Moving from prototype to production is a crucial phase in the product development process as it facilitates the production of quality and market-worthy products. Generally, manufacturing businesses have to meet various quality standards while they work towards achieving their goal and lowering production costs.
An excellent prototype to final product program helps you to actualize the design ideas in your head in the best ways possible. This article guides you through the prototype to the production process, giving practical tips for a smooth process. Let’s get to it!
Why Do You Need a Prototype Before Production?
Prototypes are the ideal representation of a design created before the final product. It is essential to production as it facilitates an easy understanding of the product. Prototype production remains one of the crucial phases of the product development cycle. Other benefits of prototyping production include the following:
- Testing design features and developing extra features;
- Confirming design functionality;
- Detecting design flaws and rectifying them before production;
- Sourcing feedback from users;
- Creating a physical model for further review and closer study.
Steps Involved in the Prototype to Production Process
Each manufacturing process has its peculiarities, as also the products. It would help to note that having a method that worked for a product you have launched doesn’t guarantee that it would suit your new project or products. The standard processing stages involved in moving from prototype to manufacturing of final products are as follows.
1. Creating a Digital Prototype Model
Digital prototype model creation helps you to turn your unique idea into a physical product. However, this involves a series of procedures such as:
1.1 Conceptual Prototyping
Conceptual prototyping involves communicating your ideas and examining concepts similar to yours. It is one of the cost-effective prototyping processes. This communication quickly identifies fundamental product requirements, features, and likely challenges. Sketching and Styrofoam cutting helps to illustrate and communicate ideas in conceptual prototyping.
1.2 Evolutionary Prototyping
Evolutionary prototyping is ideal for further analyzing and modifying a concept prototype. Cost, performance, and material availability influence this type of prototyping. Additionally, this process is progressive in that the initial design is repeatedly tested and examined pending its high-volume manufacturing and launching.
1.3 Total Timeline of Creating Prototypes
The estimated timeline for prototype creation relies on the stage of prototyping you are currently on. Depending on how fast your design gets approved, it could take a week to a month if you are in the concept and ideation stage. However, prototyping can take some days to a few weeks if your design is ready, depending on the complexities of the design.
Rapid prototyping manufacturers for a prototype that requires modification would help reduce the estimated prototyping time by a few days. WayKen’s prototyping services guarantee faster production of your prototypes. Asides from getting your prototypes ready in a few days, we help to verify and repeat your design as you wish.
2. Moving from Prototype to Production: Market Research and Product Testing
Whenever your prototype is ready, it is essential to test its acceptability and demand levels before production. So, how do you achieve that?
2.2 Examine Demand for the Product
One of the most accessible means of testing your product’s demand level is through crowdfunding projects. It indicates that your product will be in high demand after production once people are interested in crowdfunding.
2.3 Tooling, Sampling, and Non-Production Release
Tooling involves the conversion of prototypes from a digital product to a physical sample with various replications. On the other hand, sampling assesses the products based on their performance and functionality. It helps to make necessary modifications to a product before mass production.
The tooling and sampling processes constitute the non-production release phase, after which the data is crucial for forms of production, such as 3D printing prototypes and CNC machined prototypes.
2.4 Ensure the Prototype Is Good for Production
After development, you can modify your prototype’s design to enhance its quality and eliminate errors. Eliminating errors or flaws in the prototype phase would optimize time and production costs in the long run.
3. Migrating to Low Volume Production
If you have successfully designed and ensured that your prototypes meet the required standards in form, function, aesthetics, and fit, the next step is to move to low-volume production.
Low-volume manufacturing involves producing products in small batches. These batches may range from 50 to a few thousand to meet the market demand. In addition, low-volume production is a primary step to high-volume manufacturing, depending on the project. However, here are some of the factors you need to consider before you proceed with low-volume production.
3.1 Draft the Required Documents
The list of documents below is those that would aid the low-volume manufacturing of parts:
- 3D Files: they are files containing the prototype product design files. These files must be well-detailed and high-quality while marking all system parts.
- Product Requirement Document: the RPD helps spell out your product’s purpose, features, and value.
- Material, Color, and Finish: it contains details about the color, material type, and preferred finish applied to every region of your prototype.
- Non-Disclosure Agreement: the NDA is a contract that keeps the prototyping and production details confidential. Your manufacturing partner signs the contract showing that your designs will not be shared with any third party.
- Costed Bill of Material: also called CBOM. It contains the cost of materials for all the parts used in your prototype.
- Final Prototype Review: this document records the prototype’s progress, defining its major setbacks and issues.
3.2 Ideal Lead Time
The lead time is often short if you outsource your project from prototype to final product phase. The product’s complexity and production scale are other factors determining the lead time for your prototyping. Products with complex designs and large-scale volumes take longer lead time than simple and low-scale ones.
