Prototyping used to be difficult. If you were prototyping machines, you needed other machines to build what you had written on paper. These proofs of concept often took weeks to months to build.
Today, with the invention of 3D printing, we can prototype devices and objects faster and cheaper than ever before. Because of this, technology moves at an eve faster pace.
How then as a small business can you take advantage of this new and wonderous breakthrough in technology? Well, today I’m going to show you. Keep reading to find out.
1. What is Prototyping Anyways?
You can’t predict everything about how your product will perform in the real world. Even companies as massive as Tesla can’t always catch errors. Just look at the Cybertruck and its supposedly shatter-proof windows. Those didn’t turn out so well for Elon Musk and his friends.
Can you, as a small business owner, afford to put a product out without testing it yourself? Could you survive the negative reviews if it doesn’t perform as promised?
Prototyping is the surest way to avoid these disastrous outcomes. What is prototyping? Its the act of creating a functional version of your product to test in real life before sending it to the masses.
You test it yourself. You send it off to labs for testing. You use focus groups and beta testers.
Prototypes don’t have to be machines. They can be food products or chemical products. Prototypes can be software or even musical instruments.
In essence, prototypes are test runs. This could even include a service (although, this might not technically be called prototyping).
2. The Advantages of Prototyping
You don’t have to directly create the prototype. If the product is too large or too dangerous for your team to construct or handle, you might want to send it off to another company like Hidaka USA to create. It would then be your responsibility to adequately credit and compensate such a team.
This kind of outsourcing can be beneficial. You’ll use people who are experts in prototyping in your niche. They’ll have created similar products and thus your product will be more likely to succeed in its first or second iteration.
Whether you use in-house tools and teams or outsource, you’ll be able to control the process. Here are the advantages of controlling the process yourself through prototyping.
Scalability and Visual Representation
You might have worked out all the theoretical kinks on paper, but there might be some real-world problems you can’t encounter or visualize. If you create a prototype, you can fine-tune your product on a smaller scale before sending it to the masses.
Often, you’ll find that once you create the prototype it’s more unwieldy than you imagined. You might need to work on dynamic design or perhaps the strength or weight of the material.
Prototyping is like a first draft. You might have a plot or a story in your mind, but once it’s on the page, it doesn’t read correctly. You need to poke it and prod it and change a detail here or there until it does read like the story you imagined.
In this way, the process is iterative. You might create several prototypes before sending your invention out into the harsh light of the world.
Wow the Investors
You may have secured funding on design alone. You proved you have a proof of concept people believe in. Until you produce a working model, you may not receive more funding.
Investors want to see progress. If you wait until your concept is perfect, you will test the patience of investors. A physical, working prototype is progress.
You can now demonstrate to investors that a product works as intended. Even if the final product will be superior to the prototype, you’ll have something investors can see and handle. They’ll be encouraged that you can deliver on what you were promised.
A prototype also shows investors that you’re concerned about safety and about reliability. You can demonstrate your testing processes and your proficiency at finding problems.
New Ideas Will Flow
You can’t run a business on one product alone. If you look at companies like Tesla, they don’t just make one electric car. They make several models that appeal to several kinds of drivers.
Similarly, you shouldn’t rely on one product to carry you to success. Your first product might not even make much money. It might even fail. Creating more products and designs for future iterations will be good insurance against disaster.
How do you keep creating? You’ve spent so much time and energy into creating this first product or service that you feel the drain. Creativity might not be your strongest asset at this stage.
That’s the great thing about prototyping. It’s a physical mode of inspiration. You might see new applications for your design you hadn’t considered before. You might see tangential designs that could synergize with your device.
The brain is a wondrous thing. It’s not as logical as a computer. It often processes information by association.
If you let the creative process flow while you are prototyping, you can create more products or design better services. You might deliver the current version of your product once the prototyping stage is complete, you will be ready to draw up version two of your product.
Consider companies like iRobot. If you look back at their process, you’ll see that in a few short years, they improved upon their singular product.
They then added a mopping device to complement their robot vacuum. By the time they had released their mopping robot, they were already working on a self-emptying robot vacuum.
This flow will allow you to continuously evolve.