The ability to bring a new product to consumers first is usually the determining factor in who gets to control that market. Consider the development of the smart speaker. Amazon wasn’t the only company to have an idea for a hands-free, voice-controlled assistant. They were just the first to roll it out to the mainstream market. They now control 61% of the U.S. market. This case exemplifies one of the biggest benefits of rapid prototyping; the ability to lead a growing market.
Rapid prototyping allows creators to work all the problems out of a design and speed a product to market safely. It can also help in proving concepts in establishing patents for novel designs. Today’s creators may not have the resources of a major conglomerate but can still compete with them through rapid innovation.
How Rapid Prototyping Works
Rapid prototyping is about working with the product itself during the design stage, rather than just a blueprint. A number of resources make this possible, like 3D printing, traditional modeling, or computer modeling teamed with intelligent cutting machines. Thanks to these tools, creators can quickly establish a working model and find ways to improve upon the design.
Rapid prototyping follows continuous improvement principles, in that the model is created, tested, and enhanced. This happens over and over again until a high-quality model and efficient process for production is established. This ensures that the product is as close to perfect as possible and can be cost-effectively mass-produced.
The Top Three Benefits of Rapid Prototyping
At any given time, multiple companies are working on the same concept. Speed is the ultimate determiner of success. Through rapid prototyping, creators can:
#1: Explore concepts
Inventing a new product is not an economical endeavor when one considers the time, resources, and knowledge it takes. It’s best to complete prototyping early to ensure the concept is one that is feasible and can be duplicated. Rapid prototyping allows creators to move forward with ideas that work while reducing resources wasted on concepts that don’t.
#2: Protect intellectual property
While a working prototype isn’t required to apply for a patent, it can definitely help prove the concept. It’s the advantage of “showing” versus “telling.” With written diagrams and descriptions, there is room for error or misinterpretation, which leads to patent approval delay. A working model is less likely to be misinterpreted and can help speed the patent process.
#3: Corner the market
Rapid prototyping ensures the designs are tested and perfected before the creator moves on to mass production. Releases can be easily timed to gain the edge on a new idea or reach a seasonal crowd. Manufacturing can be perfected and scaled to meet demand, giving the company a further edge on their competitors.
Considerations in Choosing a Prototyping Partner
Many individual creators don’t explore the benefits of rapid prototyping due to access. In the past, this was an option limited to those with massive resources. Third-party partnerships provide access to individuals who otherwise could not enjoy the benefits of this process. Creators should look for partners who offer:
- Industry-specific experience: Intellectual resources are crucial in exploring concepts. The engineer must be able to understand common problems with the project type. Through this experience, they will know ways to resolve these issues. It’s imperative to work with an experienced production partner with a specific understanding of the product type.
- Stringent confidentiality standards: A key part of protecting IP is restricting those with information on prototypes and designs. Partners should have a reputation for discretion and be willing to work under stringent confidentiality criteria.
- Manufacturing capabilities: Having a working prototype is only the first step in beating competitors to market. Creators must be prepared to mass-produce. The fastest way to do this is to work with a partner who has the ability to create the prototype as well as handle manufacturing.
With a partner, entrepreneurs can enjoy the benefits of rapid prototyping without the need to invest millions in an unproven concept. By working with a model, entrepreneurs can better understand their design and perfect the process of creation. It is a cost-effective solution to bringing a product to market while keeping standards high.
PRL’s engineers have dozens of manufacturing options available to help you solve any challenge facing your product: CNC machining, custom tooling, 3D printing, thermoplastic molding, reverse engineering, and more. No matter what stage your product is currently at, we can create it and optimize it for manufacturing.