Many businesses see a prototype as a kind of “rough draft” for the final product they hope to launch. While this idea isn’t entirely mistaken, prototyping consists of not one but of multiple drafts. When companies aren’t aware of this, it’s not uncommon that they’re unprepared for the complexity, time, and expense involved in this phase of the product development process.
Iteration is Inescapable. Excessive Costs Are Not
For complex products, there’s simply no way around the iterative nature of the prototyping process. There is, however, a way to make an end-run around the excessive costs and extended time horizons that often accompany it. Achieving this requires high levels of integration. In other words, the prototyping process must not be mistaken as a job for which only the design team is primarily responsible. Instead, from the very beginning, prototyping must be approached and undertaken with the full participation, insight, and expertise of design, engineering, and manufacturing teams alike.
To do this requires two things. First, a one-source business model that integrates design, engineering, and manufacturing. Second, a sought-after sub-specialty, known as Design For Manufacture (DFM). The combination of both ensures that these stages are integrated and that each is undertaken with scalable manufacturing in mind.
At Pivot International, our one-source business model and industry-leading DFM expertise makes us a proven and preferred partner to companies worldwide. With product development experience spanning nearly fifty years and fourteen industries, we are the driving force behind some of the world’s most prestigious and innovative products. With 320,000 square feet of tri-continental manufacturing might, we offer flexible production runs and the ability to easily shift production between locations to support your distribution needs.
Let’s explore the prototyping process to better understand what it entails.
Understanding the Prototyping Process
Although the broader prototyping process can involve more than ten iterations, prototypes generally fall into three categories:
1. “Looks-Like” Prototypes
Looks-like prototypes are the least complex of the three and might be considered “all appearance, no substance.” (Which is why they are often known as Appearance prototypes.) These prototypes look like the finished products but lack the “guts” that make them functional or operable. These “dummy” prototypes are most often created for use in crowdsourcing campaigns or publicity stunts designed to create high levels of anticipation for a product that is not yet available. Appearance prototypes are typically created using CAD drawings and 3D printing (additive manufacturing) technology.
Works-like prototypes are early Proof of Concept (POC) prototypes. Their purpose is to test the fundamental design and technology premises on which the product depends. Unlike looks-like prototypes, works-like prototypes seldom look anything like the finished product. Instead, their aim is to determine if the product will meet minimum viability requirements. POC’s play a special role in validating high-risk aspects of design. For this reason, they are a crucial piece of gaining or maintaining investor buy-in to ensure a product is sufficiently capitalized for further development.
3. Functional Prototypes
Fully-fledged functional prototypes represent varying combinations of looks-like and works-like prototypes and generally fall into three categories:
Engineering Prototypes are necessary for testing a product’s performance. While earlier prototyping efforts may have tested individual parts or components, engineering prototypes ensure the product functions well as a whole. Despite its name, engineering prototypes must always go hand in hand with design. “Design,” explained Steve Jobs, “is not just how it looks and feels. It’s how it works.”
Pre-Production Prototypes look and function like the final product or are highly similar to it. These prototypes validate whether the product has been effectively optimized for supply chain and manufacturing. (If a product cannot be cost-effectively manufactured at scale, even the most user-friendly design and innovative performance cannot justify further development.)
Design-Validation Prototypes (DVPs) ensure that products comply with industry standards and regulations. This stage is among the most complex, especially when validating medical and security-sensitive innovations. (Since they must meet higher safety, durability, and environmental standards) Certifications are obtained during this stage. Pivot brings FDA registration and ISE and ISO certifications (ISO 9001:2015, ISO 13485:2016, ISO 80079-34, and IEC 60601-1) to ensure strict quality control and regulatory compliance.
At Pivot, our one-source model and DFM expertise ensures a smooth, seamless process to take your product from prototype to production with maximum efficiency and cost-effectiveness. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you launch a successful product, contact us today for a complimentary consultation.