Prototypes and Manufacturing
How To Create Prototypes & Go About Manufacturing
Creating a prototype of your invention can be really fun or really frustrating, either way, it’s really important to your final product. You can get really far with a drawing, but you should try and craft a physical prototype yourself before you even think of having one made.
Using the things you have around the house is a great way to start. Sara Blakely, founder of SPANX, bought control top pantyhose, snipped off the feet and had her prototype. Use the things you have in the house: staples, pillowcases, socks, shoeboxes, glue guns, etc. It doesn't have to be complicated. There are some really amazing moldable plastics on the market that can help you get further on your prototype as well. Products such as Shapelock, Instamorph, Friendly Plastic, etc., that when heated will create a moldable plastic and when cooled will be hard again. You can use moldable plastics to create inner workings of your invention or your entire invention.
Once you've created your at home masterpiece, it's time to get a professional prototype made. It’s important to build your homemade prototype first, draw it, sew it, make it, etc. so that you can accurately describe your idea to a prototype engineer and save money in man-hours. You can contact a rapid prototype manufacturer in your area and they can assist you. These companies will create a computer-aided design (CAD) for your invention that will help you define and redefine your product. CAD drawings are typically in 3D and can really make your invention come to life and look sharp. You can add things, take things away, change materials, colors, etc., all on a computer screen. It’s a very quick and cost effective way of prototyping. Using prototyping software such as CAD is a great approach as changes can be made quickly without the expense. The manufacturers also may have solutions to problems you don't have answers for and are knowledgeable about materials that might work better.
Once you’ve decided on a manufacturer, they've created a CAD drawing for you and together you've refined the design, they will then create a mold of your design and your first real prototype will be born! From there, if the design is right, you can move into mass production or find a potential licensing partner. Depending on how complex the design, a prototype could run you from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand. Make sure to get three quotes from different manufacturers to make sure you are getting the best deal!