You’ve had this amazing idea and you can’t wait to get it to production. Don’t forget there is a crucial step in between. We talked to Rusty Allen, VP of Design and Engineering at IdeaPros, about the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make and how to avoid prototype pitfalls.
“ A prototype is a bridge between the idea and production.” – Rusty Allen
The biggest prototype pitfall of all is not having one. A prototype validates your assumptions, so you don’t end up manufacturing something that doesn’t work. It helps you spot what needs to be changed early on. There are a lot of things that can go wrong when you are trying to go from computer-aided design (CAD) to the actual product.
There is no way to know all the elements when you are first doing CAD design. You need to touch, feel, and maneuver the item to be sure it is comfortable in your hand and it can do what you want it to do. We call that the ergonomics of the product. Also, a prototype is a proof of concept that you can use when talking to investors to get additional money for the next stages. It is always better to have something that works.
The leap from idea to prototype is a lot of investment of time, trial and error, and failing fast. The leap from prototype to production is much more expensive because you have to pay for tooling.
If you want to check, for example, how the door goes onto a battery box, you will use a prototype for it. You won’t get that exact snap fit as you would in the real world, but you’ll get a pretty good idea. Look for experts in this field who know how the elements are going to react in the real world. When you are making sunglasses, you want to know they will fit your face well and be comfortable. Also, when it comes to products, you have custom parts and sourced parts – the important thing is to make sure they fit well before spending any money on manufacturing.
You cannot know how the elements of your product react in the manufacturing process based on the computer drawing. Manufacturers use a piece of steel cut in the interior to mold the plastic, for example. If it comes back incorrect, we can go back to the steel tool and shave some off to make it work that is called steel safe. We cannot add steel, or even if we can, it is a much more complicated process.
When producing anything, you think about material, color, texture, and form. The more of those you can test shortly before production, the better.
“You are trying to learn as much as you can and fail early, so it doesn’t cost you a lot of money.” – Rusty Allen
In a perfect world, your product has the least amount of parts possible. The least amount of parts equals the least amount of fail points and costs. During the prototyping process, we check if we can eliminate any of the pieces and prove a theory we had about the product. It is not something we want to do in production, as it will be much more expensive.
The “Idea Pros” at IdeaPros have the resources, experience, and tools to help you at this step or any step in the entrepreneurial journey.
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