The Importance of a Good Prototype
The journey of a new invention from the first glimmerings of an idea to worldwide production is a long and complicated one. Along the way the inventor has to deal with investors, manufacturers, marketers, and a host of other people who provide expertise the inventor may lack.
Each of these steps is important and we are going to look at one of them in this article: the prototype. Specifically, we are going to look at creating a prototype using precision injection molding.
What is a prototype?
When designing a new product, even the most experienced engineer can't guarantee that the finished product will function as expected. By creating a single example of the item, it can be used and tested to see if any improvements to the design can be made.
Prototype manufacture also helps test the manufacturing process itself. Precision injection molding is an exact operation particularly if the tolerances on the parts are very tight. Not only does the design of the product have to be considered, but the design of the molds as well. It does no good to create a mold that is so complex that the finished product cannot be removed without damage.
The mockup: a pre-prototype
A mockup is like a prototype, but is a non-functioning version of the final product. Creating a mockup using precision injection molding serves several purposes. It allows the manufacturer to show the client how the piece will look and ensures that the client's design is understood. It also allows the client to see the product in full three-dimensions and make aesthetic judgments before the final production is begun.
Precision injection molding mockups also help the inventor who is looking for investors. People are basically visual. Telling potential investors about a new product or even showing them a drawing isn't as effective as showing them a full three-dimensional object. This creates a concrete representation of the idea and can help them visualize exactly what their investment dollars will buy.
Mockups are often made with precision injection molding even if the final product is to be made with other materials such as wood or metal. The reason is that precision injection molding is a simple, inexpensive process that can create the mockup much more quickly than traditional machining.
Another concept used in precision injection molding is the "rapid prototype" which is not a true, fully-manufactured prototype. Instead, parts of the complete design that are expected to be problematic can be manufactured and the flaws worked out before the expense of a full prototype.
An inventor would be well advised to find a good precision injection molding provider to create the prototypes and mockups. By comparing the capabilities, experience, and cost of several providers, the inventor can be sure to find a partner who can cater to the specific needs of the project.