Technology has been a huge benefit to product development since the turn of the century. The time for each development cycle has been reduced thanks in part to software and new equipment, but reduced time does not mean any step in the complete process can be overlooked. One of the key steps in the development process is prototyping, which allows your new product to go from concept to reality. The prototyping stage can be broken down into five key steps:
Step 1: Break Down the Idea to Solve the Problem
Your initial concept should have answered the questions key to the design. Why does the market need your new product? What advantage does it offer over your competitors? Your initial design should predict the new market trend in the near future, otherwise why would you want to bring it to market? It may be best to simply sketch out your new product on a piece of paper. You don’t need to have every detail fleshed out. Every dimension can be a rough measurement. Do your best to get as many variations down on paper to cover as many of the basic details as possible. Once your idea is complete, you are ready to jump to step two.
Step 2: Make a Rough Initial Product
The method to make your initial product can be accomplished in many ways. An extremely frugal way may be to grab a bottle of glue, some craft board from a local store, and use a pair of scissors to make a rough representation of your product. As simple as it sounds, holding a representation of your product in your hand may unlock new design variables that you didn’t see before.
Step 3: Build Your Virtual Product
This step is where technology is going to give you an advantage. Your sketches need to become a three-dimensional model to make a real prototype from. If you’re unable to convert your sketches into a 3D model, there are many services available that will convert your doodles into a useable file via design software. The initial model needs to be basic in order to get to step four quickly. Get some of the details right in this step, but don’t fret if every aspect isn’t perfectly correct. Your rough initial product can also help with scaling the virtual 3D model.
Step 4: Make Iterations and Changes
Your virtual product is ready to start making changes. You may choose at this step to start with a better product model that is made via rapid prototyping. There are many types of rapid prototyping available: Rapid Injection Molding, Digital Light Processing, Metal 3D Printing, CNC Machining, Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Laminated Object Manufacturing, Selective Laser Melting (SLM), Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Stereolithography (SLA), and more. Each type has pros and cons between cost, time, materials, and dimensional accuracy, and choosing the right option may be better left to the professionals. The best reason to choose to rapid prototype your new product is a reduction in revision time and investment. At this step, each rapid prototype should incorporate design changes to increase manufacturability, increase functionality, and reduce overall product for your end-customer. Samples can be created for tradeshows, to test durability, and to complete market research on smaller details like finalized product colors, logo placement, label placement, or any secondary manufacturing operations that will need to be completed. The design revisions also will incorporate changes needed for manufacturing that could include gate type and placement for injection molds, surface quality requirements for finished products, and defined attachment methods with or without additional fasteners. The finished design and last iteration will incorporate all the changes through the many prototypes, and highlight your design ready to meet and exceed your customer’s demand.
Step 5: The Reality is Real
With a finalized design, you’re ready to start making tools to create your new product. A representative 3D model can break your final product down into individual components and manufacturing tools can be created from there. Secondary assembly operations can be established and your product will be well on its way to getting out to market. Marketing and selling your product may be your next big challenge as well as establishing a distribution network to reach your end-customers.
Getting from beginning to end isn’t going to be easy. Bringing a new product from concept to reality is challenging, and the world economy moving at light speed makes it tougher than ever before. Finding the right partner to help your new product move through each step quickly may just be the best choice to enter the market quickly with the best chance of success. A faster product development cycle may mean better market share, but only if the product works for the end-consumer. SEA-LECT Plastics offers ten different variations and methods for creating a rapid prototype sample, plus a world-class team of designers, tool makers, and logistic specialists ready to assist in bringing your new product to market. When you’re ready to work with our elite team that produces world-class prototypes and products, call (425) 339-0288 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to offering support and advice on your next product development project.
Matthias Poischbeg was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany. Matt moved to Everett, Wash., after finishing his bachelor’s degree in business in 1995 to work for Sea-Dog Corporation, a manufacturer, and distributor of marine and rigging hardware established in 1923.
In 1999, Matt took over the reins at Sea-Lect Plastics Corporation, a sister company of Sea-Dog and a manufacturer of plastic injection molded products with an in-house tool & die shop. Matthias Poischbeg is also a contributor to Grit Daily.