Do You Need One for Your Invention?
Most inventors assume that they need a prototype before they can set sail with their new invention. The right kind of prototype can be helpful, the wrong kind can be a waste of money and, sometimes, no prototype is needed.
There are several kinds of prototypes and they serve different purposes:
Sometimes you can combine functions and make one prototype do the job of several. You may not need a prototype at all. It depends on your goals. If you just want to license your idea to a manufacturer, it depends on the industry you are approaching with your product and how much convincing you need to do. Some industries - like the toy industry - are very receptive to outside ideas and may just need a working model. Others want complete proof that your product is viable and may not even consider it unless you are already in production.
If you need to produce the product yourself, you must have a rough idea of your production volume and pattern so you will know how much to refine your production prototype - too much and you waste money on design - not enough and you waste money in production.
You will need the help of an expert to determine the kind of prototype you need. and how refined it must be. Prototyping is a very complex subject. At this point, you mainly just need to know that saying you want a prototype is like saying "I need transportation" - a car?, a bike?, maybe you could take the bus. Land, air or sea? How many people? How far do you want to go and in what style? If you're going somewhere that you've never been, you probably need a travel consultant to help your plan your trip.
Have an expert help you pick the right kind of prototype to get you where you want to go. Otherwise, you could wind up trying to cross the ocean with a rowboat instead of a sailing ship.
Ron O'Connor, P.E.
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