts! Creating a Software Simulation Product is the easier way to present your product and test it with potential customers without having to invest in building a prototype. Unfortunately, physical products can not always be tested in this way and you should expect that some people will not buy your product if they see it for the first time online or on paper. Product Simulation is great because there's no need to retool later, so unless you have a working prototype built, I recommend using simulation tools instead of prototypes! Non-standard prototypes are very specific cases. For example, let's say your goal is to create a device that does not exist or has never been made before - prototyping may take longer than expected due to this lack of knowledge about the future production engineering design process. It's important that entrepreneurs understand that building a prototype or trying to create a new product is exciting, but it's also very risky - they should prepare for the worst! In this case, prototyping is not an easy task and can take months before it's even possible to make a prototype.
How do I convince Manufacturers or Prototyping Companies to work with me?
To find manufacturers or prototyping companies who will be interested in your project, you must first have completed your market research. Before doing any business with a company, you need to know whether there are interested parties. If a manufacturer does not want you as a customer because your device is not something that interests them, that's fine! You just saved yourself time and effort by learning about their interests early.
If you have a prototype, then finding a company that wants to work with you should be much easier. Please keep in mind that once you find a qualified manufacturer or prototyping company, they will probably ask for more details from your design drawings and blueprints. I recommend investing in a professional designer at this point because they can help make sure your product is well designed and tested before it leaves the factory floor! If you do not have money to invest at this point, look for companies that provide free services such as making CAD diagrams.
What about "Long Term" Prototypes?
In general, "long-term" prototypes are exactly what you think - products that cost-effective significantly more time and effort than building simple physical or software products. For example, you want to redesign your product entirely so it can be built with different manufacturing methods. This requires prototyping different potential products before determining which one works best for your business model. This situation is very common because entrepreneurs usually do not know exactly how their final product should look like - it's just that they know what they do NOT want!
For long-term prototypes, this kind of research is critical to determine whether or not you are moving in the right direction with your product. The only way to find out if the design performs well and looks good is through building a prototype and testing it on users before investing in full production. I would say though that unless there is almost no other alternative (i.e., software simulation), it does not make sense to build a long-term prototype.
Why? Because both the "non-functional" and the functional prototypes will be very expensive, so you cannot afford to build them without knowing that your product introduction has a future in the market! As entrepreneurs, we know better than anyone else the importance of avoiding wasting time and money on something new - even if it's a wonderful new product idea.
Before going into prototyping, make sure you have done enough research about your target audience! Now let's get down to business. Prototypes are usually built for one of these reasons:
1) To determine whether or not an idea is practically feasible
2) To test how people react to a design or a product
Let's take a look at some practical examples of how prototyping helps companies bring their products to market. In some cases, entrepreneurs have been able to cut costs and speed up production because they were able to fix some problems before mass manufacturing.
In the hardware industry, there are generally 2 ways prototypes can be built:
1) External Engineering & Prototype Builds Company
This is done through a company that provides engineering or design services for many different prototype types. They usually do not want a long-term commitment from you, but will work with you as long as necessary until your product is ready for production! Usually, this kind of company offers the following prototyping methods:
- Rapid Prototyping: This is sometimes called 3D printing and involves very fast prototyping. For example, you can order a prototype of your product the next day if it's not too complicated! Advanced prototypes can be made within several days or weeks.
- CNC Machining: Computer-numeric controlled machines will cut out your prototype using raw materials such as aluminum, plastic, steel, etc. Usually, this takes longer than rapid prototyping methods because each part usually needs to be painstakingly cleaned before assembly.
For software, prototyping can be done in several ways too
- Paper Prototyping: This is a good solution if you have no programming skills and you just want to show a very simple design on a computer. In this method, a flowchart is drawn with post-it notes representing actions on the computer screen. The next step is drawing out each action as a separate document so it explains how the software should respond to users' commands. Then, these documents are glued together to form one diagram with all the different screens leading from one another until reaching the end of the user's session with your program.
This is a good option if you want to show more of the basic design of your software.
