The creation of a prototype is very important in our everyday life. This is so because it is the medium through which a person turns an idea in his imagination into reality. It is therefore what births our creative power as human beings and is responsible for virtually all the advancements we have in technology.
For this reason, most people seek out rapid prototyping services when getting started. The truth is you can make some blatant mistakes when creating a prototype.
This article focuses on prototypes and the common mistakes that can be made when creating one.
What exactly is a prototype?
A prototype is the first functional attempt at creating something which exemplifies key details and characteristics of something without necessarily being the end goal.
Prototype creation is therefore all the processes that are involved in making a prototype of any product or machine.
Variants of Prototypes
Various types of prototypes can be made by an inventor to test the workability of his product. They include;
Non-working model prototype: This is a type of prototype that is made from basic materials such as plastic, foam, etc. The purpose of this model is to test the shape or form to ensure that is in the desired form
Working model prototype: this is a type of prototype that is made for relevant materials needed for the final invention. It usually contains all the basic things required. The purpose of creating this model is to test the functionality of the product.
Virtual prototype: This is the type of prototype that is made through the use of Computer-aided Design [CAD] software. It is usually made by tech-savvy inventors. It is used mainly for the purpose of presentations to investors, regulatory agencies, and other such related stakeholders.
The process of creating a prototype
Put the idea in writing
Make a sketch of your proposed inventions
Make a virtual model of your proposed invention
Make a non-working model of your proposed invention
Make a working model of your proposed invention.
Register it in accordance to appropriate intellectual property laws
Common mistakes made in prototype creation
Not setting your eyes on the prize: in creating a prototype, inventors might be too focused on creating a prototype that they might think about the practical implications of creating the final product.
Lacking Adaptability: just because you had an idea in your head before creating a prototype does not mean that you cannot modify or improve the idea. You have to give room for adaptability to bring out the best possible version of the idea at a time.
Perseverance: Some inventors on failing the first will stop trying. Thomas Edison tried 99 times before finally creating the electric bulb. If you believe in an idea, just persevere. You might be the next genius of our time.
The utility of prototypes cannot be over-emphasized. It not only creates a means to bring ideas to life but also serves as a way of testing ideas before presenting the idea to the market. Do you have an idea in your head that could transform the entire human race or do you have that idea that is remarkably unique? Don’t let it die, create that prototype now!
In the world of designers, it has become a normal thing for clients to request a prototype of a product. As a designer, your job is to deliver promptly with the right specifications.
It is also common for clients who need their prototypes quicker to contact any rapid prototyping company they can find or they can choose a freelance designer who is capable.
The point is that production is not what it used to be. Organizations and individuals now want to carry out any project want a prototype for whatever product they wish to work on.
While clients keep asking, designers continue to provide them with physical models just as they requested.
Since it has been noticed that people understand physical models better than drawings, 3D prototyping has taken over the manufacturing industry by so doing, saving time and money.
But what about metal sheet prototyping? What is it and how does it work?
A Sheet Metal Prototype
A 3D printer is a major tool used in the creation of a sheet metal prototype. It is important to note that 3D printers are faster when creating a prototype. They are also cheaper to create with 3Dprinters.
If you compare the speed and price to the injection molding or CNC tooling machine, you will notice how much difference there is between them.
Materials For Prototyping
Many metals can be used to prototype a sheet metal. Please note that some may be more expensive than others.
These numerous materials that can do the job also have various grades. Some of these materials are:
While you are contemplating the material, you want to use for your sheet metal prototype journey, you should also remember that these sheets are usually made as a single piece.
You need to make sure that the thickness for each part is uniform. Make sure you do not weld to thicknesses together.
While still in your process of choosing what material of sheet metal you wish to use, you should consider the final production run.
Picking out the right material is crucial to the integrity of the finished product. You also need to consider the environment.
Since you know that the environment where the prototyping process happens plays a role in the integrity of the product, makers should consider the environment.
Choosing a material can be easy when you know what to search for and what you should be worried about.
Do not forget to consider the mechanical properties of the material as well as its cosmetic appearance. The variety of materials available for the job can also be overwhelming.
Every potential entrepreneur in the field should look at the bends, angles, and related tolerances. These will tell you how much work is still needed.
