One could argue that you don’t really have a product until you have a working prototype. There are literally millions of ideas sketched out on notepads and saved in drawing files, but they never went any further than this conceptual phase. Let’s learn the right way to turn your dream into reality.
Create the 3D Diagram
The first step is creating a 3D diagram of the product. This is essential for several reasons. While you have a rough plan for the design, a 3D drawing forces you to fill in the rest of the details. What will the bottom of the design look like? How big will it be?
You also need this drawing to create a rough manufacturing plan. Where will you put fasteners like nails and screws? What material will you make it out of, and can it withstand the stresses it will be exposed to?
Engage an Engineer
An engineer should review the drawing before you begin construction. They can give you advice on cheaper or sturdier ways to build it. You might want to alter the design of the base to make it stronger or easier to build. That reduces the cost to manufacture it when you finally make it. At this stage, you can also get information on government regulations and design standards a product like yours has to meet. It isn’t uncommon to learn that you have to use specific hardware or coatings in order to legally sell it.
Build a Prototype
This is the most challenging step. That is because you have to build something based on rough plans. You may find that the screws you’re calling out in the blueprint extend into the open core. Or the material you thought would be ultra-smooth is too rough to be usable.
Once you have the prototype, you’re able to begin what is called the iterative design process. You can show it to consumers for the product and get their feedback. Would they want it larger, lighter or with a handle? You can show the product to potential investors to raise money for production or generate your first orders. More importantly, the first prototype can be run through basic functional tests. If it fails, you’ll have to analyze the failure, adjust the design, and build another one. While this takes time to get right and every failure feels personal, know that you’d rather have prototypes fail during functional tests than ship 5,000 and see the same failures in the field. After all, that would kill your product’s reputation at the very start. You’re done with the iterative design stage when you’ve come up with a prototype that works with minimal risk of failure.
Hand It Off to the Manufacturing Engineers
A working prototype is just a prototype. If you want to know how to develop and manufacture your prototype, talk to a manufacturing engineer. They’ll be able to modify the design to maintain functional specifications while dramatically lowering the manufacturing cost. They can pull on a vast array of off-the-shelf components to use in place of the ones you may have used because they looked like a viable solution or were what you had on hand. The manufacturing engineers will give you a design that you can take into mass production. They’ll often give you a full bill of material and manufacturing instructions, too, so that you can hire anyone you want to make it. And then you can turn your dream into a mass-produced reality.