In order to survive and stay relevant, companies in today’s ultra-competitive markets must instantly respond to market demand and find ways to speed their time. As prototyping is an important part of the whole product lifecycle, manufacturing and design engineers need custom prototypes for testing, fit check, and other technical pre-measures.
Yet, what is the most efficient way to make and source prototypes? While bigger companies most often have the resources to produce their prototypes in-house, startups and smaller companies may not have the necessary equipment and expertise required to manufacture a single prototype or small runs of parts. There are many specialized companies in prototyping services and short-run manufacturing, and they represent a stellar option for small and medium businesses that need this type of service.
In manufacturing prototypes, it’s important to consider the materials and process technology to use for every project. Some prototypes must be made of the same material as the production part, while other prototypes, such as prototypes used for concept or presentation, can be made of a lower-cost or faster-to-build material. In this article, first, we’re going to note the importance of prototyping as a pre-manufacturing process, and later we will point out the most important things you have to consider while you develop your product prototype with an outsource service.
The Role And Importance Of Prototypes
Developing an effective prototype in the early stages can provide many benefits in the product development process. Prototypes are known to be used as a crucial part of an iterative design process to realize and explore concepts. They can also help build product ideas into a manageable scope while working to establish the critical details and fully understand the design intent at the beginning of the product lifecycle. It also represents a powerful communication tool. A prototype is needed to help a project move forward with clear and actionable feedback on design, manufacturability, and other product considerations.
A prototype is needed to help a project move forward with clear and actionable feedback on design, manufacturability, and other product considerations.
On the other hand, fully functional prototypes can be used to test design iterations. This can help to reveal issues that need to be corrected before the design is finalized, reducing business risk and improving quality during the prototyping services. They could be made in several different versions, with low-cost materials used for form validation and fit check and a smaller number of test articles made with more expensive, production equivalent materials.
Low-cost product prototypes often help designers and engineers verify product design, as well as their manufacturability and engineering, before running into issues during full production. High fidelity and cost-effective prototypes are essential for the engineer and designer to improve and optimize designs and ensure production goes as smoothly as possible. The sum of money spent on a prototype always pays its dividends later in the process.
When it comes to working with an outside partner in developing your prototype, you need to take into account and consider multiple aspects regarding the outsource company you will choose. To ensure your prototype will be done to perfection, it’s essential to choose a highly skilled and capable prototyping partner. Instead of shipping different parts from different places and then assembling them in another location, it’s better if you choose a partner who can do everything in one place. Find a partner who’s committed to providing top quality rapid prototyping and low volume manufacturing services, including CNC machining, 3D printing, plastic injection molding, vacuum casting, etc.
Working with a reliable company that can “do it all” guarantees your prototype security as well. If a lot of individuals or several companies get to see the design, there are chances of prototype design theft, and your competitors may get access to very private and confidential information. End-to-end prototyping capabilities of your sourcing partner should be a top-level matter to consider when considering outsourcing this service.
Experience And Versatility
You should always go with a reputable company that’s been in the business for quite some time. You want an experienced team on your prototype project. Do your homework and do some research, how long the company has been in the industry, and make sure to check the reviews it received and the technology they use.
Another factor to consider is the low-volume production versatility of the company. Low-volume products, in general, need a company that can handle small production well and effectively. Even when the development time is short, the outsourcers should ensure you meet your launch date and manufacturing of the prototype should always be on time.
Low-cost product prototypes often help designers and engineers verify product design, as well as their manufacturability and engineering, before running into issues during full production.
Strive to pick a reliable partner that is familiar with what your industry manufacturers, or generally what it does. This will help the company have your interests at heart and work as hard as possible to get the best results with the prototype model. The experts in the outsourcing company should know the limitations and strong-holds of the materials, design, and the machines that have to be used in the process of creation.
Having the same industry language is very important and beneficial as well. Without proper communication, you might not achieve the desired results and end up losing instead of gaining in the process.
As you already know, technology is always changing and advancing. Make sure that your partnering company is able to offer more complex, advanced, and high-quality designs. The best and most advanced technology mixed with expert knowledge of it will get you exactly where you want to go with the prototype. Working with the latest technology will enhance your product, make an upgrade in the development process, and get you to be more reputable in the industry.
Ronan Ye is the founder and managing director of 3ERP which is one of China’s leaders in rapid prototyping and 3D printing. Upon completing his college degree at Guangzhou University in International Business with honors, he has been heavily involved in China’s fast-growing rapid prototyping and manufacturing industry. He really has grown up in and with the industry here in China learning about it at a young age. Hence, his knowledge of the overall industry is second to none, and hence why many global companies like BMW, VW, and Lamborghini rely on his technical as well as design expertise.
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