When you understand what work needs to be done, it will prompt the push for a prototype to be made and used to test and know how useful the product will be.
The processes involved in rapid 3D printing have become more adequate in recent years. While a lot of these processes are competent, we will be focusing on only one of them for this article. The different rapid prototyping techniques will allow you to make your prototype fast. However, they all have preferential uses or applications. We will be singling out CNC prototyping as an essential rapid prototyping technique.
Getting to know these preferential applications and uses could save one a ton of money. More than that, time and quite a few resources could be saved. Once one is properly acquainted with the intricacies of these rapid printing techniques, they realize a vital truth. Using certain rapid printing techniques for certain jobs is nothing short of overkill.
3D Prototyping Technique Available
However, we will outline the few available 3D prototyping techniques before proceeding. This will help our readers to know what to look for when making further research. The techniques include but might not be limited to:
Additive Manufacturing Technique
Sheet Metal Printing
For this article, we will consider just one of them. We will now turn our attention to CNC prototyping technology and its benefits.
CNN (computer numerical control) prototypes are made via a carefully controlled computer system. This system integrates human efforts and ingenuity with computer precision to function. The entire process is aimed at getting g or printing models of outstanding qualities and integrity. The use of CNC machines has gone a long way in modern-day manufacturing.
So far, the limits of the technology have not yet been discovered. That is of course within the realm of material or designs with definite shapes. After all, the term 3D in its name means that the printed models have to be in 3D. In simpler terms, the models would be viewable from all sides as well as top and bottom.
Are CNC prototyping and 3D printing the same?
However, CNC prototyping is quite different from 3D printing. Granted their final results are all 3D-created models. However, the two techniques employ different approaches to reach their aim. While 3D printers majorly use a kind of additive method, CNC machines do not. 3D printing usually involves stacking the “ink” materials to form a larger 3D shape or prototype.
The CNC prototypes are made by a more subtracting method. The material used is usually whole. A block shape of whatever material the person would like to use is first prepared. Then the CNC machines work by sort of carving the block into the desired 3D prototype.
An advantage of the CNC prototypes over other 3D rapidly printed models is that they are more compact. Because they are cut from a whole material, they have a higher structural integrity. They are more ideal for large-scale or factory 3D printing. They could work on various sorts of metals as well as plastics.
The CNC prototyping technique is the best choice when large-scale printing is required. Other techniques might still be effective. But this is more precise and prints more durable models.
The design of a product determines 75% of the cost of manufacturing it. Many engineers in prototyping companies focus on the aesthetics coupled with the visual appeal of product design without considering the realities of constructing products. It is costly to design the design concept, especially if it is not viable from a business’s angle. Rapid prototyping is the earlier version from which various forms of a product are developed.
How a Prototype Can Make or Break a Product
A prototype provides you with insight into the functionality of the product design while helping you make changes required regarding your products’ specifications.
Several innovators are forming and destroying their prototypes while brainstorming and tweaking them with the hope of developing a revolutionary product in the long run.
An initial product for a pilot test can have drafts of drawings on a paper, also known as a low-fidelity prototype.
High-fidelity prototypes entail the investment of a lot of time and money. Therefore, prototyping is an excellent way of identifying if the solution presented is ideal for the purpose. It could be for a website or hardware.
It could also be for software. Suppose you are a business professional or entrepreneur. In that case, you should begin from the outset by identifying an effective way of identifying the aspects you are working with before developing a product.
What to Do Before Product Development
a. Create Sketches
You may be tempted to use software to sketch things out or start by coding things, mainly if there is time.
Even so, it is highly recommended that you begin by using a pencil and paper prior to investing in a complicated prototyping tool. This will help you in identifying the key aspects that need special attention while doing the prototype on your machines.
When designing a new product from scratch, one of the first steps is often the most challenging, even though it sounds easy for some people. Solidifying the ideas by drawing can be a daunting task.
b. Have Specifications
After forming sketches, the next step is having specifications for your product. The 3D printing material and other practical tools like laser cutting coupled with CNC milling have changed prototyping businesses by easing entrepreneurs’ lives.
