There comes a time for every inventor to take their idea from an intangible concept to physical reality, and a prototype is what makes it possible. Building prototypes is a key component of any product development you don’t want to skip– it allows you to test your product’s feasibility without significant investment, and it also provides a baseline to improve your product, helping to maximize its potential for your customers. Before you begin building a prototype, you’ll need to know the product development steps, to determine how each one applies to your product. Here is an overview of the four steps in the process.
- Product Discovery– This is where you’ll identify intellectual property opportunities, your target market and competition, product key features, and the cost and time of developing your idea by searching for prior art and using SWOT Analysis.
- Concept Design– Based on your findings in Step 1, you can establish a roadmap for your product development. This is where you’ll get renderings and a 3D CAD model of your idea, as a result of your concept or industrial design. It should be built to ensure your product is an accurate fit for the market.
- Market Research– After designing the concept, you should incorporate feedback from customers. This feedback will give you a clear insight into the customers’ wants and needs and if your product meets them. This feedback can now be implemented into the prototype build stage.
- Prototyping– Now that you’ve properly prepared to make your prototype, you can build your prototype. The company building your prototype will need your models to start, as well as what purpose your product serves, to ensure the proper materials and techniques are being used. The four most common types of prototypes are: Proof of Concept, Mockups, Functional, and Pre-Production Prototypes.
- Proof of Concept (For partners/investors to prove the product idea can be realized)
- Mockup prototype (For initial market research, and consumer feedback, to see the product’s shape and size)
- Functional prototype (For testing the product’s functionality, to represent the technical features)
- Pre-production prototype (For preparing a product for manufacturing, to test ergonomics, manufacturability, and best materials to use)
Throughout this process, keep in mind that it is a process that sometimes requires trial and error. As a rule, you will need to make several iterations of prototypes to reach the vision you set for your invention, but remember– each new iteration means you are one step closer to your product’s final version. Don’t give up, and if you need assistance with turning your idea into a tangible, market-ready product, our rapid prototyping company is always here to help.
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Onega Ulanova, MBA, MS
Co-Founder of LA New Product Development Team