HOW TO PROTOTYPE YOUR INVENTION
Find out how to prototype your invention.

ALL ABOUT PROTOTYPES

Invention prototypes are models of your invention ideas. Prototypes serve several different purposes, for example; some are designed to perfect the look of your invention, some prototypes are created to prove that your invention works, others might be made to approve manufacturing processes. Prototypes are also created to show investors and distributors, in order to get valuable input on final specifications.

PROTOTYPES CAN BE GROUPED INTO FOUR MAJOR CATEGORIES

Presentation prototypes allow you to show your invention.

Presentation Prototype

These prototypes allow you to show your invention to potential investors, distributors, and retailers. They may or may not be fully functional. The object of a presentation prototype is to provide a real world model of what your product looks like, in a way that impresses and excites other people.

Proof of concept prototypes show your idea works.

Proof Of Concept Prototype

This type of prototype is unusual because it may not look anything like your finished invention. It is created to prove that your idea works. For instance, if it is an electronic invention, it may consist of a computer board with an assortment of wires connected in what looks like a haphazard manner.  They may not look “finished” but they are an essential step in developing a complex invention.
Functional prototypes look just like your invention.

Functional Prototype

These prototypes look, feel and work exactly like your finished invention will. They are created to refine the details of your product. The functional prototype allows you to select the actual materials, colors and design details of your invention. They are usually made in small run batches at a design or engineering studio.

Production prototypes test your manufacturing specs.

Production Prototype

This is your actual finished product. It will be made on the actual machines in the factory where your invention will be made. These prototypes are made in a small run, to be sure that the specifications for your invention are correct in every way. They ensure that the manufacturing process is up to par for quality before you make a larger run of product.

EVERY INVENTION PROJECT IS UNIQUE

Each invention is unique, and your particular project may require only one of these categories of prototypes, or you may, in fact, need to produce all of them and a few more. The need for prototypes, how many and what kind, vary by the particulars of each invention.

In the following article, we explore in depth the different categories of prototypes, which ones you may need to create for your invention and goals, different methods to create prototypes, as well as how to work with companies that create prototypes and what to look for to ensure success for your invention.

Although it is not required, you may also want to look into the cost of patenting an idea.

Invention prototypes can be key to your success.

VIRTUAL PROTOTYPE

With the tremendous advances that have been made in computer-aided design (CAD) and 3D printing, inventors can turn their cool invention ideas into a virtual prototype of their product as a first step. The virtual prototype is usually a 3D model of the invention that can be displayed on a monitor. It varies from a simple drawing or blueprint in that it is “built” with 3D motion in mind.

A 3D virtual model can look like an animated version of your finished product. It can be viewed from any angle, top, bottom, sideways and turn around for a full 360-degree view. If your invention has moving parts as part of its functionality, a 3D model can mimic that movement. 3D models are an excellent way to work out details of your invention. They can display the look, feel, and function of your invention, without having to go to the expense of building a finished model.

3D models can be created to incorporate a broad range of detail. Some of them are relatively straightforward, providing what might be thought of like a rough sketch of the final invention. Even if they are simple and not overly detailed, the 3D prototype can still be invaluable to explain and demonstrate the idea to investors, designers, and engineers who eventually create the finished product.

On the other hand, 3D models can also be elaborate, detailed and precise. So accurate in fact that these plans can be used by machinists and printers to build the actual invention, using the finished prototype plans.

These 3D models are one of the great advantages of a detailed CAD prototype. The same drawings/specs that are used to create the prototype, once approved, can be utilized by the factory to produce your finished product!

3D PRINTING

This rapidly developing technology is so essential to the creation of invention prototyping that it has earned an entire section of its own. 3D printing is not perfect for every invention prototype, but it is fast becoming one of the most modern ways to quickly produce smaller objects and runs of inventions.

3D printing works by laying down very thin layers of material according to a computer guided template. Imagine taking a stack of paper and sculpting it into a ball. If you take it apart and look at the layers of paper individually, each will be a successively larger circle, until the radius is reached and then they get smaller. When stacked together in order, they look like a sphere. A 3D printer mostly lays down one thin layer at a time, with very precise measurements that allow it to form an unusual repertoire of shapes and patterns.

And 3D printers can make objects from all different types of materials. Plastic is most common, but they can also be used to create objects that are metal and even made of living tissue.

3D prototypes can be a time and cost saving option for many invention ideas. 3D prototyping is best for inventions that will eventually be manufactured using CAD because the computer modelling can be used for both the 3D run and the final product.

Design your invention prototype.

