5 Technologies to Prototype Your New Electronic Hardware Product

Do you have an idea for a new electronic hardware product and are wondering how to get started with producing it? The best way to get a product started is to create a prototype, sometimes more than one. There are various methods of creating a prototype. The first two technologies in this article work for the electronics part of your product and the other three technologies are methods for producing a prototype for the casing of your product.

Electronic Development Kits

One of the simplest ways to prototype your new electronic hardware product is to use electronic development kits (EDK). Electronic development kits are boards that you can use to create a program or application or to evaluate how your product will perform1. EDKs can range in price from under $50 to $150 or more, depending on the features of the kit’s board2.

Development kits can be used in many areas. Applications include automotive, imaging, communications, and audio. Other applications include wireless, RFID, and motor controls. On the lower price end, function may be limited. At the higher price range, however, features could include USB ports, video or ethernet connections and higher pin counts. Others on the pricier end, like the Adafruit Flora, can be used to add LEDs to clothing, such as shirts, hats, and jackets, or can be controlled by smartphone apps and Bluetooth2. With EDKs you can create your own proof-of-concept prototype to get an idea of how your product will perform and gather interest from potential investors.

Adafruit Flora Board
Adafruit Flora Board

Printed Circuit Boards (PCB)

Another way to prototype your new electronic hardware product is to use breadboards, perfboards, and/or printed circuit boards or PCBs. Breadboards can be used to quickly try out your electronic hardware idea and make sure it works. Perfboards are rigid sheets with holes to which you add components, such as resistors or integrated circuits, by soldering3.  PCBs take longer and require a bit more effort, but are more permanent and look better. You can use breadboards and perfboards to test your design and determine if any improvements are necessary. Depending on the design and function of your product, the more permanent PCB can be used as your final product in some cases4.

Breadboard, Perfboard, PCB
Breadboard, Perfboard, PCB


Stereolithography (SLA)

A third method of prototyping your new electronic hardware product is a type of 3D printing known as stereolithography. A stereolithography apparatus (SLA) is a machine that uses light to harden a liquid plastic into detailed, professional looking prototypes or products. The photopolymerization process produces strong, durable prototypes because of the chemical bonds created between the plastic layers5. SLA is a quick and relatively inexpensive method to create accurately shaped pieces, even when the pieces have an odd shape or intricate designs.

SLA machines are more expensive than the desktop type 3D printers and can cost in the thousands of dollars5. If you don’t have the budget to purchase an SLA you can hire one of several online companies to produce the prototype for you.


CNC Machining

A fourth approach to prototyping your product is CNC machining.  3D printing or SLA production are additive processes while CNC machining is a subtractive process. CNC machines start with a block of metal or plastic and then use tools controlled by a computer to precisely remove material to form the product6. Creating a prototype with this method can be done faster, cheaper and with more precision.

The advantages of CNC machining are a stronger product since the part is cut from a solid piece of material and the part can be created from metal or plastic. CNC prototypes can also be created from the same material used in the injection-molding process, allowing movement into high volume production without the need to produce another prototype6.


Injection Molding

A final method of prototyping your new electronic hardware product is injection molding. Injection molding consists of creating a mold of your product and injecting, at a high pressure, liquid plastic into the mold. The intricate detail of the part is created by the high pressure used to inject the plastic. Injection molding is the best method to produce a high quality, detailed, prototype that will be identical to the finished product7.

Starting with lower cost metal molds, like aluminum will save money on your prototype. Once your production volume rises, move to stronger steels to create your molds.

Injection molding
Injection molding

Learning about the above technologies can allow you to find the best method to create your prototypes. Creating good prototypes helps you to refine your product design, determine the best production methods, and find the right investors if needed. The 5 technologies for prototyping your new electronic hardware product listed here can help you do all those things and ensure you bring a well-crafted product to market.



