A prototype is the first full-scale and functional form of a new product design. It is used for investor demonstrations, user testing, and gives your audience a product to visualize and interact with. Prototypes are not production quality and should not be held to the same standards of the final product. Prototypes help you learn what features need improvement, so you can quickly perfect your product and get it to market. The journey from concept to market is typically a long road riddled with hidden obstacles and unforeseen turns. Building a quick prototype of a design can help smooth that path as well as present some substantial benefits. Rapid prototyping gives you the opportunity to disrupt the market with a new product.
Fail early and inexpensively: Real innovation always includes a risk of failure. By building a prototype, you can quickly weed out the approaches that don’t work to focus on the ones that do.
Gather more accurate requirements: Increased project costs are often attributed to rework due to inadequate requirements. Traditional requirement gathering techniques such as interviews and focus groups can fall short because many people find it difficult to conceptualize a product before they see it. By developing a working prototype, you can demonstrate the functionality to help solidify requirements for the final design.
Technically understand the problem: Time enhances your understanding of the problems that may occur. By developing a functional prototype, you are forced to address both the foreseen and unforeseen technical challenges of a device’s design. Then, you can apply those solutions to a more elegant system design when you move to the final product.
Conflict resolution: The best engineers have strong opinions about how certain features should be implemented. Inevitably, differences of opinion result in conflicts, which can be difficult to resolve. By taking advantage of rapid prototyping, you can quickly conduct several different iterations of the feature and benchmark the resulting performance to analyze the trade-offs of each approach. This can save time and ensure that you make the correct design decisions.
Funding: By developing a prototype to demonstrate the feasibility of your idea, you lower the risk of investment for investors. Proving a working prototype increases the probability that your idea will be funded.
Easily file patents: The United States Patent and Trademark Office uses the “first to invent rule,” which grants a patent to the first inventor who conceives and produces the invention. Although no longer required, a prototype is still the best and safest way to demonstrate the concept of the invention.
Prototypes provide the look and feel your audience needs to conceptualize a product’s capabilities. A prototype does not perform like a post- production product and should not be put in normal ware and tare conditions. The prototyping process allows you to test product features, manufacturing methods, and user experiences before full-scale production. The feedback and information you gather from prototype testing is crucial in implementing and launching a successful product. The faster you prototype, the faster you can test, improve, and launch into the market. Rapid prototyping is an opportunity to enhance your project into an intuitive and user- focused product.