ENGINEERING AND DESIGNING PROTOTYPES

No matter what type of prototypes you eventually decide you will need to complete your invention, you will probably need the help of engineers and designers. These professionals understand the process of manufacturing and developing and will be critical in helping you to choose the correct materials for your final invention, and are invaluable in advising about the manufacturing process.

PROTOTYPE DESIGNERS

Professional designers help to refine the look and feel of your invention. They have training and experience in designing all kinds of products and they do far more than simply create beautiful drawings and models that look great. Good designers have experience translating invention ideas into physical products. They will be aware of all kinds of small details that will affect your design; from how thick a coffee cup handle has to be in order to be strong enough, to what kind of materials can be used to make that coffee cup comply with health and safety standards.

They can also design around the most efficient manufacturing options and techniques that are possible given your preferred material. Having an experienced designer help with your invention’s final look can make the difference between success and failure for many inventions. Don’t short-change your invention idea by ignoring the importance of good design and the powerful contribution that a first class design team can make to your success.

Engineers create invention prototypes at World Patent Marketing.

TYPES OF PROTOTYPE ENGINEERS

Engineers come in a wide variety of specialties. Some of the engineering disciplines which inventors are likely to work with and encounter are: industrial engineers, electrical engineers, computer and software engineers, and materials engineers. Which disciplines of engineers you work with depend on upon the specifics of your invention.

Industrial engineers oversee and plan the manufacturing process. If your invention is a physical product, in other words, it is not an app or software invention, you will almost certainly work with an industrial engineer. They often have enough experience working within their industry to offer invaluable advice about prototype and manufacturing processes to be able to advise you on appropriate materials and procedures to make your prototypes and eventually your final product.

Electrical engineers work with all different types of electronics; it is a broad field. Be sure to cooperate with an electrical engineer who has worked in your subfield. For example, some electrical engineers primarily work with large scale products and inventions, such as household appliances or even infrastructure technology; and there are also engineers who work with small devices like smartphones, tablets, and all sorts of gadgets. Finding an engineer with the right background will be important in moving your product forward.

Electronic devices and appliances often require the creation of a proof-of-concept prototype. As mentioned above, a proof-of-concept prototype does not necessarily look anything like the final invention; it is created to prove that the invention works as designated. Many inventors who create electronic devices have the ability to make their proof-of-concept prototypes, and they may believe that there is no reason to go through the expense of working with an electrical engineer. Depending on the inventor’s background, this may be true. But, it is worth considering that one aspect electronic engineers bring to the table is their experience in transitioning invention ideas from the early proof-of-concept stage through the entire development process and to a finished product. A good electronic engineer may be able to spot technical issues that will dictate the design and specifications of the final product. They may, in fact, save both time and money in the long-term development process.

These days, many invention ideas revolve around computers and software. The difference in the two categories is that computer designs tend to deal with hardware, the physical computer. Software invention covers all of those products like computer programs, internet innovations, and apps.

Hiring the right engineer to develop these products fully and make them scalable, as in being able to function on all kinds of devices and for thousands or even millions of users, is essential to finding success in these crowded fields. A great deal of what they contribute to the prototyping process for these type of products is the robust testing that they perform, to assure the invention will function as planned. They may not always refer to what they produce as a “prototype” often using terms like a beta version and wire-frame instead, but nonetheless, these steps of engineering and design are in fact the same our four categories of prototypes; presentation, proof-of-concept, functional, and production.

Materials engineers naturally help inventors to select the correct materials for their inventions. They understand the strength, weight, durability, ease of manufacture, and appearance of a wide variety of materials. They can advise on least cost materials for you to use in your prototype and final product. Because they know about many different types of materials, and their benefits and drawbacks, they may be able to make a significant and very helpful contribution to your invention plans.

INVENTION MADE REAL

Prototype development is possibly the most exciting part of the invention process. There are a few moments more satisfying to the inventor than the time when their proof-of-concept prototype works, or they hold a presentation prototype in the own hands. It is the time when that long-dreamed idea, becomes real.

It can also be one of the most frustrating phases of the invention, as one prototype version after the next is rejected and abandoned for a variety of reasons. Perhaps that particular color or material aren’t quite right, or pieces don’t fit together as smoothly as hoped, or the bugs have taken over the computer code.

Don’t lose heart. The prototype process is the point in time when all of these details are worked out. This is the time to try all of those colors and finishes, to ask “what if” and try alternative possibilities finally arrive at the perfect product.

And when the invention prototype has been refined and created, it can be shown to the world, to raise funds for distribution and retail, or to obtain advance orders for the product.

In fact, a functional prototype is your final invention, awaiting mass production and distribution. It is worth spending the time and care to get it perfect. High-quality prototypes significantly increase the chance that your invention will be a commercial success.

Engineer and build your prototype.