Should I Get a Prototype?
Inventions often start from a homemade device created to solve a personal problem experienced by it’s creator. In this sense a prototype (however crude) has been produced.
Sometimes however, inventors think of a solution for a problem without the need or the means to physically create it. These inventors inevitably reach a point in pursuing their idea where they need to decide whether to create a prototype or not.
The answer to this question usually relies on the nature of the invention idea. If the invention is relatively easy to understand by everyone it is explained to, a prototype is probably not necessary. The exception to this concept is if the idea is too radical or too boring to generate excitement on it’s own.
A prototype can provide a tactile object for others to interact with and generally makes the product more appealing. Otherwise, complex invention ideas are most likely going to benefit from a prototype, not only as a means to attract attention, but as proof that the concept actually works.
What Type of Prototype Do I Need?
The dilemma of investing in a prototype doesn’t lie entirely in the decision to make one or not either. If you decide to make a prototype, you must also choose what kind of prototype you want or need.
If your goal is to have a complete visual representation to display what your idea is and how it works, a computer generated 3d model or Virtual Prototype may suffice. These interactive files can greatly enhance your product’s presentation and accurately display your invention’s function and overall design.
A Virtual Prototype is also one of the most affordable options available. For more information on what is involved with creating a virtual prototype, see our article on creating a virtual prototype
If you need an actual physical model, but are not concerned with it being a “working” prototype, you might consider a rapid prototyping solution. This technology takes a 3d computer model and sends it to a 3d printer. These printers can use a variety of materials to build your model layer by layer, creating a very “finished” looking model.
3D printers are improving everyday, when they were first introduced they were extremely limited in the types of products they could produce and had powder based materials, making the models very fragile.
Newer printers print in very durable powders, plastic, and even some types of metal composites! These prototypes can vary in price according to size, materials, and especially vendors. This is one area where it pays to shop around.
A final option for prototypes is a finished “production” model. This is a prototype that is produce exactly as it would be found in stores.
Although this is the most desirable type of model, it is usually the most expensive. This production method involves hiring a professional prototype company, or individual contractors whom can product all the necessary parts.
This process typically requires complete CAD drawings as well, which greatly add to costs.