Crafting Your Product Prototype Into a Live Project

Table Of Contents

Any new product, project, or invention must logically start with an idea, your brain gradually develops the idea into a concept. To carry this concept out of theory to the physical world, you must first introduce and examine it as a Product Prototype.

In this article we will review the following topics:

  • What is a Product Prototype?
  • Benefits of Prototyping.
  • Rudimentary and Full-function Prototyping.
  • How to Create a Prototype?
  • Phase I: Design the Prototype.
  • Phase II: Assemble the Prototype.
  • How to patent your Product in Egypt?
  • To Recap.

Definition of Product Prototype

In the field of industry and more generally of research and development (R&D), a product prototype is defined as “an original model which has all the technical features and all the operational properties of a new product. The process involved to make a product prototype is called “Prototyping.

The above-mentioned definition is according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Occasionally product prototype is an incomplete (and not final) copy of what could be a product (possibly of software) or a final hardware object.

The prototype materializes a stage in the evolution of a project, often to demonstrate or invalidate the merits of the concept (s) involved in this project, before any further development.

Why Do You Need to Create a Prototype of the Product?

Procuring a prototype for your new product is a major step between the blueprint phase and the assembly phase. You need to fine-tune your design to offer an operational model before you can commence the manufacturing phase and convert people to purchase your final product.

Rudimentary prototypes can be crafted with available domestic materials, there are also many workshops, 3D printing offices, and more places that can construct your prototype within a timeframe that you decide.

To make your prototype, you should introduce a carefully-studied design, then seek assistance from a company that’s suitable for you.

Making a prototype product can save you a lot of money, whenever you need to modify the product in the early process of development, and easier than to make modification(s) after you have developed the product.

Thus, you ought to consider building a product prototype as of the first stage. Prototyping lends you the opportunity to collect feedback from users while your product is still in the initial process.

Rudimentary VS. Full-function Prototyping

There has been a long controversy about using rudimentary vs. full-function prototyping, and whether or not a prototype should be a mirror image of your product. The truth is, both sides have their positive effects in addressing usability issues.

Anyway, we have to consider many things when making a decision on which better suits your project.

Rudimentary Prototyping

Rudimentary prototyping is usually paper-based and is not user-interactive. They range from a series of hand-drawn mock-ups to printouts. In theory, low-fidelity sketches are quicker to create.

Also, rudimentary prototypes are beneficial in facilitating the early conception of alternate design solutions, which assist elicit innovation and enhancement.

A further positive point to this method is that when introducing a preliminary sketch, users will be more comfortable suggesting variations.

Cugnot's prototype vehicle
Cugnot’s prototype vehicle, 1770, was extremely heavy and unstable.

Full-function Prototyping

It is computer-based and is normally designed to offer more realistic (via mouse and keyboard) user interaction. Full-function prototyping puts you at the closest point possible to a true simulation of the final product.

The full-function prototype is supposed to be more efficient in gathering live human feedback on product performance (e.g., time to complete a task) and in making a product’s demo session for the customers, investors, and others.

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How to Create a Prototype of the Product?

To get the work done correctly, making a prototype product must go through two phases (Design and Assembly). These two phases are subdivided into 10 fundamental steps.

Now, let the journey begin.

Phase I: Design the Product Prototype

1. Study the Others’ Products

Keep in mind, that your product can be suffocated under and by the ruthless market competition unless you get your hands on a product with a genuine concept.

Historically, inventors and explorers started off where their predecessors ended up, instead of reinventing the wheel all over again. You may therefore get any product existing in the market and dismantle it.

If you are building a water pump, disassemble a competing water pump. Inspect all the internal components, as this work can save you time and give an idea of how to start improving your design.

Likewise, for software products such as websites or apps, extract the codes, learn the techniques by which you can develop your project to make it more effective.

Please, do not copy-paste another person’s project, it is copyrighted material and accordingly, there would be legal action against you. Absorb everything you have learned to readjust your specific design.

2. Make a Sketch

Write down or print out your product’s concept on a sheet of paper. Whenever possible, draw the expected appearance of your product.

This may offer you a summary of how should the Prototype (ver. 1.0) look, and permit you to capture defects and find the chance to develop the sketch before you devote money to making the product prototype.

Use this preliminary sketch to make a decision regarding the required features for your design. Indicate the least features that grant adequate functionality for your design, and ration the total of extra expenses, like painting and including voice instructions to your robotic prototype.

Boeing 2027 prototype
Boeing 2027 prototype was too expensive to fly, canceled in 1972 (Source: Boeing)

3. Create a Computer-Aided Design (CAD)

Drawing in CAD necessitates long-course training, a specialist can thus assist you in this step. This computer design will be more detailed than your primary sketch.

This is the blueprint that you must hand over to the prototype design maker, in order to conceive the most detailed visual rendering of your product prototype.

It is a step you have to resort to, in case your product cannot be manufactured according to DIY rules.

Make sure to verify the abilities of the prototype maker in addition to their payment. Perhaps, you can ask for examples of their achieved tasks and qualifications from an accredited CAD academic program.

4. Make a Handmade Version of Your Prototype

The good thing is that the initial version of your prototype can be produced at home and maybe made on a small-scale to save you money. Physical prototypes can (and should) be made by whatever material available around your residence.

For example, making a cell phone design out of some plastics you are not using. Fabricating a sample design (maquette) of your product renders it easier to give details to the prototype maker and investors, it may also offer you another chance to adjust your design.

To this point, it is not necessary for the prototype design to be perfect. This homemade maquette should only be good enough, to reveal that your project is feasible.

Working with alternative material with your initial design, drives you to examine your idea and reason out why did you make it this way?

Probably, you will find that other material might work better than the plastic for your cell phone.

