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How To Make A Prototype

May 18, 2021

If you’ve got an innovative product idea that you’re excited to get out into the world but don’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place. 

The first thing you want to do is perfect your product idea. There are a lot of factors to consider:

  • Does your product fulfill an unmet customer need?
  • Who is this product made for?
  • Which companies will you be competing with?
  • How to make a virtual prototype?

And many more. We’ll cover all these questions and more to get your idea ready for the next step.

Come Up With A Foolproof Idea

In this phase, you’ll run your idea through research and fieldwork to make sure it’s viable.

1. Analyze The Competition

Understanding the market you want to enter is crucial to setting up a successful business. 

Start by reading trade magazines. Check out this online database for publications regarding industries ranging from architecture to computer hardware.

Next, conduct fieldwork by visiting local and major retail outlets that sell similar products. Note down different advertising strategies, products at various price points, and packaging. 

It’s essential to check out different e-commerce websites. While browsing online stores, keep an eye on what makes each website stand out, like:

  • How smoothly features like checkout and the cart run 
  • How easy it is to navigate through different links
  • How adaptable the website is to other devices 
  • How are similar products being advertised online

Google Trends is another valuable tool for checking out your idea. You can search for different keywords and screen them based on location and time. Start with general keywords first. As you get more comfortable, search up specific words to check if your idea is already being manufactured. 

2. Know Your Core Demographic 

It’s important to know who your product is made for.

You need to know the age group, gender, interests, and hobbies of your core demographic. Knowing your target audience will help you create an effective advertising and branding strategy. An effective strategy includes targeted language and tailored aesthetics.

With knowledge of your target audience, you can better research their needs. Finding popular forums online will give you invaluable insights. What are your customers’ pain points, what are they currently excited about? 

Additionally, you can analyze your competitors’ approaches to the same audience. What are they doing well that you can imitate or do better? What are they doing poorly that you can improve upon? 

Prototyping 

Once you’ve got a foolproof idea, it’s time to design a prototype. Think of prototypes as the first proof-of-concept that your idea works. 

What Is A Prototype?

Simply put, a prototype is a preliminary version of your product that can be used when meeting with retailers, patent attorneys, and manufacturing facilities. 

Both digital and physical prototypes are equally vital to test out your idea. Both require working with an extensive network of professionals, such as engineers, digital artists, and more. Contacting each expert independently can be a hassle, which is why we’ve got a team of highly-trained individuals that can help you build a great prototype.

Advantages of Prototyping 

Prototyping is often the cheapest way you check if your product is viable. It will ensure that your product is functional and point out any flaws that the theoretical design may have. 

It’ll help you decide which raw materials are best for mass manufacturing purposes and how costly each material can be. 

You can also use the prototype for focus groups, gathering feedback that can be analyzed and implemented to improve your product before it hits the shelves. 

Prototyping is an excellent way to simplify your design, making it the most user-friendly it can be.

This method of prototyping and testing its viability is termed the build-measure-learn approach. It helps you strengthen your product by trying different approaches, getting dynamic feedback from prospective customers, and reducing the risk of failure. 

Two types of prototyping techniques are helpful if you want to learn how to make a prototype: digital or virtual prototyping and physical prototyping. 

Digital Prototype

Digital prototypes are computerized versions of your product idea. 

Experts use Computed-Aided Design (CAD) software to render a three-dimensional drawing that shows the product’s exact specifications. 

Digital prototypes can be altered countless times, making it the perfect way to test out product modifications. Software like Zbrush allows you to create digital prototypes at home, but we suggest hiring a professional to give your prototype a polished look. 

Companies that build prototypes may be industry-specific; for example, if you want to manufacture jewelry, artists specialize in CAD models catered specifically to such items. How to manufacture jewelry

Physical Prototype

There’s nothing like having a solid prototype in your hands. It makes it easier to deliver sales pitches to retailers, explain your idea to potential customers to gauge interest, and much more. 

