March 16, 2017 3:12 pm

Developing a prototype can help you to deepen your understanding of your invention or product. Getting an idea out of your head, onto paper, and into some sort of physical form helps you to visualize your invention and imagine what it would look like if it were a manufactured, finished product. Creating a prototype, however, definitely requires some elbow grease. Check out these tips for creating your perfect prototype without all the hassle.

1. Write down a description

Write a description of what your invention will do. Then, make a list of the most important features and other facts you know about your product. This creates a direction for your invention materials. If you get confused or off-track during the prototype process, you can refer back to this document to clear your path.

2. Sketch your design

Drawing out your idea helps you understand how much space your invention will take up, how its different components will interact with one another, and what the design will be like. Start with a rough sketch and revise your drawing a couple of times, adding detail and accuracy each time.

3. Know your limits

Depending on the type of prototype you are making, you may be limited in your budget, resources, or artistic ability. A Frankenstein prototype, which is made of household items and usually doesn’t function, is probably the easiest and least time-consuming prototype to create, but it is not appropriate to take to a business meeting. A complete working prototype, which looks and functions like a final product, would be ideal for professional situations, but costs a lot of money to create and usually requires an expert. Regardless of what kind of prototype you are making, know that you are taking a very important step in the invention process.

4. Try different materials

There are many different kinds of plastics, metals, and other materials that you can use to create your prototype (and eventually your product!) Prototyping materials are often less expensive and less functional than materials actually used to create finished products. You should try out different types of plastics and metals to determine what will be best for your product, knowing that it will be a little bit different when it is completed. This trial-and-error material testing phase can help you make important decisions about your invention.

5. Use your prototype in pitches and meetings

When your prototype is up to par with how you envision your product will function and appear, you can begin to use it in pitches and meetings. Having a decent prototype makes you appear much more prepared and professional than coming to a meeting with just sketches. A prototype gives people something to touch and interact with, instead of just seeing and making guesses about how it works.

6. Test, test, and test again!

Your prototype is your opportunity to test your idea without yet having made the financial commitment of developing a full product. If you have a working prototype, be sure to test it extensively. Let others test it and see if they can “break” it, or find an error in its function. (Don’t let anyone actually break your precious prototype!) Consider how others may use the product in different situations and buy your prototype through simulations. You can never go through enough testing!

Creating a prototype is a difficult, yet exciting step of the invention process. Creating a prototype helps you to get closer to your invention and understand it in a new way in its developing physical form. Take your time creating a prototype and remember to always stay curious!

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