As an entrepreneur, however, you should design product specifications and then define its existing functionalities before using the tools to offer support.
c. Understand Your Target Audience
Before you create a prototype for your products, you should engage prospective customers to know their interests, coupled with their needs. Introduce the concept to them to help them establish if you are providing a solution to them.
Simultaneously, this should help them determine if what you are creating is a problem for them. At this juncture, the innovator can learn the importance of modifying a product where necessary.
An expert in creating prototypes can help your startup bring a new product into the market. By working with professionals, you can easily create a pleasing design solution coupled with a strong focus on reducing the entire manufacturing costs.
Whether you want to create high or low fidelity prototypes, you need to follow a procedure that gives you a complete picture of how the product will look and perform. Companies that offer rapid prototyping service for physical parts often want a fast process, and that is why they use a variety of techniques. However, there comes a time when such companies need to outsource such services. For example, if you do not have enough time to work on all the prototypes, the only viable option is to find an expert who understands how to do it better.
The Pros of Outsourcing Rapid Prototyping Projects
One of the most significant advantages of outsourcing rapid prototyping projects is the fast turnaround time. Sometimes, clients want their products to be fabricated fast, and that means that you will need an extra pair of hands to meet their demands. With outsourcing, you can divide the project into smaller parts and have them distributed to different experts. In addition to that, outsourcing ensures that you serve several clients simultaneously, regardless of the size of the projects.
More Creative Control
You will also enjoy outsourcing rapid prototype projects because it gives you more creative control. You will have more control of the way the projects are conducted because you have a team that is backing you up. For example, you can ask for their recommendations on various techniques and see how much creativity they add to your projects. If you are short of ideas, all you need to do is to ask the team to come up with ways of creating the prototypes, and you will end up with the perfect plan.
If you are looking for ways to expand your business, outsourcing rapid prototyping projects may be the best way to go. If your clients learn that you have enough resources to handle every stage of their projects, they will be willing to give you more business. Once they know that they can count on you to deliver the projects on time, they will not hesitate to contact you reach time they have a new project, and that is how your company grows. You will also notice that such clients will recommend you to their contacts so that you have enough work to keep you busy throughout the year.
The Cons of Outsourcing Rapid Prototyping Projects
Most outsourced rapid prototyping projects lead to low printing volumes because of lack of a breakthrough, especially with new clients. However, you can overcome this challenge through aggressive marketing, such as the use of word of mouth. In addition to that, outsourcing can lead to the inadequacy of resources. For example, you may have to spend time and money training your recruits before you can trust them with the projects.
In a nutshell, outsourcing rapid prototyping projects can help you to grow your business and provide fast services. However, you need to plan effectively and find the right experts to work with to avoid problems with your clients. Work with a team of experienced experts to get high-quality prototypes.
An automotive prototype is used to show if a product can be made, the most suitable material for it, and its production equipment. It is a vital part of the process since it helps developers make new automotive products of good quality that attract stakeholders to invest and form a good customer base in the market. The automotive prototype plays a vital role in the designing and processing of cars. In this write-up, we look at the types of automotive prototypes.
Types of Automotive Prototypes
The safety of a car, its performance, and its development are dependent on the prototype. They include:
1. Design Validation Prototypes
Initially, designs are created virtually using computer-aided designs (CAD). A prototype is made to create a physical object using cost-effective techniques like plastic injection molding. It helps manufacturers achieve clarity, visualize the concept, and share it with investors.
2. Pre-Development Prototypes
They are more refined and smooth. They are made once a design is validated, and a stakeholder has shown interest in the product. At this stage (mule stage), the prototype is used to decide whether the item can be used and correct the design errors. Donor cars are usually provided, and their body is taken off. The product is then placed on the automobiles to check if it fits and reacts with the other parts.
3. Manufacturing Process Prototypes
Techniques such as CNC machining, metal stamping, and forming are used to determine the best method of developing the parts. The automotive prototypes easily spot any problems that may arise during production. There are many manufacturing processes, and the most cost-effective one is chosen.
4. Customer Testing Prototypes
They are used for customer testing during the production process. Dialog between the developer and consumer is crucial. Feedback from customers who plan to use cars is essential as it helps engineers pitch their ideas. They can also correct issues pointed out by the potential users and select the best material to be used for the final product.
