1) Introduction to a Prototype:
What is a prototype?
A prototype refers to the earliest sample of a product that can be considered as a basis for future developments. The term prototype has been used in various contexts for referring to such concepts as semantics, design, electronics, and software programming. Prototyping a design also serves for giving details and specifications for a real system rather than a theoretical one.
Types of Prototypes
Prototypes can be classified into 8 categories:
- Working Mode
- Representational Model
- Scale Model
- Video or photo demonstration
- Digital Prototype
- Analytical Prototypes
- Focused Prototypes
- Comprehensive Prototypes
Advantages of creating a prototype
Creating and having a prototype can be very beneficial and full of advantages and pros such as:
- Prototyping can improve the quality of requirements and specifications that are provided to the developers
- Prototyping allows users and consumers to see and interact with the prototype, thus allowing them to provide a better and more complete feedback
- A prototype can prevent many misinterpretations and confusions that occasionally happens between the designer and the user, therefore, preventing any rework.
- Prototyping improves the efficiency of a product design
- Creating a Prototype can help the developers estimate the development costs and requirements.
2) How to transform an idea into a prototype
As stated before, creating a prototype is a vital process in order to create an invention or a product. There are few different steps in order to create a prototype. These are some steps to convert a simple idea into a functional prototype as follows:
Research and information gathering
The very first step in creating almost anything from scratch is to gather enough information. This step consists of doing research and gathering information about the market, the size of the competition, as well as what needs to be done in order to stand out from competitors. Research and information gathering should also include investigating any patents on items that would be invented.
Creating a product concept
The second step consists of three different essential stages. Hence, in order to create a product concept, these stages are vital:
- Initial sketches: initial sketching is both vital and beneficial. An initial sketch is basically the very first step in order to create the concept of a product and involves working on basic concepts: compositions and layouts. Hand-drawn sketching plays an important role in the concept of a product. The larger a project is, the more concepts a client will need to see.
- Designed sketches: the next stage in creating a product concept is designing the sketch. Using a design software will turn a paper sketch into a digital file that gives a more realistic version. Here are some examples of some software that are extensively used in designing: Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, and for more professional solutions, CAD software are the best way to go.
- Photorealistic visualization: the final stage in creating a product concept, is the photorealistic visualization also known as rendering. It is basically the automatic process of generating a photorealistic image from a 2D or 3D model. This final stage is extremely important if one wants to make the concept of the product to look as much realistic as possible in order to appeal more to the clients.
Now that creating a product concept steps and stages are done, it is the time to talk more about the next steps.
The third step for turning an idea into a prototype is to design the product. This step consists of answering certain questions such as:
- How much use can the product withstand?
- Is the product of high quality?
- Which materials will the product be made out of?
- Will the manufacturing process be easy to produce the final product?
- Can the product be maintained even after use?
- Will the process be cost-effective?
In order to answer these questions, the teamwork between a designer and an engineer is vital and essential. What is a designer? A designer is basically a design firm that can be hired by companies or inventors in order to design a product that is wished to be produced while not only making sure the final product will have the great appearance but also solving problems and errors.
The final step of converting an idea into a prototype is, simply the prototyping step. After gathering information about the market and competitors, after creating the product’s concept and after designing the invention, it is the time to finally turn it into a prototype. There are two types of prototyping, these two types are:
- Rapid Prototyping: rapid prototyping is the creation of a product via a quick and inexpensive way. It allows designers and engineers to execute fast and frequent revisions of their designs. Using a 3D technology, computer, and a CAD software, it is possible to create a rapid prototype by additive manufacturing.
- Functional Prototype: A Functional Prototype is a sample or model of the final working product that its role is to test a concept or to act as a visual prop to be replicated. A functional prototype similar to a rapid prototype, it can be created and build using a 3D printer.
3) Challenges of creating a prototype
- A major feature of prototyping is that it is expected to be made quickly. If developers forget this fact, they may instead try to develop a prototype that is overly complex
- Focusing on an initial prototype can lead developers getting distracted from properly analyzing the entire project.
- Users may be misled by thinking that a prototype that is intended to be thrown away is actually the final product that just needs to be polished or edited.
In Conclusion, prototypes are essential in order to start creating and building products and items, and turning an idea into a working prototype may be challenging at first but with the combination of the expertise of a designer and an engineer, it is surely possible.