Physical prototyping depends on the materials you want to use. You can make rudimentary prototypes at home out of:

  • Modeling clay, which you can use to represent external design and colors.
  • ShapeLock, which is polycaprolactone plastic that can be heated and molded into any shape.
  • Materials found at home, such as fabric, thread, and more. 

Rudimentary prototypes are great for the initial stages when you’re still ironing out the details. However, at some point, you’ll want to create a more polished prototype that you can use when meeting with retailers and manufacturers. 

That is especially true for metal appliances like kitchen craft accessories that need to undergo advanced processes like die-casting, injection molding, and processing with CNC machinery. How To Manufacture Kitchen Accessories

While ShapeLock is an excellent alternative to plastic, a suitable plastic product like a children’s toy needs to be manufactured using safe materials in a controlled environment. How To Manufacture Toys

And if you want to make products that are highly regulated by safety authorities, you’ll want to work with professional prototyping companies to make sure your idea is safe. 

For example, prescription products like eyewear and pet care products like dry food need to be carefully monitored for safety purposes.

For your final prototype, also called a ‘pre-production’ prototype, you’ll want to contact professionals. Based on how intricate your design is, you could work with different experts. Fabric products require tailors, whereas a machinist is needed to create metal products. 

However, you’d need a team of mechanical engineers, design experts, and supply chain managers to work together and create a polished prototype and feasible for mass manufacturing for the best results. 

That is where our team at Gembah can help you, from perfecting your idea to sourcing the best raw materials and professionals to build a prototype.

steel equipment

Physical Prototyping Techniques

There are many ways to develop a physical prototype. The most common ones and their advantages are listed below:

Injection Molding 

Injection molding is a traditional prototyping method used mainly for metals. Molten metals are injected into molds and allowed to cool down to take a specific shape. This method works well for mass manufacturing but can be expensive when you only want to make a few prototypes.

Rapid Prototyping 

Stereolithography is a technology used in rapid prototyping. Experts make plastic prototypes from computer-aided drawings (CAD) using a large tooling machine instead of using an expensive injection mold. Rapid prototypes can cost a few hundred dollars, which is much cheaper than traditional injection molds that can cost thousands of dollars. 

3D Printing 

A 3D printed prototype is a great way to simulate your idea before committing to commercial manufacturing. 3D printing is costly if you want to use metal but ideal for plastics and resin. 

people meeting in a room

Testing Prototypes

Carrying out tests at the prototype stage reduces the risk of a failed product launch and subsequent losses.

Basics of Testing the Prototype

Simple and specific questions are the way to go for testing phases. 

For example, if you’re building a children’s toy, “How does your child like this toy?” is a lousy question as compared to the specificity of “Rate your child’s motor engagement with the toy on a scale of 1-10.”

Asking specific questions helps direct the focus group into testing qualities you want to validate before sending the prototype into production.

Moderated vs Unmoderated Focus Groups

Unmoderated sessions are a great option if you want to develop your prototype and tweak its final features based on consumer feedback. It allows you to modify your prototype as feedback comes in.

Since no facilitator is required for an unmoderated session, it’s a time-saving alternative. It also allows participants from different geographical locations to contribute to the feedback, diversifying your data collection.

Moderated sessions allow you to have greater control over the process, allowing you to analyze consumer reactions in real-time, and asking detailed questions based on their responses.

It’ll also give you timely feedback responses as participants will not be able to opt-out, allowing for a speedier testing phase.

Start Designing Today 

Even experienced entrepreneurs can be overwhelmed by the sheer number of ways of how to make a prototype. That is where our team at Gembah can help you:

  • Develop the most relevant prototype by performing competitive analysis 
  • Develop innovative features based on the ideas that will give you an edge over your competition
  • Find the best raw materials to create a high-quality product
  • Save you from extra expenditures by perfecting the prototype before commercial manufacturing 
  • Help you come up with a detailed plan of action so that you can avoid common errors
  • Generate prototypes rapidly to save production and distribution time 

 If you’ve got a great idea, contact our team at Gembah today to start prototyping.