3.3 Estimate the Production Budget
How fast your project transition from prototyping to manufacturing depends on your manufacturing budget. You can have smooth, low-volume manufacturing working with a substantial budget. It gives the manufacturer adequate resources to design, develop molds and use the ideal material for your project.
Practical Tips for a Smooth Prototype to Production Run
Here are factors you must consider to achieve a seamless transition from prototype to production.
1. Choose a Reliable Manufacturing Partner
You must partner with a reliable and experienced manufacturing partner to get the best results from your prototype machining. While you consider other factors such as costs, quality assurance and control, production timelines, and availability of materials, choosing a reliable manufacturer should not be overlooked.
Ensure you do meticulous research on potential manufacturing partners. Contact them for quotes and compare them before choosing the right one for your project.
2. Use Proof Concept to Validate Product Design
It is wrong to assume a product is ready for manufacturing without reviewing it. A typical rule of thumb to remember is that a manufacturer with an understanding of the manufacturing methods and materials required to produce a product should not manufacture it without reviewing the design.
As a result, it is essential to reach out to parts suppliers and request a “proof of concept.” This proof validates the parts supplier’s claims, ensuring you are not embarking on a futile journey when producing your product.
3. Select the Right Materials and Manufacturing Process
Selecting the suitable manufacturing process and materials for your project is an essential initial step in the prototype and production phases. There are various production processes, each with pros and cons. However, the budget, material type, lead time, and quality often determine the manufacturing process used.
However, you must choose an ideal material and production process. You should know that the material significantly influences your project’s production cost and quality. So, when selecting a material, examine its cost, manufacturability, mechanical properties, and availability.
4. Develop a Working Prototype
Developing a product from prototype to production stage depends on having a working proof of concept. It allows you to test and modify the design till it meets the requirements and use it for illustrations.
You should update 3D CAD files to ensure any tooling parts match the prototypes. More importantly, ensure you test all components and apply all essential features, such as assembly diagrams and guidance systems.
5. Quality Assurance and Control
Testing is one of the most vital aspects of assuring the quality of a prototype or production product. It helps to detect any possible flaws or errors early, rectifying them before mass producing and launching the product.
So, depending on the prototype development phase and product type, you can utilize various tests to check for potential flaws. For example, usability helps assess a product’s user experience, while functional testing helps test its functionality.
How to Make Prototyping to Mass Production Successful?
Some errors will affect the successful migration from prototyping to mass production. It would be best if you avoided these errors as much as possible. Here are some of them.
1. Tooling Before Design Completion
Manufacturing a product before the completion of its design process is an expensive mistake that adversely affects the tooling made if you make any changes to the design. In some cases, the design modification has drastic effects that result in dumping the tooling made. As a result, you would have to make new ones which cause a hike in the production cost.
2. Avoid Approve an Untested Product for Production
It is crucial to have your product design have experts that understand the proper manufacturing process for your design to review it before approving it for manufacturing. Submitting your design to a reliable manufacturer is advisable for a ‘proof of concept’ guaranteeing design feasibility.
3. Confirm Reliability and Performance Test Plan
It is an entirely bad idea to produce products for sale without having an adequate test plan for reliability and performance. You will have competitors and bad reviews if such products perform below standard.
Hence, you must take this slow and note all your product needs and how consumers would relate to them. Afterward, you can strategize a reliability and performance test for such a product to assess its performance and push it to the market.
Meet Your Prototype and Part Production Needs with WayKen
WayKen is the reliable manufacturing partner you need for the smooth validation and acceleration of your plastic and metal prototypes. Our team of skilled technicians and professional engineers ensures your products have superior quality from prototyping to production.
Our experts have in-depth knowledge of CNC machining, injection molding, and 3D printing services for low- and high-volume production. Upload your design file today, and let’s handle your next project expertly!
Is a prototype expensive?
It can be costly to create a professional prototype as its cost ranges from 10 to 100 times the actual price of the final product depending on the production process, required efforts, and the design complexity. However, using cost-effective materials, manufacturing methods, and simple design helps to minimize prototyping costs.
Which steps are used to drive from prototype to production?
The typical manufacturing processes that help to drive from prototype to production include design creation, prototyping, product development, and documentation.
What is a production prototype?
A production prototype is a product created after the engineering prototype has been tested and approved. This prototype is the last one that confirms that a product’s design is without flaws before proceeding with mass production.
Why is idea prototyping essential before mass production tooling?
Prototype production enables engineers and product designers to fully understand the material required for mass tooling, which helps to determine the cost-per-unit of mass-producing the product.