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How Much Does a Prototype Cost to Make in 2024?

This article explores the cost of creating various types of prototypes, including 3D printed, mechanical, electrical, mobile app, and others. Prototypes are essential for product development, as they provide a tangible representation of your concept, help secure investment, and gather user feedback. They can greatly aid in your overall development and marketing efforts.

How Much Does a Prototype Cost to Make

Before bringing your product to market or launching a mobile app, it’s crucial to test a prototype. A prototype allows you to:

  • validate your final design and gather customer feedback,
  • detect potential critical bugs or design flaws that can help avoid product recalls and customer complaints,
  • gain assurance before investing significant time and money into manufacturing and marketing,

and more.

If you want to learn more about the importance of prototyping, download our white paper “Why prototyping is important”.

Budgeting Prototyping

Budgeting for prototyping is crucial, as it can significantly impact the overall cost of product development. Prototyping typically accounts for a large portion of the research, design, and development costs, sometimes even up to 80%. To avoid overspending, it’s important to consider the cost of each prototype and its purpose, as well as allow for additional expenses as the prototyping process is often iterative.

Without proper budgeting, not only you might spend too much time and money, but you might not even achieve all the prototyping-related goals. In another instance, if you do not budget properly, you may run through too many cycles of prototyping paying a very high price for that.

For budgeting purposes, it’s important to remember that prototyping is an iterative process. Each prototype might be of a different type, serve a different purpose, and take a different amount of time and money. Thus, you might want to budget the approximate cost of each prototype your project might require.

Since it’s impossible to accurately predict the number of prototypes you would need, it’s wise to add an extra allowance for possible additional expenses. One of Murphy’s laws says that

“A carefully planned project will only take twice longer and twice more than expected”.

Murphy’s Law

There are ways that allow you to save on prototypes, though. Jump to “How to save on prototyping?”.

What contributes to the cost of a prototype?

The cost of creating a prototype is determined by several factors, including production methods, design complexity, and effort required. Materials, components, and labor are the primary cost drivers for prototyping. However, unexpected design changes and additional material needs during the process can greatly impact the final cost. Additional expenses to consider include equipment and lab supply costs, as well as general overhead expenses of the prototyping company.

How prototype cost is estimated?

Our team follows this process to estimate the cost of a prototype:

  1. 1. Engineers, designers, and prototyping specialists collaborate to determine the method of creating the prototype.
  2. 2. The cost of components and materials is calculated.
  3. 3. Labor costs are estimated based on experience and previous projects.
  4. 4. The potential risks are evaluated, taking into account the complexity of the prototype and the possibility of unexpected challenges and waste.
  5. 5. An estimate for profit is included in the final calculation.

Video: How Do You Estimate the Cost of a Prototype?

How much does it cost to make a prototype? How much does each kind of prototype costs?

Here are some common types of prototypes and approximate cost ranges:

It’s important to note that the actual cost of your prototype may vary due to various factors. The listed ranges should be taken as a general guide only, as each prototype is a unique combination of art and science (read about the prototype cost factors).

Also check out our Prototype Cost Calculator where you can get a ballpark estimate for your prototype cost by answering a few questions.

3D Printing Prototype Cost:

A simple 3D printed prototype with minimal post-processing and assembly can cost anywhere from $30 to $5,000, depending on the size and complexity of the design. Examples of this type of prototype include plastic products with few, non-moving parts, such as an electronic device enclosure, a dog toy, or a container.

3D Printing Prototype Cost

Example of a Simple 3D Printed Prototype

It’s important to keep in mind that 3D printing costs can increase significantly for prototypes larger than 12 inches in any direction due to the limitations of the prototyping 3D printers. Additionally, using specialty materials for 3D printing can also greatly increase the cost.

Complex 3D Printed Prototype Cost or Simple Mechanical or Electrical Prototype Cost:

If your prototype requires more advanced features and functions, such as electronics, mechanical components, and other advanced materials, then the cost of the prototype can range from $1,500 to $20,000 or more. An example of such a prototype could be a simple electrical device or a mechanism with a few moving parts. In addition to the cost of the parts and labor, the anticipated number of trials and errors contributes to the cost. Other factors increasing the cost are novelty and uniqueness of the prototyped product, custom software or firmware requirement, and unique production methods that might be needed.

