Prototype Development Brings Ideas to Reality
By Todd McGonagle
Each and every piece of functioning equipment in modern human society began as a thought in one individual’s mind - from the simplest tools to the most complicated engine and computer systems. Every marvel of the modern world was once a figment of someone’s imagination trapped inside a great mind.
Bringing these ideas to life will, at some point, require the development of a functioning prototype. The best ideas are little more than words on paper, until a physical form can be held, viewed and tinkered with. Prototypes allow developers to pitch an idea to skeptical investors and provide engineers an opportunity to test the real world limitations of the product. But how does an idea go from being a simple concept to a working prototype?
The Prototype Development Process
Any product creation process begins with the identification of a need. Many of mankind’s greatest tools were born out of necessity, as were some of our simplest. Identifying a need is the first step in a larger process that eventually leads to the development of a prototype.
Once that need has been identified, it is up to an individual or group to come up with solutions. These solutions often come as the result of brainstorming. Sketch after sketch will no doubt be made of potential product solutions, until the individual or collective group believes a solution has been identified.
From here, it is time to bring the idea reality. The next best step is to try building the creation by hand. Develop an initial prototype, no matter how crude, to see how viable the concept is. Even a crude prototype will allow the minds behind a product to get an idea for how their invention actually performs in the real world. If it doesn’t work, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and come up with solutions to the products shortcomings.
These initial prototypes, often referred to as “mock-ups,” are done more to gain visualization of the product, a feel for its real life size and shape and to assess whether or not further adjustments need to be made. A mock-up doesn’t need to function; it is merely a tool to help guide future prototype development.
Once an idea has reached a phase where a functioning version is required, it is time to consider the development of a fabricated prototype. Fabricated prototypes are functioning versions of a product that allow engineers and consumers to test the functions of a device and determine whether or not it is a viable product in the real world.
Unlike mock-ups, fabricated prototypes will require the assistance of experienced laborers skilled in handling the machinery necessary to build a prototype. This is where machine shops come into the picture.
Machine shops possess a team of highly skilled machinists, welders and drafting engineers that can help inventors take an idea from their mind to reality.
Once an idea has reached this final stage of prototype development, drafting engineers go over specifications for this prototype with the inventor. From there, machinists put in-house parts and machines to work crafting a working prototype that can be tested for effectiveness and efficiency.
Not every idea or invention will require a functioning prototype in order to become a reality. But with professionals guiding the final stage of prototype development, inventors are assured of reaping benefits such as:
- Money Saved: Prototype developers help inventors identify processes and parts that don’t fit the product, saving money on parts in the future and avoiding errors when mass production starts.
- Better Understanding of the Product: working with a functioning prototype allows inventors to identify potential technological issues that could arise.
In the long run, the assistance of professional machinists during the final steps of prototype development ensures a quality prototype of your product is manufactured for testing. A quality product to test and evaluate increases the likelihood of your finished product being successful.