  1. Future Electronics- http://www.futureelectronics.com/en/development-tools/dev-tool-hardware.aspx
  2. Hackaday- https://hackaday.com/2011/02/01/what-development-board-to-use/
  3. Quora– https://www.quora.com/Whats-the-difference-between-PCBs-and-breadboards
  4. Medium- https://medium.com/@rxseger/notes-on-prototyping-circuit-boards-c5906e637123
  5. LiveScience- https://www.livescience.com/38190-stereolithography.html
  6. Product Development Solutions- http://www.1pds.com/implementing-rapid-prototyping-using-cnc-machining/
  7. Revpart- https://revpart.com/services/molding-services/silicone-rubber-molding/

7 Benefits of Prototypes in Manufacturing

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.

Camera Obscura: Test of Concept 1(John Pearson)
Camera Obscura: Test of Concept 1(John Pearson)

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.

Dyson Prototype
Dyson Prototype

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.


Prototype Sources

1.Rapid prototyping – http://www.efunda.com/processes/rapid_prototyping/intro.cfm

2.Advantages of prototype development – https://www2.dmst.aueb.gr/dds/etech/swdev/prototype.htm

3.Creating a product prototype – https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/80678

4.What is a production prototype? – http://leardon.com/what-is-a-production-prototype

5.Prototype manufacturing and design – https://www.innovate-design.com/prototyping-process-2/

6.General categories – https://www.thomasnet.com/articles/engineering-consulting/general-prototypes

Difference Between Evolutionary Prototyping and Throw-away Prototyping

The prototype converts industrial ideas to concrete realities. A highly trained professional team will adopt your entrepreneur idea specifications and sketch your ideas using the latest CAD technology. Next, with the help of computer simulation, these CAD drawings are transformed into a prototype which is an exact copy of the final product.

Prototyping helps you get an accurate and complete working model of innovation, adjust the weight of several different options, adjust them, and ultimately create the perfect design.

Evolutionary Prototyping

In evolutionary prototyping, the concept of the system will be developed as the project progresses. First of all, we will develop the most visual aspect of the system. You present a portion of the system to the customer and continue to develop prototypes based on the feedback received. At some point, you and the customer agree that the prototype is “good enough” and release the prototype as the final product.

It is may be best suited for business systems where developers can interact frequently and informally with end users. However, it is suitable for commercial, shrink wrap, and system projects as long as end-user involvement is obtained. Communication with users of these projects is generally more structured and formal.

If evolved prototyping does not provide more control than is necessary or if you already know what the system should do, you can use evolutionary delivery or gradual delivery instead.

Evolutionary Prototyping Model
Evolutionary Prototyping Model

Advantages of Evolutionary Prototyping

  • It’s useful for exploratory programming, such as Artificial Intelligence applications, where it is difficult to frame specifications.
  • If big problems are anticipated, developers can stop development after several iterations.
  • This model is very suitable for research projects. For example, in order to develop software for automatic speech recognition, it is possible to take a small vocabulary and develop a system. After successful, you can gradually increase your vocabulary. This approach is superior to starting the development of an unlimited vocabulary speech recognition system directly (I recognize it is very difficult in two years).

Disadvantages of Evolutionary Development Model

  • As the project is open-ended, no time frame is able to be set.
  • It is difficult to monitor the project.
  • The visibility is low compared to the waterfall model.


ThrowAway Prototyping

The throw-away prototype is cheap, fast ones, which is designed to model an idea or feature. They are commonly used in early phases of design when a large number of ideas are still being considered. throw-away prototypes may also be used in late stage design in industries in which products are launched at a low state of refinement.

The throw-away prototype sounds like what it is. You make a prototype, then when you are done with it, you abandon it. For example, you and your colleagues go to lunch, you come up with an idea of the new product. When you discuss the idea, write down the idea and pull out the original design of the paper napkin. When you return to the office, take out the prototype of the paper napkin and transfer it to your computer. You throw out the napkin. In that case, the napkin is considered a thrown away prototype.

The throw-away approach is most appropriate in the project acquisition stage, where prototypes demonstrate the feasibility of new concepts and convince potential sponsors to fund the proposed development projects. In this situation, available resources are limited and the ability to convey the benefits of a new approach with a very low-cost demonstration is essential to create a new project.

