You’ve come up with a brilliant idea for a new product, congratulations! Whether it’s your first or 15th, this can be a really exciting time for any business. But before you invest time, money and labour into making and selling new goods, you need to make sure they work, serve their purpose and have a place on the market. The best way to do this is to create a prototype for your product. That way, you can test, analyse and perfect your new product before you invest in it.
If you’re not sure where to begin when creating your prototype, you’re in the right place. In the guide below, we’ll take you through the eight steps of creating a prototype for your product.
Steps to create a prototype for your product
The first thing you need to do is to conduct some in-depth research.
You should start by looking at similar products that are already on the market, this will identify if your idea is innovative, profitable and how you can improve on existing products. It will also show you if the market is already saturated, and if it might be best to think about a new product or adapt your idea in some way to make it unique.
Not only this, but research can help you to understand the mechanics and how the products work. This will make it easier when the time comes to build your prototype.
Start the design process
Now you’ve finished your research and you know that your idea is viable it’s time to start the design process. The best way to do this is to sketch a rough idea of how your product would look a function. If you’re not very good at sketching or you’re concerned that you won’t be able to get your idea across effectively, you could always have someone else draw up the design for you with your supervision and guidance.
The design doesn’t have to be perfect at this stage, as this is more about getting the idea out of your head and onto paper. You might even find that you draw up several different designs when you’re starting out.
But the end result should be a basic first draft of what you want your product to look like.
Make a CAD model
While your initial design is a good starting point, you now need to take it one step further and create a 3D virtual model of your product. There are a number of different software and tools you can use to do this, depending on which are most comfortable with. Alternatively, you could have someone else turn your design into a virtual model if you’re not confident using this software yourself.
By turning your design into a virtual model, you can begin to visualise the shapes and forms your product will take. You will also be able to conduct finite element analysis to understand if the product will be able to withstand all the forces that are supposed to act on it once it is transformed into a product. You can also use this time to start thinking about which materials are going to be most beneficial and therefore what the final item might look like.
Use 3D printing
At this stage in the process, you might want to use 3D printing to create a prototype for your product. This is a fast and reliable way for you to produce an accurate and great-looking model, one that can also be fully functional depending on your product.
In fact, 3D printing technology was born out of an express need to create a prototype in a fast and efficient way. You can create prototypes using polymer or even metal 3D printing. A prototype gives you a chance to see what it will look like and begin testing if it works in the real world. You might even find you end up printing a couple of versions until you’re happy with the design.
This technique can minimise risk and save on costs during the early stages of development.
Decide if you’re going to need help
Now it’s easier to visualise your product you need to decide whether this is something you can make yourself or if you’re going to need help. This will usually depend on the type of product you’re making and its complexity.
For example, will you require complex machinery or technical know-how to make your vision a reality? If so, you might need to reach out to the professionals and those who have access to the right tools.
Find the right people and materials
If you do need assistance in making your product, you need to conduct some research to find the right people to help you build the prototype for your product.
Once you found the right people for the job, show them your idea and explain what you want the prototype to look like. You should also take this opportunity to listen to their advice and feedback and make changes accordingly. After all, they are the professionals in their field.
If, however, you can make the product yourself, you should take this opportunity to begin looking into the best materials and where are you going to source these from.
Create a proof of concept
A proof of concept strips your idea down to the basic parts or mechanisms that will make it work. For example, if you’re creating something that relies on a battery, motor, wires or other technical parts, you can create just this important concept and test it out before investing in the full product.
When we say the full product, we mean a full prototype. So, at this concept stage, you will test the technical barebone structure of your product and not worry too much about the packaging, casing, colour and aesthetic aspects of your design.
This stage is important for ensuring that your final product would work and function as it should, and it gives you a chance to test and analyse the key parts and improve on the design if you need to.
Build your prototype
Once you know that your product will work and you’ve perfected those key concepts it is time to create the full prototype for your product. You can now add all the final design elements to your product and build an item that is as close to the real product as it could be at this stage. This gives you another chance to test and analyse your prototype before you go any further with it.
Make changes and repeat the steps accordingly
Finally, now you have your prototype in front of you and you’ve evaluated and tested its effectiveness, you might need to make some tweaks. This could mean going back to the earlier design stage, rethinking your 3D model and remaking or rebuilding your prototype. In that case, you should follow the steps we have outlined above accordingly until you have one final prototype that you’re happy with and ready to start producing for the wider market.
At this point, you can again rely on 3D printing for batch production of your product. Or if you wish to mass produce the product, then you can use traditional manufacturing processes like injection moulding and others.
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