Just about every industry in existence utilizes prototypes to display a new product, process, piece of equipment or component. Prototype manufacturing is an extension of this idea that takes an early model of a finished product to develop various aspects of the product during manufacturing. Prototypes indicate that proof of design and the related aesthetics are feasible and information on manufacturing costs, materials, and techniques. All stakeholders can weigh in on prototypes including customers, distributors, and retailers.

Benefits of Prototype Manufacturing

Prototypes provide countless benefits to all stakeholders. The most relevant advantages include:

  • A determination of final design and function.
  • Allows for the engineering validation of components from different suppliers that must function together.
  • Almost immediate feedback from end-users to offer improvements.
  • An upfront discovery of design issues related to manufacturing.
  • It can provide upfront testing of the product to determine durability and fit.
  • It helps to determine the required equipment for the job.
  • The estimated cycle time, material requirements, and production costs.

Design and Function

Prototype manufacturing helps determine design issues and potential manufacturing problems at an early stage in the process. This can avoid additional issues down the road which could result in the line stopping.

Engineering Validation

When engineers are validating one part that must work with another at two different vendors and the timing does not align, a manufacturing prototype can help during the validation process.

End-User Feedback

Having almost instant end-user feedback is an amazing benefit to this technology in that it can help give the client exactly what they want thus creating a higher level of customer satisfaction and improved marketability.

Upfront Testing

Instead of waiting until parts from a unit or production tool are available to line trials, prototype manufacturing can provide an early read on durability and fit. This type of testing can also deliver an estimated cycle time, material requirements, and an overall production cost. This helps the marketing team determine the feasibility of a program.

Types of Prototypes

Several types of prototypes offer feedback at different stages of the manufacturing process including:

Functional Prototype

A functional prototype offers the full appearance and functionality of a final product constructed from different materials than the final product. This is helpful in manufacturing as a guide during line trials and fill tests.

Proof of Concept Prototype

The proof of concept prototype tests part of the functionality. This is helpful for material determination and allows for design changes before the manufacturing process begins.

Visual Prototype

Visual prototypes offer the appearance and size of the finished good but not the functionality. This type is important during the design phase but should be part of a manufacturing review to ensure it can be executed without losing creative queues.

Working Prototype

Working prototypes offer the functionality of a finished good but not the final aesthetic. This type allows for changes to the design that could improve functionality and is important in the early stages of determining manufacturing requirements.