You can also skip or omit the throwaway code document. If this trial is not recorded, lessons learned from prototyping efforts may be lost, and without the documentation or deterioration of the initial design simplification, progress in prototypes is hampered and customer needs Regarding the scope of prototype effort. The throw-away approach can be a drawback for insufficient level of technology and is best suited for rough system mockups used very early in the project.

Throw-away Prototyping Model
Throw-away Prototyping Model

Advantages of Throw Away Prototyping

  • Save time and money
  • Promote consistency of user interface design
  • Enable early customer engagement
  • Show concrete ways to show and believe in management to management. Instead of telling the administrator
  • Marketers and planners guarantee that customer needs are met.

Disadvantages of Rapid Prototyping

  • User confusion for prototypes and completed systems
  • Excessive development time of the prototype
  • Normally it does not generate reusable code
  • The development process slows down when placed under formal configuration control
  • There is no clear stop point

Hardware Prototype Construction Manual

Technologies and tools you can use to launch your hardware startup

One of the first and most difficult challenges for a hardware startup is the construction of the prototype. As iteration and prototype improvement are critical with every startups. It’s not easy or cheap as launching a software startup. For a long time, it was so expensive that only very feel people can afford a hardware startup.

Thankfully all this is developing fast. It’s more than theory or prediction: a number of new hardware companies have shown it, such as Narrative, Myo and Misfit.

To create your hardware prototype, what are some new technologies and tools you can use? Here is the top 5 of mine (in no particular order).

1. 3D printing – economic and rapid prototyping

Comparing with injection molding, using 3D printing, you can quickly manufacture a prototype at a low cost. You would need to use CAD(Computer Aided Design) software to draw a digital model, basing on which the model would be printed layer by layer.

These days, it’s easily to buy a desktop 3D printer for a fair price. If you own one, you can make prototypes even in your home. It’s not necessarily to buy one though.

Stereolithography 3D printer
Stereolithography 3D printer

As the estimation, there are approximately 100,000 3D printers worldwide. It is very likely that someone in your city actually has one. Try to check this on 3D hubs.

3D Hubs is one of the world's largest networks of 3D printers with more than 1,900 print locations in 300 cities.
3D Hubs, one of the largest 3D printers networks with more than 1,900 locations in 300 cities.

Today’s desktop 3D printer mainly uses plastic and resin. If you have other need of materials, You can try looking for help from online 3D Printing Service who can offer industrial printers.

2. Use affordable easy-programming microcontrollers

Last Christmas, my friend brought me the Arduino Starter Kit. Arduino is an open source prototype platform for creating interactive electronic objects.

Getting started with my Arduino
My Arduino

Many hardware ventures today have built their prototypes with Arduino. It’s easy to learn even if you do not have an electrical background or basic programming skills. In fact, kids can do it too, and many people can do it.

What kind of prototype can I make with Arduino? Below is an example, a DIY cell-phone:

DYI Mobile-phone on Instructables.com
DIY Cell-phone

The work is rough, yet it’s amazing that you can create something like that by yourself.

Besides Arduino, there are many great platforms such as Raspberry Pie, TinyDuino, etc. Over the past few years, when you’ve been looking at the Kickstarter hardware project, you’ll notice that many new microcontrollers will be released. This provides many tools to make your prototype easily and at low cost.

3. Sensors!

You may going to connect sensors to the microcontroller. Online shops like SparkFun and Adafruit make it easy to purchase all sorts of smartphone sensors, such as accelerometers, gyroscopes, lights and touch sensors.

SparkFun has brought open-source electronics to a whole new level. We announce new batches every week in our product showcase. Like a fashion show of the latest electronics.

SparkFun's Friday Product Show
SparkFun’s Friday Product Show

4. Custom circuit on paper

Basicly, the fastest way to build a prototype circuit is the breadboard:

Typical breadboard. Much easier than soldering, but it can be improved.
A Breadboard.

People who use breadboards will find it a bit of a laugh. Fortunately, new tools are being developed.

If you want to make your circuit very fast, you can draw it on paper with Circuit Scribe. Amazingly, you can sit around the table with the team and create circuit and test ideas.

