What is a prototype

A prototype is the first or preliminary realization in hardware, thus touchable, of a product idea. This realization can made from one or more materials and is made by a specific manufacturing technology. There are also software prototypes, but we don't consider these on our website.

The idea:

An idea is the 2d, usually in sketch form, or a 3 dimensional computer aided design model output from a single inventor, a product development team, a marketer or any other creative person. In the beginning an idea will be a pencil sketch on a paper, or several words that describe the invention. Sometimes designers make already a quick prototype by using clay , or foam to verify their idea's of the basic form of a product or to test the primary mechanical  function of their concepts. Inventor will create basic models to verify the function of their concepts, they might use paperclips or other wire, foam material, wood and other easy to use, cut and modify pieces.

Once the idea has been elaborated into materialized concepts and 3d cad files have been made, a real working prototype can be made to test the function, to verify assembly or to test prototype that represents a specific product on usage (usability). Thus testing a prototype can be tested for 4 specific reasons or a combination of these four reasons:

  1. test or verify the form giving, the outer shape of a product.
  2. test or verify the usage or usability of a product. the human interaction.
  3. test of verify the functionality, the construction, the strength and easy of manufacturing and assembly of a product.
  4. testing the market acceptance, the radiation of a product ( Is it really more attractive than competitors, is it really new and attractive to sell for a specific price?) Is it really beautiful?

When I have fully decided that a result is worth getting I go ahead of it and make trial after trial until it comes.

- Thomas A. Edison


How to create a prototype

Hereunder we discuss several prototyping techniques:

Clay modeling:

Already used by Toddlers, who create prototypes from their wildest imaginary creatures until high end carmakers like Ferrari and BMW that use clay to create the newest shapes of their creative design teams. This method or early prototyping was introduced at General Motors' styling department in the early thirties of previous century. Of course the main advantages of clay is it's cheap price and easy adaptability of  the final shape. Stylist and industrial designers call this "clay" industrial plasticine.

BMW clay model

Polystyrene or Styrofoam prototyping: This material is a hard foam than can be cut or cnc machined easily. Another advantage compared to clay modeling is that is is light in weight, so easy to transport.