7 Tips for Creating Your First Prototype

Before you can manufacture a product at scale, you’ll need to design and create an initial prototype. You may only have a loose idea of the type of product you want to create, knowing what purpose it’s going to serve but flexible on how it’s going to serve it. Or you may have more specific plans in place already, with detailed blueprints for the product you’re planning to create. 

Whatever the case, there are some important tips you’ll need to follow. 

How to Create Your First Prototype 

If you’re ready to create your first prototype, make sure you follow these tips: 

  1. Enlist the right service. Depending on how you’re going to manufacture the prototype, you may need to enlist the help of another company – for example, you might need to pay for a CNC machining service. Make sure you shop around before making a final decision; you’ll need to choose a manufacturer with the right equipment, a fair price, and reasonable service. Look at ratings, reviews, technical capabilities, and certifications. Then, talk to someone at the company to get a feel for the level of service they’re capable of providing.  
  2. Start with a design. Most prototypes begin as a design. You can start the process by creating loose sketches; take some pencil and paper (or your favorite illustrating software) and sketch out what your prototype might look like. Once you fine-tune some ideas, you can use CAD software to create a more detailed, 3D model of your prototype. 
  3. Consider investing in 3D printing. If you have the budget for it, consider investing in a 3D printer for home use. Your 3D printer will allow you to print various components of your prototype – or possibly the full prototype itself. You can change things on the fly, develop them quickly and inexpensively, and have a lot of fun in the process. In some cases, 3D printing may be enough to construct a complete prototype. In others, it will merely serve as an initial modeling stage, which will lead to a fully manufactured prototype. 
  4. Don’t get too invested. It’s easy to get attached to your ideas, especially if you’re passionate about the development of this product. However, during the prototyping stage, it’s important not to get too invested. Your idea should have room to grow and change – and in some cases, you may need to scrap the idea entirely. You can’t do that if you’re so attached to the initial version of your idea that you’re unwilling to change. 
  5. Raise funds. Your initial prototype may not be excessively expensive, but if you want to initiate an entire run of these prototypes, you’ll need the capital to do it. There are several ways you can raise this money. If you have existing savings, you can tap into them to fund your prototype development. You could also get investments from friends and family members, or take out a loan. These days, it’s even more common for inventors and entrepreneurs to turn to crowdfunding, collecting money from many people at once. And if that fails, you can work with a venture capitalist or angel investor to get the money you need. 
  6. Test your prototype and get feedback. Creating your prototype is just the first phase of the product development process. You’ll need to test that prototype in a live environment and get feedback. Host focus groups, revealing your product to members of your target audience. What do they like about it? What do they hate about it? Can they see themselves using a product like this in the future? What should change about it? Collect as much information as you can and use that information to change your product in a positive way. 
  7. Develop a batch. Once you tinker with the initial design and come up with a new model you’re satisfied with, it will be time to develop a full batch. Work with your manufacturer of choice to create a short run of these products – and possibly begin selling them. 

Creating a Full Business Plan 

Before you start selling your prototype, or early versions of your finished product, it’s important to put together a complete business plan. Who are your top competitors? Who are your target demographics and how do they make purchasing decisions? What are your profit margins going to be and how is your business going to grow over time? These are important questions you’ll need to answer with research. 

Developing your first prototype is both scary and exciting, since it could set the entire course for your future business’s development. But if you remain flexible and choose the right partners to help you along the way, you’ll be in a prime position to eventually succeed. 

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