Complex 3D Printed Prototype Cost or Simple Mechanical or Electrical Prototype Cost:

Example of a Complex 3D Printed Prototype, Simple Electrical Prototype

Complex Electronics Prototype Cost:

A prototype that contains electronics and needs to be programmed often costs anywhere between $10,000 and $50,000. The high end of the range could even be in hundreds of thousands in this case. The price would depend on the following factors:

  • novelty and uniqueness of the product,
  • the scale and the complexity of the electric circuit,
  • whether a custom PCB would be needed,
  • the number of code lines,
  • type of software that would need to be developed.

An example of such a prototype could be a wearable gadget, a household electronic product, or an IoT device. 

Electronics Prototype Example

 

PCB Prototype Example

Automated Equipment, High-Tech Device Prototype Cost:

This type of prototype requires specialized equipment and highly skilled personnel, which results in higher costs. The size and complexity of the design, along with the materials and components used, significantly contribute to the cost.
In such cases, prototypes are often developed in stages, starting with a proof of concept prototype, followed by functional and engineering prototypes, and finally, a pre-production prototype. This staged approach helps mitigate the overall cost and helps manage the risks involved in prototyping.

mechanical product design brunson machinery tools excavator attachments by la new product development tools, product design company

Heavy Machinery Prototype Example

automated pizza cooking and vending machine prototype LA NPDT

Automated Pizza Cooking and Vending Machine Prototype

Mobile App Prototype Cost:

Prototyping a mobile app can be divided into two stages: building a mockup prototype of the user interface (UI) and developing a functional prototype. The mockup prototype of a mobile app can be created using graphic design software or special prototyping tools and can cost anywhere between $2,000 and $12,000, depending on the number of screens, the layout complexity, and desired design quality. The cost of the functional prototype is primarily driven by the complexity and scale of the mobile app and the need for unique technology development. On average, the cost of a functional mobile app prototype can range from $2,000 to $30,000. In exceptional cases, unique app prototypes can cost several hundred thousand dollars.

ios app development, ios development, app development, LA NPDT.

Mobile App Prototype Example

When estimating the cost of building a prototype, it’s important to remember, that prototyping might reveal some design issues that would need to be corrected before finishing the prototype. Thus, it’s important to include possible design modifications into the prototyping budget. 

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How to save on prototyping?

Because prototyping is a creative process that involves trial and error, it is not uncommon for issues or delays to arise. To mitigate these risks, prototyping companies often include a contingency or buffer in their cost estimates.

Rapid prototyping methods like 3D printing are not immune to failures and may result in a lower success rate, particularly for complex designs. The prototyping company will consider the risk of failure and the cost of re-printing when pricing the prototype.

The cost of a prototype is also influenced by the tools and machinery needed for production and the skill level and experience of the prototyping team. Some production methods require years of practice and training, while others can be learned relatively quickly. The more skilled the team, the fewer mistakes are likely to be made, which can help to minimize the cost of the prototype.

There are several ways to minimize the cost of prototype manufacturing, including using less expensive materials, choosing a more cost-effective production method, and streamlining the design process to reduce the need for revisions.

Here are you can read about seven ways to minimize the cost of prototype manufacturing.

How payments for making a prototype are typically structured?

The prototyping process often involves several stages, each with specific milestones to reach. To ensure the commitment of the customer and to purchase necessary materials, most prototyping companies require a deposit before starting the work. This deposit usually ranges from 30-70% of the total cost and acts as a guarantee of the customer’s dedication to the project.

At LA NPDT, our payment terms follow the industry standard with a 50% deposit and the remaining 50% paid upon completion of each stage.

How long does it take to make a prototype?

