Are you ready to prototype?

You’ve got a great idea. You’ve been mulling it over for years and finally started working on it in your spare time. You’ve bounced the idea off of your friends and relatives, and they’ve all told you how great your idea is and wonder why no one has thought of this before.

Maybe you’ve started researching how to sell your idea, and you’re ready to show it to companies to see if they’re interested. But in order to get someone really excited, you likely need a model or prototype to put in front of them.

So you’ve scraped some money together, have found a prototype company in your area, and you’re ready to get started.

Or are you?

Ensure that everything goes smoothly

Your idea may be ready, but more than likely you’ll need to talk to a product development firm first.

You need to make sure that:

  • What you’re going to prototype is a manufacturable product
  • It has all the criteria well thought-out
  • It has the appropriate aesthetics for you target market
  • It satisfies any ergonomic needs
  • It is well-engineered
  • And, in general, is ready for its debut.

These points are for your benefit and your precious idea that you’ve carefully nurtured to this point. Otherwise, without solid answers to these questions, you may be on your way to wasting some serious money.

What model and prototype firms do is magic

Prototyping firms are filled with highly skilled professionals. They can take blocks of plastic and metal and other raw materials and turn them into prototypes that will function just as well as your final product.

Then, they put a finish on the prototype to the point that most people couldn’t tell the difference between the prototype and the “real thing.” They have equipment that can use lasers to build your parts out of liquid photopolymer.

However, prototyping firms will build exactly what you give them. If your input to them is not well thought out or doesn’t function the way you intended then the design will need to be modified. The outcome of prototyping is only as good as the input, and all tolerances and variances need to be considered.

Give them what they need

What a prototyping company needs is 3D CAD data. The data becomes the backbone of the entire process. You can also use this data for all other parts of the development process, from sales renderings to production tooling fabrication.

The prototype shop will use this data to program the paths that milling machines need to take to fabricate your product for CNC’d parts.

In stereolithography and laser sintering, they’ll use the data to tell the lasers where to go, where the solids walls are, and where there should be holes. And on 3D printers the data will tell the machines where to build up the material.

3D CAD Data needs to be completely, 100% accurate

Is everything the right size? Will all the parts that need to fit together actually fit together correctly?

If you have to modify the prototype parts to make everything fit together, or even remake some parts, it will cost you more money. And it will cost you precious time. You may be competing with other people for the attention of your target audience, and you’ll want to make sure you get there first.

And if you’re filing patents you’ll want to ensure things don’t change after you spend money on a patent application, only to find yourself needing to re-file.

How to get from idea, to product design, to prototype

If you do not have the capability yourself, a product development firm will be able to help you get to the point where you’re ready to hand things off to a prototyping company. The product development team will get you to the point where you’ve got a great product design, with top quality CAD data.

The development firm can take you from napkin sketch to fully detailed 3D design. They can help you chose the correct materials and manufacturing methods for you product and help with all the necessary details.

They can also help you chose the correct prototyping process. All the different prototype process have advantages and disadvantages and some firms specialize in one process or another.

The right relationship between product development and prototyping can speed the process along. The product development team will know exactly what the prototype people want. And on the back end, the prototype firm will know precisely what the deliverables need to be.

Who to ask

If you’re already talking to a prototyping firm, they may very well look at where you’re at and tell you you’re ready to go on your prototype. If that happens, congratulations, you’ve done a great job.

But if you find yourself in need of a product development firm, the prototype company can likely recommend one. It’s likely that they’ve worked with many firms and can recommend one that’s a fit with your product.



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