- Visual Basic: If you have programming knowledge and know the basics, then you can implement your prototyping into this program that allows multiple screens to be created with ease. The downside of VB prototyping is that it's not very resource-efficient because the more advanced your prototype becomes, the slower it will run until it runs out of resources and crashes - but hey, at least it works!
- HTML Prototyping: This method involves designing a web-based interface for your software on a computer using any standard HTML editor. For example, Microsoft Frontpage offers free web-building tools that anyone can use to create appealing HTML designs.
- Flash: This method also involves creating a web-based interface for software and has become very popular in recent years because it is easier to use than HTML and gives the designer more freedom with how they design their screens and make them interactive. However, it needs more processor power than HTML prototyping so you should only use this tool if your computer hardware can support it.
VSE provides quality engineering & manufacturing services for your NPI prototypes.
Our services include CNC machining, rapid prototyping, PCB assembly, box build, and more.
Why prototype? To start with a small test run to increase the likelihood of securing funding for your project management/product development.
- You can work out bugs before mass production. You can fix things that will otherwise be very costly or time-consuming to fix later down the line when you have thousands of products sitting in a warehouse waiting to be sold. By using NPI prototyping methods such as 3D printing and CNC machining, you can create one functional prototype to show investors so they know what they're getting into and you can also give them an idea of how many items need to be manufactured and sold to break even.
- You have a higher chance of securing funding if you can show your potential investors that there is already an audience who wants to buy the product/service. With NPI prototyping, you will be able to see what aspects work best so you can improve them before mass production.
- You also have less risk of losing money by using NPI prototyping since your expenses are lower when compared to manufacturing thousands of items in one go without testing it out first. For example, visualizing the product through 3D printing is cheaper than ordering 1000+ units for retail sales then revealing that there are problems with how it works or looks! Your break-even point will occur much sooner because you're only spending on a few prototypes as opposed to a massive manufacturing run.
- Get valuable feedback from consumers about your product/service before investing huge amounts of money into mass production. Don't just focus on getting the design right, but also perfect how it's manufactured because that's what will determine if you can produce it at a reasonable price and still turn a profit in the product development process! For example, if 3D printing is used incorrectly and quality suffers, then this could cause problems to arise later down the line once you try to mass-produce.
With our prototype services, we can help take some of these risks off your shoulders by ensuring that your product works well and looks great before importing and selling them in high numbers to generate sales revenue for your business. We want our clients to be successful so we ensure that our prototypes are built with the best quality and attention to detail!
The life of a product should never end after it's been manufactured, sold, then forgotten. The key to running a sustainable business is not just based on how well you can design your service/product but also on being able to take it from ideation into mass production without too many hiccups along the way. You must plan everything before you start designing or manufacturing anything because this will enable us to provide better 3D printing services for you which in turn means higher sales revenue for your company!
Our prototype manufacturing process is fully customizable so you can get exactly what you want.
* Material - We use different materials to manufacture your prototypes because this enables us to see how the product would work in real-life conditions. For example, if you're designing a smartphone case made out of carbon fiber then we'll print it out with carbon fiber first instead of PLA or ABS plastic. Our high-precision 3D printers are capable of printing with various types of nylon materials which are very durable for prototyping purposes!
* Size - The size of the prototype depends on what you need it for and who will be using it. If you're designing a smartwatch then our engineers will help determine the right type of dimensions based on your needs after reviewing your requirements first. We can help you with various aspects of prototyping such as product design, 3D modeling, and mechanical engineering plans.
* Finish - The appearance of a prototype depends on what the client wants to see or visualize. If they want it to look like a regular piece of jewelry then we'll make sure that it looks likes the final version after mass production. However, if you want something with a rough-and-ready finish then we can easily accomplish that as well!
*Aesthetic Modifications - We may need to modify your prototypes depending on how they're going to be used or sold to ensure that users are kept safe from harm once opened for use outdoors. For example, if you're designing a smartphone case then we might cover sharp edges or corners to prevent injury while using your product.
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