The time it takes to build a prototype depends on its complexity and scale. A simple prototype may take just a few hours to make, while a complex and large one may take months and even years to build. On average, you can expect something between one and three months. Here are the average timelines for building prototypes depending on their type:

Prototype Type Complexity Level Timeline Price Range
Electronics prototype (with a custom PCB) High 4-12 weeks $10,000-$50,000
Mechanical prototype Moderate 4-8 weeks $3,000-$30,000
3D printed mockup prototype Low to Moderate 1-4 weeks $500-$5,000
Fabric prototype Low to Moderate 2-4 weeks $500-$5,000
Silicone rubber molded prototype Moderate 2-6 weeks $2,000-$15,000
Mobile app prototype Low to High 2-6 weeks $2,000-$30,000
Chemical prototype High 3-8 weeks $10,000-$50,000
Paper or cardboard prototype Low 1-2 weeks $200-$2,000
Sheet metal prototype Moderate 2-6 weeks $2,000-$15,000
Machined metal prototype Moderate 2-6 weeks $2,000-$25,000

How many prototypes do I need?

The number of prototypes required depends on factors such as the size and complexity of the product, as well as budget and time constraints. Typically, customers undergo 2-4 prototypes before launching their product to market. However, for larger and more complex devices, only 2-3 prototypes may be necessary. Conversely, smaller and simpler products may require multiple prototypes, sometimes numbering in the tens or even hundreds. The ultimate goal is to balance the number of prototypes with budget and time constraints to ensure a successful product launch.

What should I do to get started? How to start a prototype?

To ensure a smooth prototyping process, it is crucial to gather all relevant information and documentation about your product before starting. This includes CAD files of custom parts and a comprehensive bill of materials (BOM). If you don’t have a CAD design for your product, consider finding a prototyping company that also offers product design services to help you create one. Having a clear understanding of your product and its design elements will greatly aid in streamlining the prototyping process.

Start the process of bringing your product to life by getting in touch with our experienced prototyping team. Simply fill out the contact form below or schedule a consultation to discuss your project and start the journey towards a successful prototype and product launch.

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LA New Product Development Team is a comprehensive product development firm, offering services ranging from idea generation and product design to manufacturing and marketing. LANPDT collaborates with startups and established businesses to transform concepts into market-ready innovations.

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Born in Louisiana, making impact worldwide.

Thank you for choosing LA New Product Development Team for your Prior Art Search.

Please fill out the form to submit your order.

Upon successful payment, you will receive an email with a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) and a questionnaire regarding your product idea.

Your privacy and security are paramount to us, so rest assured that your information will be handled with the utmost confidentiality.

Step 1: Fill in your contact and billing details.
Step 2: Review your order summary.
Step 3: Submit payment.

After your payment is processed, please check your email for the NDA and questionnaire. Completing these documents promptly will allow us to start your Prior Art Search without delay.


If you have any questions or need assistance with your order, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

318-200-0526 | hello@lanpdt.com

Thank you for choosing LA New Product Development Team for your Prior Art Search.

Please fill out the form to submit your order.

Upon successful payment, you will receive an email with a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) and a questionnaire regarding your product idea.

Your privacy and security are paramount to us, so rest assured that your information will be handled with the utmost confidentiality.

Step 1: Fill in your contact and billing details.
Step 2: Review your order summary.
Step 3: Submit payment.

After your payment is processed, please check your email for the NDA and questionnaire. Completing these documents promptly will allow us to start your Prior Art Search without delay.


If you have any questions or need assistance with your order, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

318-200-0526 | hello@lanpdt.com

Thank you for choosing LA New Product Development Team for your Prior Art Search.

Please fill out the form to submit your order.

Upon successful payment, you will receive an email with a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) and a questionnaire regarding your product idea.

Your privacy and security are paramount to us, so rest assured that your information will be handled with the utmost confidentiality.

Step 1: Fill in your contact and billing details.
Step 2: Review your order summary.
Step 3: Submit payment.

After your payment is processed, please check your email for the NDA and questionnaire. Completing these documents promptly will allow us to start your Prior Art Search without delay.


If you have any questions or need assistance with your order, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

318-200-0526 | hello@lanpdt.com

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