5. Safety Testing Prototypes
The test carried out is known as Failure Mode Effect Analysis (FMEA). The prototypes are taken through different situations to see how they behave in those respective situations. They are also placed in harsh conditions to show if they can withstand heat, water, etc. without causing any problems that may stop consumers from using the product.
6. Manufacturing Validation Build Prototypes
These prototypes are made last, as this is the final stage of preparation. They are very expensive and take a lot of time to develop them. They help in estimating how long the manufacturing process will take. The method of producing an object for market use is different from that of creating a functional prototype. It is a complicated process that needs high precision. The actual equipment and machines make the prototypes, and the final touches are done.
Automotive prototyping is a vital process of the development of cars. Multiple automotive prototypes are always developed when a new product is being created. They are often refined to get the best design and methods of processing.
The old-age battle when it comes to injection molds will definitely be steel or aluminum injection mold. The debate is fierce and many manufacturing companies take one side over the other. However, what do you think? Are aluminum injection molds making better than steel molds? If you are confused, we might help you make a decision.
We will compare both molds by using several factors. We hope to find a clear winner at the end of the day. Even if we don’t, we hope things will be much clearer to you by then.
Aluminum Injection Mold or Steel Mold?
How much does each mold cost?
To produce either mold, you will have to spend some cash. However, which one requires less spending? When you consider the initial spending needed to be carried, there’s no doubt that the aluminum injection molds clearly have an edge here.
While this is true, it’s also important to look at the bigger picture. The final cost of each mold might change drastically when other factors are considered. For example, the estimated lifespan of each mold might require you to spend more on the aluminum injection mold.
However, on average, the aluminum injection mold is less likely to cost more than steel.
Which mold is suitable for low volumes?
Again here, the aluminum injection mold just comes out on top. Low-volume runs are always better suited to aluminum injection molds and this is not going to change anytime soon. The reasons for this range from lower costs to the production of more pieces.
I’d recommend that you make sure that you choose a material that matches the volume you intend to use. Some might just be better with the steel mold.
Which mold is suitable for high volumes?
The steel mold comes out on top here. Unlike low volumes, the steel mold is better suited for high volumes and more runs.
The advantage of using a steel mold here is that you get a final product that is sturdy and can last for a long time. All you have to do is to ensure that you carry out proper maintenance.
Which mold cools and heats up faster?
It’s obvious who wins this round. The aluminum just has the perfect material for heating and cooling off quicker. The steel mold is always going to struggle when it comes to this category. The faster your material can cool off, the faster the cycle time is going to be.
When you use aluminum injection molds, you should be able to have a much faster output than with steel molds.
So what do we think? We think the aluminum injection molds are overall the best type of mold. However, there are circumstances where the steel mold might be better.
However, when considering the facts and the big picture, it’s almost impossible to see how the steel molds come out on top.
So if you are considering what type of mold to use, we would recommend that you use aluminum injection molds for your business. It’s just the better option if we are being completely honest.
The manufacturing world is evolving, and plastic is the primary material used to make items from synthetic body parts to automotive. With the need to create essential components and ensure optimal performance, manufacturers are now choosing to use plastic injection mold. Thus, to suit multiple industry needs, there are several types of injection mold available, offering extraordinary features and benefits. And an application’s specifications can determine the right molding process for a specified part. Below are the common injection mold types.
A family mold refers to a single mold base with two or more cavities that allow for the intense production of different parts. These parts can be produced simultaneously.
The shut-offs can also be used in isolating production to the selected cavities. Also, to get impeccable results, the parts need to be similar in resin, volumes, and shape.
Automation can be necessary for separating the pieces, particularly after production. And if the cost of the mold is anything to go by, then a family mold is your best option.
Hot Runner Molds
Hot runner molds use tools set at a temperature-controlled setting to condense the runner scrap in the cycle. This can help improve various cycle times. A sprue system can be used in determining the molding cycle. Hot runner molds need a temperature controlling for a press to run in.
A controller is then used to match the manifold found in the mold. That said, you should note that the hot runner molds have a high maintenance cost. But, the return on investment is always invaluable, especially for applications that need expensive engineering grade resins.
