5 Essential Prototyping Hacks

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CNC lathe machine (Turning machine) while cutting the aluminium screw thread.Hi-precision CNC machining concept.

Product development is not easy. There is a definite learning curve, one which breaks some startups before the first product is out the door. Businesses just beginning to grow or only recently operating often have a finite amount of resources that must be wisely invested. Every entrepreneur wants to avoid wasting money in the prototyping stage.

To better take product ideas from concept to profitable realization, follow these five tips to streamline the product development process:

Balance simplicity and manufacturability

Most businesses strive to develop simple products - and for good reason. Goods of this kind quickly capture the attention of buyers, facilitate optimal ease of use and seemingly necessitate low overhead, according to Entrepreneur. In the age of 3D modeling and printing, product development teams can easily engineer straightforward designs to bolster the user experience and cut costs. However, some firms skew toward overly simplistic configurations that look great in CAD programs and result in streamlined prototypes but are not suited for mass production. In the end, these difficult-to-scale products actually drive up costs and increase time to market.

Enterprises can avoid this less-than-ideal outcome by balancing simplicity with manufacturability during the product design process. This approach will result in goods that meet the needs of customers yet can be assembled at scale without costly and time-consuming design tweaks.

Use rapid prototyping technology

Rapid prototyping is more than an industry buzzword. It refers to a family of related technologies that can help bring about a limited scale model of a part or even whole product in a very short time. These operations typically begin with computer-aided design data and then transfer into a 3D-printed reality.

In recent years, the availability of 3D printing hardware and components has risen dramatically, according to a report from IDC. There are more consumer products on the market, enabling more startups than ever before to have direct access to this technology.

However, 3D printing is not the only technology helping with rapid prototyping. Virtual reality allows businesses to view and interact with prototypes without the need for any physical construction. While this technology is still evolving, it has already been embraced by sectors such as the automotive and aerospace industries for its cost effectiveness.

Take a multidisciplinary approach

Product development teams alone are capable of conceiving consumer-ready innovations as most use ample market research to determine the viability of initial designs and prototypes. That said, methods of this kind can only take product teams so far. Sometimes, additional insights from external partners and colleagues in other departments are required. Multidisciplinary product development programs facilitate this kind of expanded knowledge exchange, allowing senior managers, manufacturing specialists and other parties to offer valuable input that can speed up roll out and lead to higher quality goods, process experts at C-Tech Innovation found.

Communicate with the supplier

Any product designer likely has a plethora of ideas and specifications when it comes to the intended product. If this individual, startup or small business has enlisted the aid of a third party product developer, communication is paramount. Designers should not be afraid to get inside the factory with the developer, taking time to build relationships with the operators and line managers.

Creating strong lines of communication can only reduce the likelihood of errors or missed expectations. Developers who feel comfortable with the designer may also be more likely to offer constructive feedback on how to improve the product.

Remember that the product must solve a need

At the end of the day, mental focus is a powerful weapon that can be vital for a successful product design. As Making Society advised, there is no gold medal for creating the most products, especially if they are items that the public has little interest in. Designers should not feel guilty about taking extra time to research the targeted market. Gut feelings are very rarely a match for data and logical deductions.

In the real world, the line between success and failure can be difficult to pinpoint. Designers hoping to land in the green are advised to follow these steps to ensure they cultivate healthy, productive relationships with product development professionals and create the best item possible.