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From Prototype to Production: Top 6 Best Practices

Congratulations, you have a new idea. Maybe your company wants to solve an existing problem. Or you’ve stumbled upon a brand-new concept that will change the world.

 

But an idea is what it is - an idea. It won’t generate sales. What will, on the contrary, is a valuable, viable, and tangible product. You have to move your product from idea to prototype to production and eventually commercial launch.

 

This approach comes with a whole host of advantages, including providing fairly accurate time and cost estimations. You can also assure the validity of the raw materials utilized to make the product. As such, the global product prototyping market is expected to be worth a whopping $45.6 billion by 2031.

 

During this process, you will:

  • Test your prototype for intended use and functionality
  • Fine-tune the product using results and feedback
  • Validate the quality of the product throughout the development process

 

It will take time and, of course, money. But you are better off being late with a quality product than being early with ineffective output. 

 

Everything from raw materials, cost, and the end-user will play a role through this process. So, be ready to adapt and expect permanent yet crucial shifts from your initial idea. 

 

Key benefits of systemic movement from prototype to production include:

  • Early detection of faults in design or concept
  • Ability to estimate requirements: cost, time, material
  • Ability to identify machinery for optimal production
  • Crucial product testing will determine durability and fit.
  • Customer feedback will help increase quality
  • Having a working prototype can attract investors/buyers 

What are the common prototyping methods?

Let’s be real here - there are various methods of prototyping. So, we have provided the three most commonly used strategies by engineers and manufacturers.

 

Conceptual Prototyping

This is where you play with the concept. Conceptual prototyping is about communicating and exploring the core idea. It allows you to identify challenges, requirements, and key features.

 

Conceptual prototyping is where you explore anything and control everything against feasibility.

 

Feature Prototyping

The idea is ripe. Designing has begun. Feature prototyping allows you to focus on different parts of the whole mechanical system. 

 

By prototyping individual components, you can go deep and understand the performance, functionality, constraints, and limitations of the design at hand.

 

Evolutionary Prototyping

Evolutionary prototyping comes into play when an initial prototype requires further analysis. Until the final system falls into place, you refine the prototype. 

 

Other variables to consider are cost, performance, and availability of raw materials for mass production.

 

Prototype to Production: Best Practices

1. Sketches and Diagrams

An idea forms in your head. Sketching is the first and most straightforward technique you can use to get it out into the world. This way, your team and engineers are on the same page from the beginning.

 

Whether you are working alone or in a team, sketching demands relatively little work. The sketch doesn’t have to be perfect either, so chin up if you aren’t Michelangelo.

 

The sketching can also include journey maps, flow diagrams, and behavior or usage maps to visualize the product's life cycle. 

 

With the help of digital tools, convert the initial idea to a virtual sketch. It’s 2022, and a digital copy is a must. 

 

2. Sourcing & Request For Quotation (RFQ)

With a basic idea or sketch, you have to consult or hire a manufacturer with an experienced engineering team. The engineers will be responsible for understanding, analyzing, and providing valuable input to enhance the capability and pricing of the product.

 

The manufacturer will then consider the requirement and provide you with a quote and project proposal. The sourcing team will assess raw material and component availability. Depending on availability, they will alter certain components or their materials.

 

3. Tooling, Sampling, and Non-Production Release

Time to get physical! The product enters the non-production release (NPR) phase when you approve the quote and project approach.

 

At this stage of prototyping, you turn your design into a tangible sample. With the use of tooling, you can replicate the sample or fine-tune it to meet further developments with subsequent testing.

 

Then you finalize documentation to move to manufacture. One of the documents is the Quality Procedure (QP) document, which is continuously updated with time and precision changes.

 

QP covers some crucial information:

  • Functional requirements
  • In-process documentation
  • Third-party certifications
  • Raw material specifications

 

4. Quality Assurance

Now that we are getting ready for mass production, the prototype in hand has to be quality-checked.

 

Why? Because the prototype is the model for large-scale manufacturing. The materials, functions, and individual components have to meet industry standards. 

 

Quality checking ensures that all your work remains intact in a safe and secure package before it reaches the customer. 

 

5. Pilot Production Launch

A well-refined prototype is still insufficient for designing and testing manufacturing processes. A pilot run aims to outline the manufacturing process using a short and controlled production. Conditions have to be identical to that of mass production.

 

Production can vary between 20 to 100 pieces or more, depending on the product's complexity, size, and volume. Like the prototyping process, this will iterate depending on the results.

 

Some standard parameters for quality control during a pilot run include:

  • Production line efficiency
  • Capability to deliver at the mass-level production
  • Assembly and packing efficiency
  • Testing & inspection simulation

 

6. Keep Testing After a Commercial Launch

The pilot run qualifies your sample. Then, the product can reach mass production, and be introduced to the market.

 

Comparing the first samples against the QP document will continue, followed by life-cycle testing. The product will evolve with rigorous quality control, quality issue monitoring, and clear communication.

 

Looks like there is no end? Welcome to the business!

 

Going from an innovative idea to a concept, prototyping, and production isn’t easy. Patience and patience alone will get you through this process. 

 

Hiring an established manufacturer will be crucial. Their experience and expertise will make sure the margin of error is as low as possible from design to production.

 

At MMI, we have helped leading brands leverage our extensive network and sub-brands to overcome manufacturing and supply chain challenges. Our decades of experience will help you bring products to market on time both domestically and abroad.

 

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