If you're wondering how to develop a prototype, the following steps will guide you through the process. Developing a prototype for your product is an important step between designing the product and producing it en masse. Before you can move on to production, you'll need to refine your design and develop a working model.

Developing a Prototype: Step by Step

  1. First, find products that are similar to your design. Take them apart to get an insider perspective on their function.
  2. Using paper, draw what your idea will look like. Write or type out any additional ideas. This will give you an idea of what the first prototype will be like and will help you find flaws and other ways to improve the product's design before you spend the time, effort, and money to build a prototype.
  3. Hire a professional to assist you in developing a computer-aided design (CAD) of your prototype. This design will be much more detailed than your sketch and will be sent to the prototype maker to enable them to make the most detailed and accurate prototype possible.
  4. If possible, create a handmade version of your product. Having a sample in-hand will make it much easier to discuss your parameters and ideas with the prototype maker. In addition, it will allow you to further refine your idea.
  5. Find a prototype maker that will fit your budget. Oftentimes, making a prototype can be somewhat expensive. Decide which material you'll use for your prototype. Prototype materials should be the same materials that you intend to use in the final product.
  6. As you meet with prototype-making companies, inquire about their credentials and previous work to make sure that your prototype will be high quality and accurately represent your design. Regardless of whether the company has worked cooperatively with its clients in the past, obtain a nondisclosure agreement from them, unless you've already acquired a patent.
  7. Consider creating a prototype with 3D printing. These printers can use CAD designs or 3D models to build a working prototype, layer by layer.
  8. Raise funds by getting in touch with your family and friends first. You may still need to approach other sources to turn production into a reality. Investors may be especially useful during this stage.
  9. Fulfill your customers' orders and produce as much of your product as you can sell. Constructing a prototype can be an expensive process, so make sure to avoid getting stuck with a large inventory. As you sell your product, you'll need to improve upon the initial design until it becomes a profitable and attractive.

Tips for Developing a Prototype

Hire a professional who is skilled at using drafting software, including CAD and its variants. Examine the design on a 3D plane and make sure the connections, angles, and balance are mathematically sound.

Don't forget that the fewer parts a product has the better. When creating an electronic prototype, avoid redundant and ugly connections. If you're creating a physical (non-technology-related) product, keep aesthetics and product simplicity in mind.

If you're creating a tech product, create a list of all the necessary components. Make sure the connections and wiring are checked by a professional in the field.

Using your CAD design, make a nonfunctional, physical mock-up. Use wood, cardboard, foam, plastic, or whatever materials are similar to your intended product. While the process may be frustrating and time-consuming, it will allow you to become familiar with the physical feel of your design.

Your first prototype may not look very attractive or professional. Don't get discouraged. Instead, check its functionality. If all works properly, then you'll just need to refine and revise the aesthetics.

As you present the prototype to investors, include a printed and detailed guide on its assembly. Investors will find it valuable to be able to see the interior and inner workings of the product. Present both an assembled prototype and a disassembled prototype when showing your design.

You might even decide to present your prototype to your customers in order to gain feedback and suggestions. Of course, if you decide to run these tests, the judgment ultimately lies with you.

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