If you’ve got an idea for a product, chances are you’re thinking of the many ways that you can turn your idea into a working model. Every inventor’s dream is to help turn their design sketches into a tangible product. But of course, doing so is easier said than done. But creating your first product can be a long, complicated process and if you don’t take the right steps you might find yourself giving up before you reach the finish line. With that in mind, here are five tips for creating your first product prototype:
Start With Thorough Paper Designs
Even though you might be eager to take the next big step towards creating a physical product, it’s important that you create thorough sketches on paper beforehand. Creating a few sketches allows you to filter your ideas through several iterations and conceptualizations. It also helps you build a visual roadmap that will guide you further down the line. Even more, you’ll be able to use these sketches in an application for a patent and even in an intellectual property dispute (always make copies and include the dates).
After you’ve designed a few versions on paper, it’s time to commit to a virtual rendering. It may even be possible to spearhead 24-hour prototypes if you have access to a 3D printer. You’ll find that as the technology for 3D printers is growing, they are much more accessible and affordable than they used to be. You can purchase a decent 3D printer for as low as $1,000—and if you aren’t in the position to buy your own, there are many services that allow you to rent them.
Keep in mind that 3D printing is good for pieces of your product (or whole products) that don’t require electrical components. Furthermore, 3D printers may not give you the best cosmetic resolution and smooth finishing touch as you’d hope for in a final product, but it does give you a reliable starting point.
Start Sourcing Products
Now that you’ve got your paper sketches all mapped out, it’s time to start sourcing your products. Use an electronics search engine or buy used equipment from equipment curators like machinerynetwork.com to get the products that you need. The equipment that you’ll need will depend on the type of technology you’re creating, but you can create a prototype on a fairly low budget regardless. Although you might be tempted to source the best products and tech pieces, understand that in these early stages you need to work out the kinks as best as you can.
Make It Simple
Part of creating a prototype that works means truly keeping it to a minimum viable product and remaining as simple as possible in your design. The fewer components you have, the quicker you can turn your idea into a prototype. Even if you have a creative concept, if you take the time to break it down into simpler terms time and time again, you’ll find that there are easier ways to achieve the same goal. Start by making a list of the functions and features that are most important to you and make it your mission to focus solely on the top three or five. Don’t worry about perfection just yet. Every great product is a long way for what the original product looked like.
Keep the End Goal In Mind
Remember that the most important part of creating a prototype is to help you evaluate your idea. Although pivoting is common in business, if you find yourself pivoting too much during the prototype stages, it’s a sure sign that you’re unclear about your vision. Furthermore, you could end up spending much more money than you’d like to. Always keep your end goal in mind and talk to your potential users and customers to help ensure that your product actually does have a place in the market.
Explore Manufacturing Opportunities
Naturally, after you’ve created your prototype the next best step is to be as forward-thinking as possible. You’ve tested your product and know that the next step forward is to explore manufacturing opportunities. The goal of a manufacturer is to replicate the prototype you’ve created. Unfortunately, choosing the right manufacturer isn’t a walk in the park—but by now, you’ve become too accustomed to the challenges of creating something from scratch. One of the first decisions you’ll have to make is whether you want to create your product locally or overseas. Make this decisions carefully and talk to several potential providers before you sign any contracts.