Prototype to Production: What to Expect?

Jeff Hardee | December 16, 2022
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Before manufacturing a product and bringing it to market, there are multiple steps to take to ensure that it will be a success. After coming up with a concept and completing the first designs on paper, making an initial model, or prototype, will allow manufacturers the chance to evaluate their product idea and make any necessary improvements before placing it into full production. It is important to confirm that the final product will be capable of its expected functionality and to address any concerns prior to manufacturing, when any errors would be costly and time-consuming to fix.

While the prototyping process can be straightforward, a linear journey from concept and prototype to production, the process often requires going back to the design or even product ideation stages with multiple rounds of prototype creation as manufacturers identify unexpected problems. Companies that offer prototyping services can help guide you through the various steps of prototype production, determining solutions, redesigning to accommodate new data, and making suggestions for optimizing your model.


Conceptualizing the Product Idea

New inventions and products all stem from a single first step: the idea. This is often the most challenging part as you not only have to come up with a concept, but you must also figure out how to make it a reality, designing it and manufacturing it with future customers in mind.

Much planning and innovative thought go into idea execution prior to production. You must thoroughly research and consider:

  • Any existing competition in the market
  • Target audience
  • Market value
  • Budget versus overall cost of the project
  • Manufacturing options

To be successful, the goal of a new project should typically be to solve a problem that many people face. Brainstorm with your design team to figure out what your customers need, how they will use your product, and how it will compare to the competition. Then you can use that information to decide if your product will have a favorable position in the market and be worth manufacturing.


Designing the Prototype

Now that you have a viable concept in mind, you can proceed with designing the product. Begin with a simple drawing or an outline of attributes that you wish for your product’s design to include. Once you have a clear vision for your product, you can then digitize the model with computer-aided design (CAD) software or create a 3D replica of the product. If your computerized model works well in theory and meets all aesthetic requirements, you can move on to producing a physical prototype.


Creating and Testing the Prototype

Creating a working prototype may be the longest part of the prototyping process. Trial and error, adjusting measurements and attributes, and gathering the necessary materials and funds to produce the parts that the project requires may take some time.

Consider how the materials you choose may affect your product. For example, thermoplastic prototypes are a common choice for enhancing function, durability, and stability. Prototyping material options include:

  • Metal
  • Acrylic
  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)
  • Polycarbonate
  • Polyphenyl sulfone
  • Nylon
  • Wood

Once you have decided on metal prototyping, plastic prototyping, or another method, you can produce and assemble the prototype and begin testing. During this phase, take meticulous notes on functionality, reliability, etc. If there are any problem areas, the design team will work to suggest solutions and modify the prototype accordingly. This may even involve scrapping the current plan and redesigning the product, optimizing it until you are satisfied with the result.


Manufacturing the Finalized Prototype

Achieving prototype success means moving into the last phase of production: manufacturing. Here, you use your marketing data from the ideation stage to decide on the appropriate quantity for your first production run. You will also determine what tooling is necessary and what material will best suit your product’s needs. Finally, your perfected prototype can move into manufacturing as the next step to market.


Comprehensive Prototyping Services From Farris

At Farris, our design engineering experts will guide you through the prototyping process and help you determine the optimal materials, design, and tolerances for your project to adhere to best manufacturing practices and pinpoint cost-saving opportunities in production. With over 40 years of experience, high-tech equipment, and the capability to handle almost any fabrication project, trust Farris to get you from prototype to production quickly and efficiently.

We utilize CNC mills and lathes, MIG and TIG welders, press brakes, injection molding equipment, and more for precision prototype production in metals, plastics, and wood with quick turn times. Our prototyping services include everything from design assistance to assembly and finish treatments for prototypes that allow you to evaluate form and fit as well as function. For more information about our prototyping capabilities, contact us today.

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