Product designers use prototypes to determine the feasibility of a concept or device and to test the development of the device throughout the research and pre-production phases of product development.
Prototypes are particularly necessary in electronics development and manufacturing. Electronics prototypes are often assembled manually, which is faster and cheaper than creating an actual stamped PCB board and can be more easily modified, but still allows for circuits to be properly assembled and tested.
Proof of Concept Prototype
A proof of concept or proof of principle prototype is a model that is close enough to the envisioned device to establish sufficient certainty of the idea’s potential to do what is intended, before pursuing the task in earnest.
Proof of concept prototyping helps identify issues that can be remedied long before the more costly and complex research process begins while also establishing the viability of the idea.
Prototype Product Evolution
Demonstration prototypes are the next step in product evolution and are generally more advanced and closer to the fully operational device than the concept prototype, but still not fully functional or formed.
Once designers, engineers and investors are convinced that the product is feasible, the prototype serves as a demonstration tool to sell the idea to investors and others with an interest in the feasibility of the concept. Prototypes are also sometimes required to file for a patent for the device.
Once the feasibility of the product is established, the next stage of product development begins (for electronics) with the creation of software and control instructions. The research prototype serves as a test bed for the software and may undergo some hardware changes to ensure compatibility with the software algorithms.
Depending on the device, a research prototype may be used to also help develop appearance and physical designs. Once the research is complete, the final product is built in the form of a functional prototype, which as closely as possible mimics the finished product.
The final process is the commercial production phase when the device is finally made into the fully functioning product that will be sold to consumers.
The first iteration is called an alpha prototype, which will be as close to the intended final product as possible in both form and function and serves to identify any issues that may interfere with production. Once complete it will be thoroughly tested and changes to the device or production process made if required.
The beta prototype reflects the changes made during the first iteration and is put through more gruelling trials and testing. Once again, any identified issues are corrected and when complete, leads to the pre-production prototype, the final prototype before large scale production begins.
Prototypes are an important part of the process of creating, building and manufacturing an electronic product. An essential tool in the development of any electronic device, prototypes take a concept existing only on paper and transform it into something more tangible that actually performs at least some aspect of the envisioned product.
Key benefits of prototyping:
- Eliminates potential setbacks during the design and development process, saving time and money
- Prototypes evolve as new information comes to light and grows along with the concept
- Enables various stakeholders to understand the product’s functional value without the larger expenditure of time, effort and money required for manufacturing
LX Group is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia with a services portfolio comprising of full turnkey design, electronics design as well as hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in embedded systems and wireless technology design.