PROTOTYPING Shaping Ideas Into Reality

Welcome to the world of prototyping, a crucial part of the design process, and an essential stepping-stone towards innovation.

This page will serve as your definitive guide to understanding, exploring, and applying prototyping, whether you’re an aspiring designer, an innovator, an entrepreneur, or simply someone curious about how great ideas become tangible products.

It’s where creativity meets practicality,and ideas beginto take shape in the real world.

What is span PROTOTYPING

Prototyping is a crucial stage in the product development process where a preliminary model (the prototype) of your product is built. This model serves to test and validate the design, functionality, and feasibility of the product before it goes into full-scale production.

From website design to manufacturing, every industry values the use of prototypes as a cost-effective way to spot problems and make improvements.

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WHY IS PROTOTYPING IMPORTANT?

1

Mitigates Risk: Prototyping allows for testing and refining the product, which mitigates risk by identifying potential design flaws or operational issues before investing heavily in full-scale production.

2

Boosts Creativity: It fosters creativity by allowing designers and developers to explore various ideas, test different approaches, and innovate without fear of failure.

3

Enhances Communication: Prototypes provide a tangible model for teams, stakeholders, and potential users, which fosters more effective communication about the product.

4

User-Centered Design: Prototyping keeps the focus on the user’s needs and preferences, providing insights that inform the final product design.

Prototyping as Part of the Product Development Process

Prototyping is a vital part of product development, bridging the gap between concept and reality. It allows for testing, refining, and shaping the product before final production and market launch.

Through iterative feedback loops, prototypes drive product evolution and uncover valuable insights about functionality, usability, and feasibility. Prototypes also serve as communication tools, aligning expectations and securing resources.

Prototyping is a critical phase that influences design decisions and ensures a robust, user-centric end product. “Fail early to succeed sooner” encapsulates its importance in the journey from idea to finished product.

Detailed Look at the Prototyping Process

The prototyping process is a cycle of creating, testing, analyzing, and refining a prototype. While it’s part of the larger product development process, it has its own unique steps:

1.
Define the Prototype's Purpose:

The prototyping process is a cycle of creating, testing, analyzing, and refining a prototype. While it’s part of the larger product development process, it has its own unique steps:

2.
Develop the Prototype:

Based on your goal, create an initial prototype. For early stage design, this could be a simple sketch or wireframe. For later stages, this might be a high-fidelity digital prototype or a physical model.

Prototype Design

AN OVERVIEW OF THE PROCESS,
THE TYPES, AND THE FACTORS

3.
Test the Prototype

This could involve user testing, in which potential users interact with your prototype and provide feedback. Alternatively, it could be a functional test to see if the prototype works as intended.

4.
Gather and Analyze Feedback

After testing, collect and analyze all feedback and observations. Look for patterns in user feedback, areas of confusion or difficulty, and any shortcomings in functionality.

5.
Refine the Prototype:

Based on your analysis, refine your prototype to address the identified issues. This could involve tweaking the design, adding or modifying features, or adjusting user interfaces.

6.
Repeat the Process:

Prototyping is an iterative process, so you’ll likely repeat these steps multiple times before settling on a final design. Each iteration should bring you closer to a product that meets user needs and is feasible to produce.

The power of prototyping lies in its iterative nature. Each cycle of creating, testing, analyzing, and refining brings you closer to a product that is well-designed, functional, and user-focused. It’s a process that allows for exploration, experimentation, and ultimately, innovation.

Types Of
Prototypes

There are several types of prototypes. The choice will depend on many factors including the stage of the product development. Some of the most frequently used prototypes are:

Mockup
prototype

“looks-like prototype”

Proof of Concept prototype

“works-like prototype”

FUNCTIONAL prototype

“works and looks-like” prototype

Each of them serves its own purpose. Depending on what stage of the idea development you are and your objective, we will help you to determine which type of prototype you need. 

Let’s look at the purpose of each more closely.

How long does it take to produce and test a prototype?

Typically, the process of building a prototype can vary in duration, ranging from as little as a day to as long as 12 months. The timeframe can be influenced by the complexity of the product design. For example, when utilizing 3D printing technology, the duration may range from a few hours to a few days.

