Every new product on the market, anywhere in the world, likely began as an idea. Some began as scribbles and sketches on cocktail napkins, others began as tinkering projects in the garage at home. However these first ideas were initially hatched, the process from taking a concept from cocktail napkin to market has a number of stages. In the earliest stages, the idea goes from napkin to design to engineer to prototype. Not all ideas make it to the prototype stage; some ideas aren’t strong enough to survive the market. But those ideas that have a chance to see manufacturing and the marketplace benefit from a solidly engineered and crafted prototype.
The consumer markets are marked by a whirlwind of new products that arrive and disappear from retail shelves every day. Buoyed by advertising and marketing, these products sometimes rise to the top of the market and quickly become household names in their industry. The market is highly competitive, and the consumers are discriminating. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the need for high-quality, yet swift, prototyping – to take appealing new ideas to manufacturing – has never been greater.
Prototyping has been called “the shorthand of design” by some. A more equitable definition of the process would be one in which it is explained that prototyping is part skill and part artistry – where both are employed by a team of highly-skilled designers and engineers to craft a physical forerunner to a market-ready product.
In the professional prototyping industry, the highest quality prototypes are often able to fully demonstrate product functionality with all the color and texture of the conceptualized final product. In short, prototypes help to bring a product to life. They are a near-complete version of a product concept that is cosmetically accurate and engineered to take to the next step in the production process. There are many different types of prototypes available from companies who specialize in this field of product design and development.
Conceptual Prototypes are typically known as “mock-up” prototypes, as they are crafted by 3-D printing equipment. The end product is a tangible prototype (usually in white, red, yellow, blue, or green ABS) that is durable enough to be handled, sanded, or painted as needed.
Form, Fit, Function Prototypes are unique in that they allow product designers and engineers to establish form, fit, and function before investing in tooling and manufacturing (thereby reducing assembly costs).
Custom Fabricated Prototypes are built from high-quality stock plastic materials when, for some reason, it is not economically or mechanically feasible to use rapid prototyping processes to create the item.
Virtual Prototypes are computer-generated models of product concepts that are able to show the features and functionality of the finished product. These make use of high-end software and the result is a “like real” vision of the product.
The What Everybody Should Know About Prototyping 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 products – 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.