Circuit Scribe is a roller ballpoint pen with conductive silver ink. It creates an easy circuit like graffiti.
Circuit Scribe

If you want to make a more robust circuit or embed it in different kinds of materials, you can order the EX circuit printer in advance. As you can see in the example below, you can do amazing things like fabric printed circuit.

With EX, you can print easily and quickly, just as you would a photo, so you can print with the materials you want.
EX circuit printer

5. Configure the appropriate team before creating the prototype.

As you may notice, building hardware prototypes requires a comprehensive team with knowledge in areas such as design, programming, and electrical engineering. Even if you have experience in several filed, it is difficult to do everything just by yourself. You may need to configure your team to expand your start.

Finding the right people for hardware startup may be more difficult than starting the software. Fortunately, there are more than enough online communities that are already dependent.

Considering creating prototypes? Share your thoughts with us.

How to Develop a Prototype for Your Website or Application

Developing a prototype, an example or model, is part of every software development today. But what are the advantages of a prototype, compared to the simple concept development? And how do you make the step from prototype to finished product?

The development of a prototype

A prototype can have different shapes and can be very little developed or very accurate. Wikipedia defines a prototype as follows:

A prototype is an early sample, model, or release of a product built to test a concept or process or act as a thing to be replicated or learned from. It is a term used in a variety of contexts, including semantics, design, electronics, and software programming.

The advantage of a prototype is that it can be changed faster and changes cost less money and time. The development of a prototype should therefore be at the beginning of a product development.

Prototype Developments
Prototype Developments

A prototype can also be used to inform investors about a product or to gain initial user experience. A prototype should answer a concrete and not an abstract problem.

Prototype + User testing = Better products?

Developing prototypes can help you to develop a great product.

It’s a relatively inexpensive way to test an idea and get the first user feedback. If a prototype fails, this is far less serious than if a finished product failed, as the investment was far lower.

In addition, a prototype has the ability to completely rethink and redesign it, which is rather difficult for a finished product.

Prototypes are a great opportunity to collect and respond to user feedback. As bad as shown here, it should not be better 😉

High fidelity and low fidelity prototypes

When you look at prototypes in software development, you find the terms “high fidelity” and “low fidelity”, which can also be equated with “high tech” and “low tech”.

A low-fidelity prototype can e.g. B. the conception by means of paper and pen or post-its. Often, the low fidelity prototype is also the starting point for the high fidelity prototype.

Sketch Low-fi High-fi Website Mockups
Sketch Low-fi High-fidelity Website Mockups

By contrast, the high-fidelity prototype presents the future product at a high-tech level. Designs are created here and often the high-fidelity prototype is fully functional. However, this also means significantly higher costs and time, which flow into a high-fidelity prototype. Of course, one can understand low and high fidelity prototypes as two instances, but rather as two ends of a spectrum in which there are many intermediate possibilities.

What should your prototype look like?

Before you start to develop a prototype, you should answer the following questions:

  • How far should my prototype be developed?
  • How much budget and resources do I want to spend on developing the prototype?
  • Who is involved in the development?
  • What will the workflow and internal communication look like?
  • How do I get first user feedback?
  • Which tools are available to me

The right tools

Especially if you are developing a high fidelity prototype, you need the right tools for your project.

Depending on whether you are developing a mobile app or a browser application, the tools you need can vary greatly. Also, depending on where you are in development, you need different tools.

Workflow Site Mockups Prototypes Tools
Workflow Site Mockups Prototypes Tools

I can therefore recommend this article, which gives you a good overview of tools such as Briefs, Atomic.io or Axure. Here you can see how different tools perform in terms of speed, high fidelity, user testing and customer support.

User feedback

User testing used to be the last step in software development. As a result, user feedback could only be incorporated at the very end and sometimes costly changes. Fortunately, that has since changed and user feedback is now part of every design process.

When developing an application, it may make sense to ask users for a prototype for feedback. Everything you learn in this step will save you a lot of effort afterward.


The advantages of a prototype are obvious: you can show an example or model very quickly, you save costs, resources and time. It is therefore worthwhile to plan the development of the prototype exactly, from the tools to the team to communication channels.

Hope you enjoyed this post.