Cold Runner Molds
A cold runner mold is a system that operates at a cold temperature without any additional heating systems. Usually, the sprue, runner, as well as the gate, are cooled alongside the molten material and additional plastic ejected.
The plastic molten can quickly be recovered and then recycled if it created from a thermoplastic resin.
Single cavity mold produces a single part for every cycle. The initial investment is lower compared to other forms of molds. For that reason, it is often used for more economical production rates.
Unlike the multi-cavity mold, a single mold is useful in ensuring that production is always running even if there happens to be a breakdown in a single mold. Single cavity mold is flexible in controlling injection molding processes.
Two-plate injection Mold
Two-plate injection mold comprises a single parting plane. The mold will then split into two major halves at a parting place while the runner system has to be located on the same parting plane. The system is generally used for parts that are gated around their edge.
There you have it from revered experts in this field. Selecting the right type of injection mold highly depends on the geometry, production volume, quality, and design tool. The highlighted plastic molding processes come with unique features and added advantages, making every style ideal for different applications.
You have an idea for a new or improved product and you want to get an idea of how it will be received by the public. You’re ready to create a prototype, get feedback and move forward with your project. But, should you go with a rough prototype or a more polished prototype? The answer to this question depends on your plans for your product.
What is the Purpose of Your Prototype?
Is your product a component of another piece? Is what it looks like as important as what it does? If you are trying to prove that your product functions as it should, then a rough prototype will be the best option. Arough prototype can be reworked and redesigned if there are mechanical or design flaws1. Aesthetics, on the other hand, may be as important as function if the product will be purchased based on looks as well as function. In this case, a polished prototype may be the way to go.
Who is Your Audience/Customer?
Are you talking to potential customers or end users? Or are you pitching your product to potential investors? Customers may be more interested in whether your product works as it should and less interested in what it will look like as a finished product, so a rough prototype is appropriate. For end users, knowing that you have a viable idea is more important than seeing a pretty object1. Potential investors may want both, seeing that a product works and what the final aesthetics will be. Investors want to know that their money is going to help create a workable product that will be popular with customers and end users, so a polished prototype would be the best option2. Customers want a product that works, and aesthetics can come later. Therefore, your audience will help determine whether to use a rough vs a polished prototype.
What Type of Feedback Are You Looking For?
Do you want to know if the product functions as you want it to? Are there design flaws or mechanical problems that need to be addressed before full production? If this type of feedback is what you’re looking for, a rough prototype is the place to start. With a rough prototype you can test function and design features before putting the product through full production. If there are issues with the rough prototype, you can start over and make changes to the design or function, saving time and money in future production delays and waste3.
Do you want to know if your product will be popular with the public? Does your product make potential customers say “Yeah, I want one of those!”? If this is the type of feedback you’re looking for, a polished prototype may be what you need. With a polished prototype you can find out if potential customers would want the product as is or whether the customer would prefer some changes be made. When a potential customer sees a functioning, aesthetically pleasing prototype, they will be more likely to provide feedback that lets you know if your product is desirable enough to purchase. Choosing a rough vs polished prototype is important in gaining the correct feedback for your product2.
When using a rough prototype, you will most likely get more open feedback. A rough prototype also allows you to determine if the product is working as expected or if you need to make structural or design changes. Each type of prototype will garner different feedback depending on your audience. A polished prototype may confuse your audience into thinking the prototype is the finished product. Be sure to emphasize the difference between the two types of prototype with your audience to ensure you get the correct type of feedback3. Prototypes are very advantageous for production of a well-functioning product that will satisfy both investors and end users. Determining rough vs polished prototype is an important decision, so know what outcome you are looking for when making that decision.
Do you have a business dream you want to bring to life? Or maybe you already have a business that you want to expand with new products. Do you think using prototypes to obtain funding or garner enthusiasm for your product may be a good idea, but aren’t sure if the costs outweigh the benefits? Here is a list of 7 benefits of prototypes and a possible way to bring down the costs of their production.
What is a prototype?
All types of industries use prototypes, but in manufacturing a prototype is typically an early model of a product used to develop aspects of the actual finished product. Prototypes provide proof a design is viable and an idea of the aesthetics of the design. Prototypes also provide information on production techniques, materials, and costs. Prototypes allow you to receive feedback from stakeholders, such as distributors, retailers and customers.
