The prototyping stage is one of the most important in the product development lifecycle. The decisions you make at this point will have a long-lasting impact on the ultimate success of your product. It’s important to work with a provider you can trust — and to know what to expect before you begin. In this article, we look at some keys to building a successful prototype.
PLANNING IN ADVANCE
A successful prototype requires planning. Before you begin, you should:
- Understand the limits of the process. Prototyping isn’t like general production. To keep costs down at this early stage, you may need to limit what you manufacture. Set specific goals for each prototyping run. For example, one can test dimensional tolerances or thermal performance while another focuses on design. Treat these factors in isolation and don’t let your vision for the finished product cloud your assessment of the prototyping process.
- Determine what’s important early. The prototyping process is where manufacturers make hard choices about what their finished product will look like. It will go smoother if you know ahead of time what you need to prioritize. Think back to your initial brainstorming and R&D work. What were the most exciting and best-received aspects of the design? How can you ensure these features don’t get compromised in the process of bringing it to market?
- Don’t forget the bottom line. When done right, product prototyping will deliver a strong return on your investment. However, it’s important to be strategic. Don’t let prototyping take up too much of your budget. Instead, be clear about your requirements and work to find cost-effective ways of achieving them.
MISTAKES TO AVOID
The two main things to be careful of during prototyping are:
- Not taking something away from every attempt. If an early prototype doesn’t meet your expectations, don’t consider it a failure. Prototyping is supposed to tell you something about your product’s design and feasibility. Perform a thorough review of each attempt and move forward with a set of issues to address in future efforts.
- Losing sight of the big picture. The focus on achieving granular results can detract from the big-picture perspective necessary for successful prototyping. Make sure not to get trapped in the tunnel vision of obsessing over a specific feature or spec. Instead, periodically have people outside your development team test the product to make certain it remains functional and intuitive.
THE PROTOTYPER’S ROLE — HOW WE HELP
Ultimately, the prototype manufacturing company you work with will play a role in the process’ success. Your partner at this stage should bring not just technical expertise and capabilities, but also a willingness to work with you and help you get the most out of the process.
SIMTEC Silicone Parts provides expert assistance with everything from material selection to prototyping and beyond. Find out what we can do for you by browsing our website or contacting our office to request a quote.