  • For hardware products, choose a cheap modeling product such as Shapelock, when this material is heated to 60-70°C becomes malleable like clay.
  • For software and electronic products, look for third-party coding libraries, instead of spending a prolonged time on code writing and image processing. Complete the necessary parts of the code later.

It worth mentioning the differences between prototype and sketch.

Prototype vs sketch
Differences between prototype and sketch

5. Use a Modeling Program

As we have seen earlier, it is not so hard to manually make a physical design; however, owing to modern technology, you can easily opt for computer software to create a digital prototype.

Many brands of software can capture your idea, be it drawn out on paper, or within the software itself, and render it into a 3D, interaction design with less time and cost than creating it yourself or hiring an expert designer.

Software such as PoP by Marvel and InVision is free software, whereby you can upload designs and render interactive models to simulate how users will receive your product.

Experiment with a platform like Dribbble or a web design blog Freebiesbug to purchase templates and user interfaces for mobile apps, these will spare you time or money spent on a designer.

Last but not least, you may also resort to MS PowerPoint, which you might already have on your PC.

Phase II: Assemble the Prototype

6. Hire a Prototype Maker

Prototype- Construction involves casting, assembly, and workers costs. Typically, making a prototype is to some extent expensive.

Make an informed choice of the material you desire to make up your prototype, which should continue with you to the final product. Communicate with some representatives in the field and evaluate their costs and previous works.

Hitler's Maus
Hitler’s Maus, the giant prototype tank that never worked-(Source: nationalinterest)

Qualified designers can be found on free websites such as thomasnet.com. You can also resort to someone who can create your prototype at a lower cost, e.g. formalist art students.

7. Protect Your Prototype

While you are consulting with prototype-making companies, ask about their qualifications and company profile to guarantee that you will receive a high-quality prototype and will truly mirror the design.

Even if the firm you have selected has worked well with past clients, sign a confidentiality agreement with the designer firm before you engage with them unless your prototype is already protected by copyright.

When the prototype looks more professional, it will be more attractive and easier to sell to prospective customers.

The confidentiality agreement will provide legal protection, for fear that someone tries to plagiarize your product prototype.

8. 3D Printing

3D printing is an exponentially expanding domain. These printers import CAD designs based on scanned or computer-created 3D models and start to accumulate layers of material into a tangible prototype.

Today, there are many companies out there that may offer simple, and low-priced alternatives in prototype-making. Also, these printers are gradually invading homes and small offices. Hence, you will be able to make a 3D-print of the prototype by yourself.

It’s a good practice to check the company’s charges and profile before you assign them. Bear in mind, to sign a confidentiality agreement, as long as you didn’t have your prototype patented, to protect your design.

9. From Prototype to Project

A well-made prototype lends your product/project better recognition among investors. The first step, I expect you to approach acquaintance and relatives for funding.

Nevertheless, you may have to resort to outsourcing to finance your product for mass production. You have a number of options to do this, for instance, you may propose your prototype product to companies, invite investors via professional networks, or opt to fundraise (also called crowdfunding.)

Online fundraising can be done through famous platforms such as GoFundMe, and Patreon. These platforms allow startup individuals and organizations to launch a campaign wherein they call upon supporters to donate for the starting up the project.

You may also resort to seed accelerators such as Y Combinator and Techstars to attract investment.

Communicate with brand names that your project may appeal to them, or look for non-organizational investors and persuade them of the feasibility of your objective.

10. Product Distribution

Now, you are really going from a prototype product to a real-life project. Of your product, manufacture the quantity that you can sell, and fulfill the customers’ orders. Under-production will create a “bottleneck”, while over-production can lead to serious inventory problems.

The opening production cost of a prototype can be high for a startup that doesn’t have sufficient funds; therefore, you must not get jammed with an outsized inventory.

A Side Notice:

While you are selling your early-stage product, you’ll also need to recourse and recuperate the initial design. Don’t forget to involve packaging and shipping expenses in addition to production and storage.

product prototype
When the prototype appears, the commitment increases significantly.

How to Patent Your Product in Egypt

A patent is an instrument issued by the state to the inventor, whose invention fulfills the prerequisites to grant the owner a valid patent, whereby this owner has the right of protection conferred by the law upon the invention.

The protection bestowed by the law gives the patent owner the right to solely monopolize the use of the invention, and commercially exploit thereof; and thus enabling the inventor to gain profits out of this exploitation, in return for his disclosure of the “Know-How” of the invention to society.

When an application for a patent is submitted to the Egyptian Patent Office, it will pass through 7 steps to grant the patent, as follows:

  1. The application must be submitted to the Egyptian Patent Office supported by the required documents according to Act No. 82 of 2002, all of which can found on the office’s website.
  2. Paying the application fee, 150 LE, all students are completely exempted from the fees, even if they are postgraduate students.
  3. The application is given a filing number and date by the Office.
  4. The law and the executive regulations may allow grace periods to complete some documents.
  5. Within 6 months as of the application submission date, the Office shall examine the form of the applications.
  6. Requests are transferred for technical assessment, according to the submission precedence to the Office.
  7. In the event that the “Product” is technically approved, such approval shall be published. If no objection is made thereto, the patent is granted.

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To Recap

The prototyping process is a precious opportunity to employ all your unexploited inventive abilities and to discover all the odds out there in the market. You must not bound yourself to any prejudiced beliefs and delve into anything you need to.

The said 10 steps can be summarized in the following lines, create a concept sketch, develop a virtual prototype, you can make 2D or 3D renderings, use modeling software, build a physical prototype, a home-made version, or by hiring an expert prototype maker, 3D printing is also an option, finally locate a manufacturer and start selling your product.

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