The best way to sell a new product to investors and buyers is to demonstrate its utility. To prove their concept, inventors and entrepreneurs often create a design prototype. Drawings and a convincing verbal pitch can be helpful. Still, nothing beats a physical product for convincing others to invest in your ideas.
While the final product often greatly differs from the prototype, it is a relatively economical way to showcase your idea and test your product. You can also use prototypes for important data-finding processes, such as soft launches and market research.
Creating a useful prototype usually occurs in the following stages
The first step is the easiest and cheapest to complete. You can draw out a sketch on paper that shows the most important features and functions of your product. Sketches also serve as a way to document your experimental processes and protect your proprietary ideas.
After completing your first sketch, you can compare your ideas to competitor products, if any exist. You can easily create iterations of your design until you create a version that is suitable for the next stage.
You can use a digital illustration tool to create a three dimensional representation of your product. This allows you to view your product from all angles. You can also add visual details so you can view how your product would look in different materials or sizes. From there you can modify the design, add or remove features, or return to the sketching stage.
While creating a 3D model is still low cost, it does require some upfront investment. Computer-aided design software can be expensive and has a steep learning curve. You may benefit from sending your sketches to a professional designer who can create the models for you.
3D models are useful, but it is also common to go directly to the proof of concept stage after creating a usable sketch.
Proof of Concept
Ideas that seem perfect on paper or on 3D models are not always feasible in real life. The proof of concept stage enables you to test the core features of your product for viability.
Proof of concepts are usually made of cheaper materials and have simpler components. For example, if your product contains electronic elements or software, the proof of concept would focus on the frame or shape of the product.
At this stage, you are determining if your product can serve its purpose. Since the proof of concept is a tangible item, you can also get feedback from potential customers.
For example, after creating a proof of concept for a portable phone charger, you might learn that it is too big to fit in most pockets. You can use this information to resize your product so that its design aligns with its intended purpose.
After establishing a proof of concept, you can start creating a product prototype. You can think of this as the first draft of your product. While it may not function perfectly, the prototype should show investors or potential customers that your product is useful and well-designed.
Product prototyping also gives you the opportunity to test different materials. You may find that some parts have high wear and tear and must be made from more durable materials. You can also swap out textiles or fabrics based on their breathability, stretchiness, or resistance to tears.
The cost of creating a prototype can vary widely, based on your materials and the complexity of your design. You can use molds or 3D printers to create parts and put your product together.
However, purchasing the necessary equipment may be too expensive for creating a single prototype. Instead, you can connect with a 3D printing leasing company to print your prototype’s components.
Once you have a prototype, you can bring your product in front of customers and investors to get their input.
Your prototype will give you valuable information about your product. You may learn that your production costs will be too high with your current choice of materials. Or, you may discover that your product is not very intuitive for users.
At this stage, you can use this feedback to assess and redesign your product. If it is financially feasible, you can use the rapid iteration approach. This means that you quickly update and release prototypes.
This ensures that end users input is incorporated throughout the final product design stage. You can also catch flaws before investing in a more expensive model.
The production-ready prototype is ready for large scale manufacturing. These prototypes may be used as samples for manufacturing partners, or even sold directly to customers.
Unlike the final product, the production ready prototype is usually not made in a commercial setting. This means that the final product is more likely to include features that require industrial-grade equipment or highly technical expertise.
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