New products are constantly appearing on store shelves and in commercials on TV. In fact, so many new products are arriving for consumer purchase every year, it’s a wonder how they’re actually able to move from the concept stage to the finished-product marketing stage in such a short period of time. The answer to this puzzling question is that many forms of prototyping are in place to help inventors, entrepreneurs, and businesses get their ideas off the page and into their hands – with relatively less expense than ever before.
For those who have never researched the prototyping process, it should be first stated that recent developments in prototyping equipment and technology have allowed for quicker and cheaper prototyping processes than ever before. Virtual prototyping is a process that allows computer-assisted design to generate 3D models of concept products. One of the benefits of this type of prototyping is that it is generally very fast to create, adjust, and render. Additionally, the virtual prototype allows for an almost unlimited amount of freedom in texturing, coloring, and shading. The end result is a 3D model of the final product that looks very real. These types of prototypes are often later used to create draft versions of marketing materials.
Conceptual prototyping, often called “mock-up” prototyping makes use of state-of-the-art rapid prototyping processes that can produce full-sized (within certain specifications) prototypes that are strong, durable, and offer some basic functionality properties akin to the final product. This kind of prototype is often called a concept model. It’s a physical model made to demonstrate an idea. This concept model can be textured or painted to simulate the final appearance of the product. But, most importantly, it exists to allow project owners and leads to see a model of the product in their hands, as well as stimulate conversation and new thoughts about the idea of the final product. In this first stage of prototyping, many ideas are met with an “accept or reject” decision.
If the product concept is allowed to go past the mock-up stage, the next step in the prototyping process is often an assembly and fit test. The form, fit, function prototype (or F3) is a special type of prototype in that it allows for a rudimentary function test of any product parts that are meant to perform some specific function or other. If you have a product comprised of several parts – where one part with a tab is designed to snap into another part with an open slot – the F3 prototyping process allows project leads to see if there are any design errors that would prevent the parts from snapping together at the pre-defined spots. Overall, this type of prototyping is meant to ensure part shapes, features, sizes, and mating ability. Much like the mock-up prototypes, the F3 variety can be created to look much like the final product – but with a greater number of colors in the prototyping mix.
The Following the Prototype Process: Virtual, Conceptual, Functional article is just one of many resources designed to help inventors, entrepreneurs, and businesses prepare to launch new products into the marketplace. PRG Prototyping specializes in designing and building new product prototypes – with a focus on concept design engineering, design for manufacturability, prototype development, production, and marketing presentations. PRG can also provide information on patent protection and intellectual property services.