Occasionally, there are exceptional cases that demand more extensive time investments. For instance, we encountered a project at LA NPDT where each individual part of the product required 4-5 days for printing, resulting in a total of 2 months dedicated solely to 3D printing. However, in general, the construction of an invention prototype typically takes between 1 to 2 months.

In March 2020, we took the initiative to assist and contribute to healthcare workers and first responders during the emergent pandemic by donating face shields.

We swiftly developed the initial functional prototype for the product within a day and subsequently refined it over the course of a couple of weeks.

During this period, we focused on various aspects, such as reducing print and assembly time, improving design ergonomics, and implementing jigs to expedite the production process.

Here are some types of the invention prototypes and their average timelines

ELECTRONICS PROTOTYPE

(CUSTOM PCB)

MECHANICAL PROTOTYPE

3D PRINTED MOCKUP PROTOTYPE

SEWING

SILICONE RUBBER MOLDED PROTOTYPE

4-12 weeks

4-8 weeks

1-4 weeks

2-4 weeks

2-6 weeks

how much does it cost to build a prototype?

Determining the cost of building a prototype is highly individualized, as each project is unique and requires a custom approach. Since every new product is essentially a new project, the estimation of its price involves various considerations.

The cost of developing a product prototype is influenced by the following factors:

DESIGN & PRODUCT
PROTOTYPE COMPLEXITY

The complexity of the design plays a significant role in cost estimation. For instance, a simple prototype that involves only a plastic 3D printed model may range in cost from $30 to $3,000, depending on its size.

However, if your idea incorporates elements such as electronics, mechanics, software, or labor-intensive assembly, the price is likely to be considerably higher.

RAW MATERIAL COSTS
AND AVAILABILITY

The materials used in constructing the prototype and their availability in small quantities also impact the cost estimation. It is important to note that retail and wholesale prices can differ, thereby affecting the overall cost of the prototype.

PROTOTYPE
PURPOSE & QUANTITY

The purpose of your product prototype and the number of prototypes required during the development process contribute to the costs. Typically, multiple prototypes are necessary rather than relying on a single one.

CHOICE OF RAPID
PROTOTYPING COMPANIES

The price of building a prototype can vary across different prototyping companies, considering the aforementioned factors. When selecting a rapid prototyping company, it is essential to assess whether they offer additional design and manufacturing services. This can eliminate the need to engage multiple companies with limited areas of responsibility.

GET A FREE ESTIMATE

or give us a call at
+ 1 318 612 1891

You can also try to find out the cost of your particular prototype using our calculator. You will be asked basic questions about your prototype and will be offered an estimated cost. Follow the link.

Try Our Prototype Cost Calculator

Case Studies

GoPro Hero Camera

GoPro is a well-known brand specializing in action cameras that capture high-quality footage in extreme conditions. When developing their flagship product, the GoPro Hero camera, physical prototyping played a significant role in its success.

Challenge

GoPro aimed to create a compact, durable, and user-friendly camera that could withstand rigorous activities such as surfing, mountain biking, and skydiving. They needed to ensure the camera’s ruggedness, usability, and optimal mounting capabilities.

Prototyping Process:

1. CONCEPTUALIZATION

GoPro started with early conceptual designs and sketches to define the camera’s form factor, key features, and user interface.

2. 3D Printing

To test and refine the camera’s physical design, they utilized 3D printing to create functional prototypes. These prototypes allowed them to evaluate ergonomics, button placement, and overall aesthetics.

3. WATERPROOFING

GoPro started with early conceptual designs and sketches to define the camera’s form factor, key features, and user interface.

4. FIELD TESTING

To ensure the camera’s performance in real-world scenarios, GoPro conducted extensive field testing with prototype units. This involved mounting the cameras on various sports equipment and capturing footage in challenging environments.

5. ITERATIVE REFINEMENT

Based on user feedback and test results, GoPro iteratively refined the camera’s design, functionality, and accessory compatibility. They continually updated and enhanced prototypes to meet the specific neeZds and preferences of their target audience.

THE RESULT

By leveraging physical prototypes, GoPro could assess the camera’s form, functionality, and durability, ensuring that the final product met the expectations of their target audience.

The success of the GoPro Hero camera can be attributed, in part, to the extensive physical prototyping and iterative refinement that took place throughout its development. 

This case study demonstrates how physical prototyping can play a crucial role in ensuring the functionality, usability, and durability of a product, particularly in industries where ruggedness and performance are paramount.

