This is a series of posts on the 12 steps how to invent a product. A DIY class for Inventors.
The sixth step is SIMULATION. By simulation I mean developing a model to simulate the product. This is also known as PROTOTYPING.
There are only two very important rules when it comes to prototyping.
First rule of prototyping – Prototype early and prototype often
The second rule of prototyping – There are no rules (other than the first rule). Meaning, you can do anything you want as long as it’s safe and legal.
What is a prototype?
A prototype is a model or representation of the real thing. It is intended to simulate the final product. It is essential for learning. Think of a prototype as rough draft of a term paper you’re writing for you high school history class. Getting the words out of you head and on paper frees your mind. Now you have something to work with.
My recent experience
Recently I made a prototype and learned two important things. My design was flawed. It would only work in 50% of the places where I intended it to be used. Customers would need to decide do they need a “righty” or a “lefty”. Bad for the customer. Worse for the rest of the supply chain. Two tools, to SKUs to inventory, etc. Not good. This never occurred to me until I made the prototype.
The second thing? My design is ugly. My baby is ugly, there I said it. It looked great on paper; the CAD model looked so elegant. It’s U-G-L-Y. My wife agreed … no surprise there.
Prototypes help refine your design. It’s a great way to communicate the intended function to other people.
In his book, “Serious Play: How the World’s Best Companies Simulate to Innovate”, Michel Schrage makes the analogy between prototype and going to a restaurant. Asking customers for what features they would like is asking then to order ingredients off a menu instead of ordering a meal. The prototype gives the customer tangible way to see what the “meal” will be like. Pictures are helpful but putting something in a person’s hands opens up a whole new perspective.
More to come
I will have future posts on how to prototype and what techniques and materials to use.
In the mean time, check out Tania’s blog. She’s learning first hand about Ren foam, silicone molds, and plastic resin.
There are also some good tips on the Inventor’s Mentors Library.
Here are the 12 steps to invent a product:
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