Prototyping: What You Need to Know

Have you ever wondered how the product you are using meets your expectations to a T? The product, which was initially an idea, was transformed into tangible form after undergoing various processes by the design team. This process is referred to as Prototyping and involves the use of models known as prototypes.

Stages of prototyping

Step 1: What do you want to solve?

This is the initial and critical stage, as it will determine the direction the product will take. Material, labour, and time needed to develop the product are also considered in this stage. The cost-benefit analysis also determines whether the product should be developed or if you will need to embark on another product.

Step 2: What are the key features?

A prototype should not be a replica of the finished product. Pay great attention to the key features rather than the final presentation, which eventually consumes a lot of time and resources. The overall look of the product is not necessary unless that was the intention of the prototype.

Step 3: How do you develop the prototype?

This is where more time is spent coming up with the prototype. The design team goes through the various options while taking into account the intended purpose of prototyping. Methods involved in the development include:

  • Powder-bed fusion
  • Mold-making and casting
  • CNC Machining
  • 3-D Printing

Step 4: Is it up to the task?

After the production, can the prototype deliver on the intended purpose? If not, then simple tweaks or overall scrapping can be considered depending on the design team’s opinion. The main reason for testing is to ensure that you’ve refined the final prototype.

Step 5: To whom do you present?

This is also a crucial stage, as it will determine whether the prototype will be accepted or declined. The design team will come up with a few selected stakeholders to gather information on the prototype and form basis of mass production or scrapping of the whole project.

Types of prototyping models

  • Rapid throwaway prototyping

As the name suggests, this involves sketching various ideas by the design team until the customers’ requirements are captured. One of the advantages of this type of prototyping is that customers’ feedback is instant.

  • Evolutionary prototyping

Here, the customers’ feedback is continually used to refine the prototype until it meets customer satisfaction. It is helpful in instances where the customers’ needs were not fully understood in the initial stages.

  • Incremental prototyping

Under this type, the prototype is broken into smaller manageable portions and dealt with individually. After the process is complete, the smaller parts are then re-assembled or merged into a single product.

  • Extreme prototyping

This is primarily used in web development.

Benefits of prototyping

  • Helps the design team to capture the customers’ specifications.
  • Helps to identify complex functions and thus eliminates the need for having experts.
  • Acts as training for future design team members.
  • Encourages innovation and flexibility in designing.
  • Stakeholders are assured that the final product will be to their specifications.
  • Chances of rejection by final users are minimal because their input was taken into consideration.

Drawbacks of prototyping

  • Wastages. Resources used to develop prototypes are eventually discarded.
  • Voluminous. Documentations are huge as the customers’ needs keep changing, and all this needs to be archived.
  • Pressure.  Having seen the prototype, the customer is expecting the final product in the shortest time possible, forgetting that there are other processes that the prototype has to undergo.
  • Time-consuming. The customer sometimes changes their requirements quite often, and all this has to be taken into consideration.

Summary

The main aim of prototyping is to come up with a product that will meet the final end-users requirements. The developer will introduce the prototype to “Test the market”. In turn, this will determine whether the product can go into being patented and future mass production or entire scrapping of the whole project. 

Sources: pacific research, guru99, guru99, guru99

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