What Role does Rapid Prototyping Play in Product Development?


Posted on: Sep 10, 2018, | By Judy, WayKen Project Manager

Product development is a complex process for many companies, especially for complex and high-tech products. Therefore, many companies are looking for opportunities to increase the efficiency of product development process. The most effective way is to use prototypes, or we can call it, product development prototyping, combining explicit prototyping strategies and the use of prototyping processes.

Prototype development is an important activity in most new product development processes. It is a valuable tool, whether the goal is to explore new opportunities or to improve existing solutions.

Prototyping is an activity and tool that has received widespread attention in the product development research community in recent years. Early prototyping has become an important activity as people become more focused on adopting design thinking in a variety of business and product development areas.

Contrary to the “product proof” role that often provides prototyping in traditional engineering, prototyping in design thinking has a more exploratory role. Prototyping is not used to validate ideas, but can be used to stimulate imagination or as a tool for “building thinking.” Therefore, the speed of prototyping and subsequent testing is a key factor.

Prototype design research covers a wide range of research areas. From engineering design to thinking design then prototyping, pushing to illustrate the diversity and to provide the reader with an overview of the various roles undertaken by prototyping, a brief description is given below.

Engineering Design

Prototyping in engineering design is often used for a variety of purposes. The most common is to validate assumptions, calculations, and decisions during development, and answer to two basic questions: “Does it work?” and “How does it meet customer needs?” “Early prototypes” are usually not officially designed. Only when the development team deems it necessary. Developing a “milestone prototype” is the most important use of prototyping in engineering design.

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Design Thinking

In DT, prototyping plays a very different role. The main purpose here is usually to promote development and turn new ideas into preliminary models that can be evaluated. Prototyping – at a very early stage – can also be used as a tool to “develop” through building thinking. Development teams typically build and test prototypes from the very beginning of the project. This means that speed is crucial. How quickly the team can build prototypes, test prototypes, and implement the lessons learned in the next iteration is a key factor in making progress.

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Rapid Prototyping

In the field of prototyping, prototypes can usually be processed by additive manufacturing (for example 3D printing) and subtractive manufacturing (for example CNC machining). Materials are generally divided into metal and plastic. The development of prototype processing technology has been perfected today. The processed prototype not only has the advantages of visibility, but also has the functional use function, which greatly facilitates the designer to understand and improve their design.

Prototype design plays a key role in the process of product development. Making decisions without knowing the background can be dangerous. In order to make a reasonable decision about the prototype strategy, it is necessary to determine the context.

1. Organizational Culture

This may be one of the most important factors in the prototype strategy. It is also one of the most difficult to measure and change. In this respect, the organizational culture of startups is significantly different from that of large, mature organizations in prototyping.

One of the major cultural differences in this regard is whether the company uses specification-driven prototype or prototype-driven specifications. Startups may use multiple early prototypes to develop more innovative products, and large, mature organizations may not be able to benefit from prototypes when developing mass products due to their vast experience, developing more innovative products.

These two approaches represent the basics of how to handle prototyping and will determine how an organization or development team can view and use prototyping in their product development efforts. It also has a huge impact on the ability to innovate. However, specific analysis of specific problems, and no case must be more sensible than the other case.

2. Importance of the Audience

Design should also consider the importance of the audience, and the type of audience often affects important decisions about prototype construction and presentation. Understanding the audience and their expectations help determine the resolution and fidelity of the prototype.

In general, high-resolution prototypes are preferable when seeking to impress a less professional audience, persuade or get feedback. It is important to point out that simply using the prototype as a means of persuasion can be misleading, for example, by demonstrating a gorgeous prototype, simply convince other stakeholders.

On the other hand, if the high-resolution prototype is powerful and used as a demo, it can be an effective risk mitigation tool.

3. Time in Development Process

The time in the development process is often referred to as one of the main factors determining the prototype. The general view here seems to be that the prototype has gradually become more efficient throughout the development process.

This is usually true if you consider the prototype design of the entire product system. However, various problems may arise in the later stages of development and may require a more primitive type of prototype.

4. Keep the Prototype Simple

This is a key principle in any good prototyping practice, especially for early prototyping where the overall direction of the project may change. Making things as simple as possible seems obvious, but we encourage you to take the time to identify the simplest, easiest, and cheapest way to answer key questions for prototyping purposes. Despite the extremely complex product systems, many prototyping efforts enable companies to successfully build these production systems on a budget and on time basis, often mediocre and on the verge of stupid simplicity. But it can achieve good results.

Based on the above elaboration, the following are some of the most important project or product specific contextual factors that influence the prototyping strategy.

(1)How much doubt he has about the prior knowledge and experience of the problem or product system.

(2) The role of the prototype in the design and inspection design.

(3) Interaction with the audience or vested interests.

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The prototype plays an irreplaceable role in the product development stage. It can not only be used as a tool for inspection design, but also can save a lot of money. The prototype itself is not a difficult product. Some companies specializing in prototyping are engaged in prototyping can use CNC machining, vacuum casting, aluminum machining, or even make a simple aluminum film, or undertake small-volume production orders, which greatly serve those companies that have prototypes and help them. Quickly promote their projects.

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