Quickparts recently interviewed three engineers from mechanical, electrical, and industrial fields and asked them what they learn from prototyping. From these interviews, Quickparts compiled the following list:
1) Prototypes test FIT AND FUNCTION.
Case-Mate makes phone cases, which are usually developed even before the new phone is released. Engineers need to know everything about a potential case, such as the comfort of the case in a person’s hand, how it covers and protects the phone, and how to package the phone case once it is to be shipped to stores. Without good quality prototypes, it would be impossible to produce a viable product. A project engineer at Case-Mate uses prototypes daily to answer these questions. No one likes running blind, and prototypes help shed light on questions that have to be answered. Now.
2) Prototypes show ACTUAL WEAR AND TEAR.
If time permits, prototypes have the ability to show how the finished product will withstand the test of time. This is why it is so important to have the prototype produced from the actual materials used to make the finished product. An EE developing cores for thermal imagers needs to know that a casing prototype works with the electronic equipment. Does it stand up to extreme environments like the ones firefighters face every day? If it doesn’t, firefighters can’t find victims through the smoke in a burning building. Engineers want prototypes that can be put through the ringer and still come out in one, preferably working, piece. Run it over, throw it against the wall, or shoot it with a bazooka. Is it still working afterwards?
3) Prototypes test if the design is AFFORDABLE.
What is the point of having the most epic design in the history of epic designs if the cost of production makes it impossible to produce? No one wants to pay $350 for a phone case. If a prototype can be produced that is cost effective for the company without sacrificing quality, then chances are that the finished product will sell as long as there is a market interest. And that company will make a nice little profit in the process.
4) Prototypes raise CONSUMER INTEREST.
Conventions and design conferences are great ways to get your product out there, but carting around a CAD drawing does little for investors and consumers who need tangible examples of the product. Prototypes need to emulate every aspect of the actual product within the specified tolerances. Suppliers are key here because you want someone who will create the very best prototype for the occasion. Visiting suppliers before using their services helps weed out those that are sloppy and those that are superior.
5) Prototypes INSPIRE FUTURE IDEAS.
Industrial designers love prototypes because they help flush out mistakes in current designs and pave the way for new designs. Prototypes have the ability to show how today’s “big thing” is actually not that big and can be improved. Even though a designer may not know exactly how to improve a rendering by looking at the CAD drawing, a prototype may be able to show improvements clearly and even inspire the designer to try something new that he or she would not have known was possible without seeing the physical prototype.