Prototyping your products
Prototyping your products is the single most beneficial decision one can make. It is the ideal process of crafting a model of your idea and continually improving on the design alongside it with the application of choice. With Prototyping, the product’s vision becomes more transparent, and preliminary changes in the blueprint become evident. It is an essential part of the product lifecycle, which allows your idea to fully develop before it goes for fabrication. Moreover, developing your product can help you define relevant parameters and is generally a very good practice for new products from a Design engineer’s perspective.
While Prototyping is generally the norm in the designing department, it is often overlooked by entry level engineers. This is why we present a design engineer’s guide to tackling design development challenges with Prototyping. The entire mechanical engineering process from software deployment to shipping out finished products revolves around Prototyping and later rapid manufacturing. Both are advanced skills that are to be exercised throughout in the Product Lifecycle. Here are a few tips that you can consider in your product development stages by using Prototyping:
Importance of Prototyping in Product Development
It comes as a shock to none that refinement of the end product is key to commercial viability. Generally, with Prototyping, you cannot only understand the dynamics of the product, but you can also translate that knowledge into monetary success with rapid manufacturing. Below are some pointers from a design engineer’s guideline to help make your product a success:
- Planning and Prototyping goes hand in hand
- Perfection is not attainable in the preliminary stage
- Prototypes are a great way to get feedback from the end-user
- It helps in estimating the production costs
- With high-fidelity prototyping methods you can gauge the appropriate tools and equipment required
By keeping these five key points in mind, your prototype can deliver its promises, help to secure an investment of funds from investors, and get user feedback. Understanding the process is key to a useful prototype; let’s take a look at what the process entails in 3 steps:
3 Key Steps in the Mechanical Design Prototyping Process
There is a standard preplanning and design phase before the prototype can be created; it mainly depends on the prototype’s intended use. The mechanical design of the product can be a bit complex, and many ambiguities about your product can surface. Here are three steps to consider for effective Prototyping and later rapid manufacturing.
Research and Planning
In the beginning stage of product development, idea generation and idea refinement are two essential steps that define the product’s value. Any proficient mechanical engineer would know that the product’s later success depends upon what is initially designed. Many engineers typically create the first revision of a product idea and prototype it to showcase the idea and then work towards refinement.
After the research and planning phase of the process is complete, the next step becomes proof of concept and concept development. A number of revisions are typical to refine the product before a prototype is final, in order to evaluate the appearance, ergonomics, and functionality. In this case, prototypes can help in letting you decide which trials and modifications are required.
Prototyping and Fabrication
If your prototype meets your initial specification, you are ready to move onto the next stage of investing in rapid manufacturing. An essential pointer for the initial product agreement test is based on the prototype’s final performance. If it performs as expected, fabrication can be initiated.
Different prototyping methods
There are many different types of prototyping techniques, and depending on your project’s requirements – you can take your pick from any one of them. Keep in mind the second requirement of rapid manufacturing will influence your decision on which type of prototype you should opt for. Here are some common types:
As the name implies, visual prototypes are just a physical representation of what you want your actual product to look like. It allows you to showcase your future product’s size, colour, texture, and more to your stakeholder. At the initial stage, you don’t need to emphasize much on functionality but rather the concept development, making visual prototypes ideal for use.
Maybe your product’s idea revolves around enhancing the functionality of a particular product, in which case, you need a functional prototype. Depending on functionality, this type of prototype’s sole purpose is to showcase the practicality and functionality of the concept. Therefore, this is ideal for testing a product in the development stage. In short, functional prototypes are a great way to get feedback from the end-user if it meets the requirements or not.
After you have confirmed the visual appearance of your prototype and tested its functionality, making the prototype presentable is next. With presentational prototypes, you mix the functionality and visualization together. This is done by using production-grade materials and processes to showcase the final output.
As a general rule of thumb, refinement is vital during every stage of the product’s development. Similarly, the same concept applies to Prototyping and later rapid manufacturing. Therefore, emphasizing it from the start is the ticket to success for any design engineer.
Got an interesting topic in mind? We’d love to hear from you.