Categories of prototypes
There are several categories of prototypes that provide feedback during different stages of manufacturing. Each category has a different function and look. Prototypes can be made from different materials, on a different scale, and with a different appearance than the intended finished product. The benefit of each prototype also differs.
One category is the Proof of Concept prototype that tests design function of a product without full functionality6. This prototype determines if the materials and the product perform as they should. A benefit of this prototype is it allows you to make design changes before the manufacturing process starts, saving time and money.
A Visual prototype does what it sounds like. This prototype shows the size and appearance of the finished product, but not the functionality of the product5. A Visual prototype is used in marketing for ads and packaging. Part of this category is the Form Study prototype which emphasizes the design’s geometric features, but not other aspects such as color or texture6.
A Working prototype provides the functionality of the finished product, but not the final appearance of the design6. This prototype determines if the final product will function as it should. This prototype makes it possible for you to change the design to improve functionality.
A User Experience prototype has enough of the final product’s appearance and function to be used for end-user research6. This allows for consumer testing to determine if the product is user-friendly and satisfactory for the end-user. The benefit of this prototype is in allowing you to see how customers are going to interact with the product. Data from this type of prototype research provides the opportunity to make improvements for customer satisfaction.
A Functional prototype has the full appearance and functionality of the final product6. However, this prototype may be made with different materials and techniques than the final product. Possibly even on a different scale than the finished product to save on production costs. The Functional prototype is often employed to obtain funding for production.
What are the benefits of prototypes?
Prototypes provide many benefits to you. Everything from basic design to end-user satisfaction can be benefited by use of prototypes. Several of the benefits of prototypes include2:
Early discovery of design problems
Estimate production costs, manufacturing time, and requirements for materials
Determine machinery necessary for production
Testing to determine fit and durability
Receive feedback from client and end-users/identify improvements
Determine final function and design
Aid in obtaining funding and investors
The first benefit of prototypes is determining design problems and other manufacturing issues. Early detection can avoid issues further down the road during manufacturing, limiting costs of waste and reproduction of flawed parts.
Prototypes aid in estimating material requirements and costs. Prototypes also aid in determining manufacturing time and personnel requirements. These elements help you to acquire funding, create budgets, and determine the final cost of the product4.
Can the product be produced with existing machinery? Are adaptations necessary to manufacture the product? Is it necessary to purchase new machinery? Creating prototypes helps you to determine if any adaptations to current machinery, or new machinery, is needed for production.
When making assembly parts, creating a prototype makes it possible to determine if the fit of the parts is correct. This saves money in time lost to rework and the cost of wasted materials. Prototypes also help determine if the materials used are durable and capable of withstanding the wear and tear of use.
Another benefit of prototypes is the ability to receive feedback from clients, distributors, and customers. Feedback such as this helps determine the final function and design of the product4. Customer research and feedback helps to create customer satisfaction and provide you with confidence in the product’s marketability.
Are there disadvantages?
One of the main disadvantages mentioned by developers and manufacturers is the cost of creating prototypes. According to Tamara Monosoff in “Entrepreneur” magazine, prototypes in the United States can cost “from $10,000 to $100,000”3. However, a recent process called rapid prototyping, can save you thousands of dollars1. Rapid processing uses 3D printers to create prototypes quickly and for just a few hundred dollars compared to thousands.
A 3D printer can run between $200 to $2500 or more, depending on the size and purpose. Material for printing can be plastic or metal. The cost for printing plastic can be as low as $25 per kg to more than $48 per kg. Therefore, even purchasing on the high end could save you thousands of dollars in prototype creation. If you don’t want to purchase a 3D printer, there are companies that will do the work for you.
The benefits of prototypes are many and can be used in almost any business environment. With the variety of prototypes available you can find the one that will suit your needs. Whether you need to identify production issues, improve design elements and functionality, estimate costs, conduct research or obtain funding, there is a prototype to help. New technologies, like 3D printing, help to bring down costs and make prototyping available to almost any business or budget. Overall, now would be the time to take advantage of the benefits of prototyping and technological advances for your business.