No matter whether your new product is a new invention or just a new product design, you will have to come to a determination of whether your newly designed product or new invention will work and do what it is supposed to do. Very often new designs have unexpected turns or flaws. It is therefore essential that a prototype, or better a series of prototype stages, be applied into your process to test the validity of your idea, thus you can test and confirm that it will perform as planned before you start any production process. The purpose of the prototype is also to be able to have a visual and touchable sample of your invention, so you can verify if there is interest and appeal to your new product. As a process, we recommend following a Design-Test-Evaluate procedure at every stage so you can gradually refine your product. Prototypes can be divided into several categories and you may follow them all or just in part before you are ready for the manufacturing process.
It is imperative that you have prototypes made and evaluate all details and functionality before you go to production as it avoids possible costly mistakes that may derail your entire project. A defect or flow encountered after tooling is produced can cost you 10s and even 100s of thousands of dollars in tooling. Ouch, that hurts!
So do not be a fool and invest the necessary time and money in the prototyping process.
Essentially we can divide the prototypes in four different categories: Rough, Virtual, Mock-Up and Working prototype.
ROUGH:Is the home made prototype that you can make by yourself with commonly found materials. You can glue, screw, sew or weld parts together so you can have the initial visualization of your invention. This prototype is intended to just prove that your idea is viable and therefore you can progress with further development.
VIRTUAL:Virtual prototype is produced by the use of specialized computer software and it is achievable only after tri-dimensional graphics or even CAD (Computer Aided Graphics) are produced. The convenience of this is to see your invention in a almost finished form with the possibility to modify parts, colors, textures without having to redo the entire product. A better visual impact will be available with this product. Modern software allows also the determination of structural details and specifications based on the materials that are considered for the manufacturing of the product.
If you need just a visual but with realistic details presentation of your product, an accurate tri-dimensional rendering can be the way to go. This can be elaborated to have images of your product, at different angles. Practical to show overall external details and for initial presentations.
The next step is a CAD graphic, which allows to have the product designed in a more elaborate way. Each part and component of your product is designed to perfection and accuracy. With this technique, your product can be presented in an assembled and exploded view. As images will be static, this can be considered the Virtual mock-up prototype. The same components, processed with further enhancement and motion, can be transformed into what we call the Virtual Working Prototype. Cost for the production of these prototypes, varies based on the number of components and complexity of your invention/product.
MOCK-UP:The Mock-Up prototype will have aesthetic details based on your graphics but it will not have the working functions. This is used to verify that all the aesthetics and appearance match what you had envisioned. This kind of prototype will be suitable for your marketing research, photo shoots to use on marketing brochures, also to determine your packaging options. Much less expensive than the Working prototype , can be customized with different textures, colors or other appearance details.
WORKING:Final stage is the Working prototype. This is your product come alive, with all functions active and operational. Now you can finally test it and make sure that all is working according to plans. You invention is finally in your hands! This is the last stage of prototyping before you proceed to the tooling production that will be necessary to mass produce the fruit of your creativity.
In this section we are not discussing all the different processes and techniques that can be used to produce your new invention product prototype, as it would be extensive but, we will rather discuss all the details with each individual inventor based on each particular invention. We will tailor details to the specific product you have invented or need to produce.
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