How to Create a Prototype for a New Product

Engineering students working in the lab, a student is adjusting a 3D printer's components, the other one on foreground is using a laptop
Create a Prototype

Create a Prototype

Most new products require months or even years before they hit store shelves.

Product development involves several key steps in order to create a high-quality, functional design. And one of the most important steps is prototyping.

A prototype is what sets an idea apart from a real, sellable product. The prototype allows the inventor, designers, and manufacturers to understand how the product will look, feel, and work for real-world customers.

If you’re ready to bring your idea to life, follow these steps to create a prototype of your own.

Draft Your Product Design

Any new product starts off with a pencil and paper. Create a rough sketch of your product design, making notes for colors, textures, mechanisms, or anything else that comes to mind.

This step is where you can dump all the concepts contained in your head onto paper. Allow yourself to brainstorm and sketch freely, without worry about making the drawing perfect or realistic.

Get Technical

After putting your product design idea on paper, create a second, more technical drawing. You can use software to create your drawing digitally or you can hire the help of a professional designer if needed.

This drawing will be valuable when it comes time to create your prototype and will act as the blueprint for your product. It should include dimensions and the exact curvature and angles of your product. It should also take into consideration the functionality of the product and how different mechanisms will work in real life.

When drawing, don’t forget that many products require multiple parts and pieces to be manufactured, from interlocking plastic pieces to screws and bolts. An alternative is to opt for 3D printing instead, where one singular piece made of just one material makes up the entire product.

Choose Your Materials

Before making a prototype, you must get clear on what materials will work best for your product.

Do plenty of research on different materials and how easy they are to work with.

If your product has a lot of structure (such as a toy figurine or a piece of vertical furniture), you’ll need to choose sturdy materials that can support any weight. It’s also helpful to factor in costs and the price you’d like to charge for your final product when selecting materials.

Piece Together a Proof of Concept Prototype

While in the beginning stages of designing your product, it’s important to demonstrate proof of concept. This is proof that your product makes sense and can function as you imagine it to.

Most product developers use readily-available materials to craft their proof of concept prototype. This can include clay, cardboard, glass cups, and even toilet paper rolls, depending on what your design requires. It doesn’t have to represent the appearance of your final product; it only has to prove that your product is feasible and functional.

Design a 3D Rendering

For some, the technical drawing may be enough to move on to making a prototype. But for others, a 3D rendering helps make the process much smoother.

A 3D rendering will be especially helpful if you want to try 3D printing for your prototype. And in fact, a 3D rendering is technically a type of prototype, though not a physical one.

The software can help you create a 3D prototype, seeing how it actually looks in real-life scenarios. Try designing your own before moving on to the next step.

Create Your First Prototype

Now, it’s time to create a tangible representation of your product. This is an exciting step for product designers, but it’s important to not rush through the process.

You must first find someone who can help you create a prototype. They don’t need to be the same company or service as you will use later for your final prototype, but they should still be someone who can carefully listen to and understand your vision.

Try searching for local designers, engineers, or students who can craft your first prototype. They should have access to the materials needed for your prototype or cheaper (but similar) alternatives.

Make Any Adjustments

In most cases, your first prototype won’t be perfect. You may realize that something doesn’t function perfectly, the colors don’t look right together, or your design is too top-heavy.

A variety of issues can come up, but that’s okay! This is the step where you dissect every flaw and find ways to improve and fix them.

Share your prototype with your team, friends, family, and your target customer to get their feedback too. Once you’re confident you’ve found any needed adjustments, you’re ready for your final product prototype.

Build Your Final Prototype

With your drawings, first prototype, and notes in hand, it’s time to produce your final prototype. This will be the prototype that will be used when manufacturing your product, demoing it to investors, and applying for a patent.

Call on an experienced company or engineer to create your prototype to ensure it’s perfect and suitable for a debut. Then, you’re ready to share your product with the world!

Create a Prototype for Your Product Idea

Before you can create a new product, you must go through the steps required to create a prototype. From rough drawings to the final execution, use the steps discussed here to develop your own product prototype.

When your product is ready for sale, be sure to read our latest marketing articles for advice on promoting your invention!

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