Image above: tinker.af.mil
Have you ever wondered why some companies diligently prototype? Especially as more and more boutique businesses use new product-printing technologies to roll out custom-designed products, it’s important to give the science behind prototyping some serious thought. This is especially true if you’re heading into a new business venture yourself.
After all, according to a recent study, almost 40% of millennials want to work for themselves in the entrepreneurial style. And if you’re one of that number, understanding the benefits and guiding concepts behind prototyping can get you a leg up on your business. With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of the science behind prototyping.
The Benefits of Early Failure
If you’re innovating, and especially if you’re innovating a new product or service without many models to work on, you’re absolutely going to fail at one aspect or another. It’s just a matter of statistics. But failing early rather than late can save you time, money, potential customers, and the reputation of your business. When you build a prototype, you have the opportunity to gauge flaws in manufacture and implementation in real-time… and catch them before they ever get to the consumer.
Improve Your Accuracy
No matter what you’re designing, it often happens that during the manufacturing process you can identify potential improvements. It could be as simple as finding areas where time or materials could be saved. But it could also help improve the final product for the consumer and add additional value. For example, aerospace engineering and prototype manufacturing centers might find during their prototyping that they can deflect some high costs of manufacture by souring some pre-made components from other companies. But even if you’re prototyping a product as simple as a picnic cooler, you might realize while prototyping that if you’re going through the trouble of moulding the lid to show your company logo, you might as well mould in some cup holders as well, and provide more utility to your consumer.
Understand the Problem You’re Solving
Almost all products, especially innovative products, are meant to solve a problem for the consumer. And often during prototyping and while testing a prototype, you learn more about the problem you’re trying to solve… and, potentially, additional ways to solve it better. It’ll help reduce the chance that well into marketing your product you’ll wish you had done something different, and help you design more elegant solutions.
Manufacturing a new product is almost guaranteed to create some conflicts; whether it’s between you and the manufacturing team, or engineers and manufacturing… at some point, it’s very likely that not all parties will be on the same page. And if you can suss out where those pain points might be during prototyping, which is altogether a much less stressful scenario than doing your first full batch headed to consumers… you’re more likely to identify conflict areas and do what’s necessary to ameliorate the problem.
Proof of Concept
Especially if you mean to try to get financial support for your company, having a prototype which can act as proof of concept is much more likely to earn you the nod of approval. Many investors are risk-averse, so being able to demonstrate that you can fully realize your idea is a great way to gain trust from financiers.
If you want to eventually file a patent on your product, it can be extraordinarily helpful to have a working prototype. While patents don’t necessarily require a prototype, having one can demonstrate enough information to fully flesh out some portions of the patent file. In general, you must display that you have proof of concept before your idea can receive a patent, and especially if you may be competing with similar ideas, having a prototype can help nudge you ahead.
The science behind prototyping is all about using the process of creating a prototype to save money, time, and trouble. From assisting with fulfilling the requirements of a patent application to helping identify potential design improvements to affording a way to prevent future conflicts, prototyping is a valuable tool to use no matter what kind of product or service you’re selling.