6 Tips for Developing a Prototype
Building a prototype for your product is a key part of making your idea a concrete reality. This is the product that you will present to prospective investors to convince them that this is an viable business worthy of an investment. Let's discuss some of the key points you should consider when developing a prototype.
First of all, you'll need someone skilled in drafting software, such as CAD and its variants. Make a digital mock-up first of your product that can be viewed on a 3D plane. See if the balance, connections and angles are mathematically sound.
When producing a prototype, remember that the less parts it has, the better. If you're producing an electronics prototype, make sure you don't have ugly redundant connections. If you're presenting a physical non-tech product, make it aesthetically pleasing and simple looking. A good rule of thumb is to use as few parts as possible to create the most cohesive looking design. If multiple components can be combined into one, then do it. If you can reduce connections, do it. Anything that makes your product look simpler when taken apart will create a better impression.
Now that you have an optimized digital prototype, here comes the hard part - making it real. Going by the schematics you created on your computer, use cardboard, foam or wood to make a non-functional mock-up of your product. This can be time consuming and frustrating, but it is a necessary step to get the physical feel of your product. Once it is in your hands, you should know if it is the design you were aiming for.
Well, you're not about to walk into a room of investors with a piece of foam, are you? Here comes the really hard part - making your toy into a real product. Make a list of all the components you need. If it is a tech product, then make sure all your wiring is double-checked by someone skilled in electronics. Now go to your local hardware store, Radio Shack, or art shop to gather all your materials. If you have access to a workbench and proper tools, you should be able to construct a decent working prototype, provided that your creation wasn't flawed.
Truth be told, your first prototype will probably look like a high school metal shop project. It won't look professional at all. However, test the functionality. If it works properly, then you just have to refine the aesthetics. You'll probably have to make several prototypes before you make one that is more in line with what you had envisioned. Once you do, however, you have your presentable prototype!
Once you present your prototype to investors, you'll want to include a printed guide on its assembly. It's a good idea to have two prototypes - one assembled and one disassembled, so you can show the innards of the product. Investors will want to know the costs of all the components and your suggested retail price. This gives them an idea of all-important profit margins. However, be aware that investors and companies may steal your idea if you give them too many details - this is where a non-disclosure agreement drafted by a lawyer can come in handy!