How Prototyping Improves Product Development and Manufacturing

Posted by Casey Cephas | 11/15/21 9:30 AM

Seeing is believing. That’s why a prototype can be a powerful – and often imperative – tool when creating a new product.

You likely already appreciate how producing an early model can help speed up and refine the development process. But did you know that prototyping can also enhance the manufacturability of your product and streamline the transition to full-scale production?

Where prototyping fits in the new product introduction process

If you’re looking to launch a new product, having a cross-functional new product introduction (NPI) program can provide a strategic and reliable roadmap from the concept phase to production. And prototyping is a crucial component of any NPI program. In fact, you’ll find that prototyping is included in two of the six NPI stages: Develop and Validate.

The many benefits of prototyping

There are numerous advantages of prototyping for product development while keeping full-scale production in mind.

  1. Refine product design – The most well-known benefit of prototyping is the ability to make improvements to the final product design. It’s often easier to identify flaws or potential issues with a product when it’s in a 3D, usable form.
  2. Test materials – Going from a sketch or computer model to the real world also allows you to test materials – how they perform, look, and interact together.
  3. Test environmental conditions – If your product will be used in harsh conditions, it helps to have a prototype to confirm that the materials and design will withstand environmental factors or heavy use.
  4. Test manufacturing processes – During prototyping, you’re not just testing out what you’re making, you’re also validating how you’re going to make it. Demonstrating and fine-tuning the manufacturing processes can lead to a higher-quality product and make it easier to scale to production.
  5. Improve user safety and regulatory compliance – If an issue with the product goes unnoticed, not only could it hinder performance, but it could also put the user (and in the case of medical devices, the patient) at risk. Prototyping makes your final product as safe as possible and helps you meet your industry’s compliance requirements.
  6. Reduce costs – Any modification you make during the prototyping phase – whether to product design, materials, or manufacturing processes – could help you save cost on the final product. Plus, there’s a lower risk of a significant problem like a product recall that could lead to legal or financial ramifications.
  7. Stakeholders can see the final product – Having a tangible prototype that others can see, hold, and try out can help push the development process forward. Stakeholders could include internal decision-makers, customers, investors, or another important audience.

Different forms of prototypes

While we’ve used the term ‘prototype’ frequently so far, it’s important to mention that there are several types of prototypes – which can be used for various purposes or at different stages of development. In fact, you may end up using multiple types of prototypes in order to launch your product successfully.

Here are a few common types of prototypes:

  • Proof of concept – An initial prototype, often using rudimentary materials, to test the high-level feasibility of a new idea or product design.
  • Visual prototype – A prototype that demonstrates the final product’s appearance, using foam, wood, paper, or 3D printing.
  • Working prototype – A functional model to test the design and engineering of the product.
  • Pre-production prototype – Often referred to as a factory sample or pre-production run, this prototype is made using the selected materials and manufacturing process. This is often the final test before proceeding to full production.

Need a new product introduction partner?

There are many moving parts involved with designing and launching a new product. At Tapecon, our new product introduction support offers everything from design consultation to testing to full-scale production.

Having a manufacturer like Tapecon at the prototyping level can expedite not only the prototype but also the manufacturability of your product. Tapecon can perform tests and inspections including functionality tests, electrical, peel testing, bending, surface tension, and much more in house. And Tapecon’s extended partnerships with some of the top suppliers and laboratories ensures that the testing or inspecting you need can be performed.

Leveraging our materials expertise and range of printing and custom converting capabilities, we can deliver high-quality and functional prototypes built to your specifications. Throughout the process, we aim to help you optimize your design while getting your product to market as quickly as possible.

Let’s make something great 

With over 100 years of manufacturing experience, Tapecon works with product teams to solve challenges, create products, and enhance lives. Learn more about our new product introduction support services.

Topics: Manufacturing, New Product Introduction

Written by Casey Cephas

Casey is the Marketing Coordinator at Tapecon Inc.

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