CASE STUDY: UP DOCK - SAVING $12,950 THROUGH PROTOTYPING AND DESIGN OPTIMIZATION

Here’s an illustrative case that demonstrates how our team achieved significant cost savings of $12,950 by employing thorough prototyping and design optimization. Through the creation of more than 14 prototypes, we were able to fine-tune the design for efficient mass production.

By streamlining the assembly process and minimizing manufacturing steps, we not only enhanced the product’s aesthetics but also managed to reduce costs.

Our team leveraged the advantages of rapid prototyping technologies, enabling us to iterate swiftly through the design-prototype-test cycle. To achieve this, our skilled professionals utilized cutting-edge techniques such as CNC milling, routing, and 3D printing.

Up dock, lanpdt, la new product development team

For a detailed account of the entire story, please refer to the following link.

Insights from industry experts about prototyping:

"Prototyping is the conversationyou have with your ideas."

- Tom Wujec, Designer and Fellow at Autodesk

"Prototyping is about failing fast, failing cheap, and failing forward."

- Jon Kolko, Author and Designer

"Prototypes are not just about validating ideas; they're about sparking new ones."

- Irene Au, Design Partner at Khosla Ventures

"Prototyping is an investment in the success of your product. It's better to invest time and effort upfront than to spend more time and money fixing problems later."

- Marty Cagan, Author and Product Management Expert

PROTOTYPING bEST pRACTICES

Even with a strong understanding of what prototyping is and the right tools at your disposal, following a few best practices can make your prototyping efforts even more successful:

1

Start Simple

Even with a strong understanding of what prototyping is and the right tools at your disposal, following a few best practices can make your prototyping efforts even more successful:

2

ITERATE OFTEN

Even with a strong understanding of what prototyping is and the right tools at your disposal, following a few best practices can make your prototyping efforts even more successful:

3

INVOLVE USERS EARLY ON

Even with a strong understanding of what prototyping is and the right tools at your disposal, following a few best practices can make your prototyping efforts even more successful:

4

PROTOTYPE FOR SPECIFIC GOALS

Even with a strong understanding of what prototyping is and the right tools at your disposal, following a few best practices can make your prototyping efforts even more successful:

5

DOCUMENTATION

Keep detailed records of your prototypes, tests, and the resulting feedback. This information is invaluable for understanding your design decisions and guiding future efforts.

Need a Prototype?
LA NPDT is Your
One-Stop Solution!

Whether you’re envisioning a simple sketch, an intricate 3D printed model, or a fully functional prototype, LA New Product Development Team (LA NPDT) has got you covered! With our diverse expertise and cutting-edge tools, we bring your ideas to life in a tangible form, helping you validate your concepts, improve your designs, and expedite your product development journey.

At LA NPDT, we understand the value of effective prototyping. That’s why we offer a comprehensive range of prototyping services tailored to your unique needs. From concept generation to prototype creation, testing, and refinement, we’re with you every step of the way.

Ready to bring your ideas to reality? Connect with us today and let LA NPDT transform your vision into a prototype that propels your product towards success!

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ’s)

A prototype is a preliminary model or mockup of a product, used for testing and refining the design before producing the final version. It allows designers and developers to explore ideas, test functionality, and get feedback from users or stakeholders.

Practice regularly, study design theory, seek feedback from peers or mentors, and stay updated on design trends and innovations.

There are several types of prototypes, including paper prototypes, digital prototypes, physical prototypes, and 3D printed prototypes. The type of prototype used depends on the stage of the design process and the specific goals of the prototype.

Rapid prototyping is a process where prototypes are created quickly for testing and feedback. It’s often used in product design and development to speed up the design process, reduce costs, and ensure that the final product meets user needs and expectations.

At LA NPDT, we use a user-centered approach to prototyping. We work closely with our clients to understand their needs and goals, and then create custom prototypes that meet those objectives. Our process is iterative, meaning we create multiple versions of a prototype, testing and refining it each time based on user feedback and our own expertise.

Starting your prototyping journey with LA NPDT is simple. Just reach out to us via our contact page and we’ll discuss your project, your goals, and how we can help bring your ideas to life.

LA New Product Development or LA NPDT is a team of talented engineers, product designers and developers with the mission to help businesses achieve greater prosperity by providing complete new product development services.

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and Invention Design Awards

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