Scientific advancement has, in many ways, greatly sped up the process of product development. There has never been a better time to turn those old invention ideas you have been sitting on into real working products. Whether you are trying to break into the market for the first time or your organization has an established history of helpful products, the process is very similar and usually includes the same hurdles that need jumping.
A necessary step in navigating the production process is developing an effective prototype. Prototyping is not a new idea by any stretch but what has changed is how prototyping is done. New technology and understanding have opened the entire industry up to faster and more efficient prototyping options. These “Rapid Prototyping” options usually involve some form of additive fabrication, including 3D printing, stereolithography, and many more. These advancements have only made the prototyping process even more valuable in product development.
Here are a few of the greatest values that come from developing an effective prototype:
Identify Design Challenges Early
The design process can be quite a lengthy process when one considers each step that an idea must go through. Beginning with the initial design in computer-aided design software (CAD) that helps in visualizing what the final product will look like. The produced CAD file can then easily be shared with the production partner that will be producing the prototype.
Creating a high-quality prototype early on in the process allows for invaluable feedback and an in-depth look at how the product will hold up in the hands of actual users. Prototyping increases efficiency by testing early versions of the product and identifying design challenges before final production begins.
It is pretty common to go through several rounds of prototyping to ensure the product will not only look and feel right but perform correctly as well.
Most product development projects start in a similar way. There is some sort of need to be filled, a purpose to be served, or a task that needs accomplishing. This usually leads to an idea for an invention or tool that can do so and make easier the lives of anybody that uses it.
A working product is obviously the goal of any design project. Equally important, however, is keeping the user in mind as to how it completes the task. A prototype is very helpful in testing the product to make sure it is effective but not too complicated to use. Prototyping promotes a process that utilizes constructive feedback in order to develop the most user-friendly product possible.
Helps Your Bottom Line
You might be thinking that the entire idea of a prototype seems like a major investment of time and money during an already long and expensive production process. We now know that prototyping methods have evolved to be much quicker and less expensive but the real draw to an effective prototyping process comes in the final production step.
All of the feedback received helps the manufacturer to develop a final product that will meet every demand immediately off the production line. Every year there are major recalls of goods or products that fail to meet safety standards. These recalls end up costing companies huge amounts of money. Skipping or rushing the prototyping step may save money in the short run but design problems that go unnoticed can lead to devastating expenses and challenges after the product has been shipped.
Invest in your product by taking the time to put it through early testing and prototyping to ensure the final product is safe, effective, and easy to use.