All new products start as ideas. The prototype development process takes an idea to the physical world. More than ever, companies are investing in rapid prototyping to test their ideas quickly. Project management professionals in a new product development division need a strong prototype process. In order to test their products quickly, the process should be streamlined and cost-effective. In this post, we identify key steps in the prototype development process.
Ask Why Prototype The Product?
Before starting the process, you must know why you are prototyping. The company might be testing a provisional patented product to show investors, test if the concept is actually possible or prepare for mass production. As you can imagine, each purpose will have a different focus. A product to show investors might focus on utility and design. Meanwhile, a concept test would emphasize how the product works. Then, prototyping for manufacturing calculates for the costs of materials and production. Thinking ahead, a clear purpose of why you should create a prototype will guide the goals of the entire process.
Design A New Product
At this point, the prototype development process requires a viable design. To successfully design your new product, use a variety of design programs. These might include 3D modeling programs or CAD drawings. Consequently, a digital 3D design makes prototyping development much easier. You can perform a Failure Mode Effects Analysis (FMEA) before producing a prototype. Of course, your 3D design saves time and resources to create a successful prototype on the first attempt. Create detailed designs of the new product and optimize it the best you can before building the first prototype.
There Are No Rules
When making a prototype, there are no rules. You have the opportunity to be creative. Meaning, you are free to develop a prototype using any methods or materials you choose. Take the time to use both cheaper or more expensive materials including plastic, metals, electronics or fabrics. Then, consider alternatives that you might not have tried. If you give yourself more flexibility, you have a much higher chance of creating a truly innovative product. Therefore, keep an open mind when developing a new prototype.
Prototype The Product
Finally, the design should be developed into a prototype. With your design and materials in place, you have several options to bring the idea to reality. 3D printing, CNC machining and metal fabrication are some of the most popular prototyping processes. They allow for quicker turnaround time to move from concept to product. Other processes that are more expensive include mold and casting (with optional custom painting). To create a successful prototype, the finished product should be something that brings together all parts of the design. If successful, the product should fulfill the purpose of why prototyping was started.
Conduct Prototype Testing
More importantly, your developed prototype should undergo extensive testing. Before showing to anyone or manufacturing for the masses, the new prototype must actually work. Similar to building mobile apps, you will find new problems related to electrical, software or mechanical aspects. Moreover, you need to determine the product limits. You can conduct limit testing and stress testing to see what your new product can handle. Accordingly, in-depth prototype testing will save costs long term because its always easier to make changes sooner rather than later on.
The prototype development process includes all of these key steps. You must have a clear goal for why prototyping a concept. Then, the design should be carefully created and scrutinized. Remember to explore all alternatives for materials and production. Then, you can implement rapid prototyping processes. Finally, the new product should be tested before taking it to investors, customers or manufactures.
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