The word prototype comes from the Greek words prôtos and tupos, which, when put together, mean a figure or the defining characteristic of something. Or in other words, a prototype represents a product idea intended to learn something about the ultimate end product.
Nowadays, product engineers and design teams of enterprises utilize the services of professional prototyping companies to develop a fully functional prototype for them way before they decide to put their finished product on shelves worldwide. But do you know why companies need to build a prototype before they go into mass production of their next hit product?
Well, prototypes are developed for several reasons, including making the idea of the product tangible. In addition, they can evaluate the idea when analytical techniques and practices are not applicable, demonstrate the product’s functionality and performance, refine its usability, and visualize its functionality cost drivers.
In this article, we’ll discuss the reasons behind the importance of prototypes and why creating one is a step you can’t skip in modern-day product development.
In a couple of words, rapid prototyping is a technique utilized to rapidly manufacture a mockup of physical products using 3D CAD data. Since the prototyping companies that develop these prototypes usually build them with the help of additive manufacturing methods, the term is somewhat equivalent to 3D printing and additive fabrication of things.
Since it offers nearly non-restricted shape liberty and doesn’t demand additional tooling, additive fabrication techniques are a natural fit for this kind of prototyping. In addition, with rapid prototyping, you can create pieces with mechanical qualities that match various materials made with standard manufacturing methods.
Thanks to rapid prototyping, nowadays, it’s totally feasible to create prototypes incredibly quickly and perform numerous iterations of the form, size, design, or assembly for real-life testing and examination. The bottom line, rapid prototyping is what helps enterprises take their new products to market quicker than their fierce competitors.
Why Prototypes Are Essential in Modern-Day Product Development
They Help Engineers Understand and Examine Their Concepts Quicker
Thanks to prototypes, engineers can see their original ideas into physical low-risk concept examinations that resemble the final product in no time. This way, product engineers can actually see, touch, and feel the simulated visualization of their product concept and think through whether some changes or modifications need to be made before they make it final.
Although one of the most significant advantages of product prototypes is not that obvious, it certainly plays vital importance. This is because the risks of the product with the completed prototype are considerably lower than the projects in which prototyping was not carried out.
This fact has a relatively straightforward explanation — ready prototypes directly affect the most critical components of each product development project: time, resources, and budget. When a prototype is developed, most of the hidden shortcomings are exposed, and all functional gaps get located. For this reason, prototyping is excellent for risk reduction and successful estimation of the number of resources and development time for each project.
Providing Focused Feedback
Each person that’s part of the project has their own vision of how the final product should be. Exposure of the final prototype assists in unifying all ideas and permits the beneficiaries to see the outcome from a different perspective. The prototype will help them see their vision materialized and will provide focused feedback on the desired details. Feedback is crucial to understand the needs and expectations of potential consumers, business requirements and to understand where the entire project is heading.
Evaluating Technical Feasibility
Functional prototypes are the ones that make it possible to concretize an idea and understand which aspects of this idea prove difficult or impossible to implement. By developing a prototype, product engineers and executives can highlight unanticipated technical or physical constraints of the end product.
Presenting the Product to Potential Customers
Developing a prototype makes it possible to present your future product to potential buyers in a concrete way. By doing so, you have a considerable asset to take pre-orders upon before the final launch of your product. In addition, once you’ve collected the testimonials, opinions, and recommendations from your potential clients, you can review the product once more before you decide to put it into mass production.
Whatever product you decide to tackle next, remember that it’s essential that you develop a prototype first and have a working model of your idea to show to potential investors and customers and some point. Also, the prototype is vital so that you designers and engineers can review it before it goes into production to develop the best product possible.