Venture capital allows entrepreneurs to put their plans into action by providing much needed capital for their business. However, a lot of the success in wooing investors stems from creating a compelling prototype, and a sub-par model can spell the doom of an idea no matter how innovative it may be.
Therefore, engineering professionals must take extra care to build high-quality prototypes that will generate interest and convince viewers of their importance. However, this necessity presents a significant hurdle to most startups, which usually lack the resources required for CNC machining, injection molding, and other industrial processes typically used to build prototypes.
Many startups and conceptual firms get around this through the use of rapid prototyping. This process is a cost-effective way for entrepreneurs to produce realistic models that operate like the finished product. Rapid prototyping services help entrepreneurs navigate many of the hurdles associated with product design and produce an item that attracts investors.
Understanding Rapid Prototyping and The Different Types of Prototypes
Engineers use rapid prototyping to design and manufacture true-to-scale models of parts or components. These models frequently act as visual aids for digital items or to test parts before committing to large production. They can also be used to test various materials and other design elements.
Manufacturers rely on a variety of different prototypes throughout the creative process:
- Engineers create prototypes as proof-of-concept models. With these mockups, engineers prove the feasibility of their ideas and designs. Proof-of-concept models are a rough draft of a product or machine and often lack the same capabilities, materials, or construction of the final product.
- 3D printing allows engineers to make adjustments to designs through the click of a button, meaning that they can produce several different models so they can test each variation before committing to a course of action. Printing machines can also produce detailed replicas to create cost-effective proof-of-concept models.
- Engineers create demonstration designs to act as a showpiece for venture capital investors. These models may be missing some cosmetic elements but are otherwise fully functional.
- Functional prototypes are another type of demonstration piece. However, these pieces are not fully configured, so they may lack some essential attributes that designers are still testing behind the scenes. Designers can show how the product is used while leaving room for improvements to usability or consumer appeal.
- Aesthetic prototypes are often the final step before a product is ready to hit the shelves. These models are used to test the look and feel of the product from a consumer’s point of view.
- Alpha prototypes are a complete copy of the final product. They often act as a “final draft” that is identical in every way to the finished product, while still allowing engineers to perform final quality tests to ensure there are no unexpected issues before launch. These are followed by beta pieces, which are sent out to testers for suggestions on how to improve the product. At this point, many of the components are now being created by product tooling and equipment. Such as CNC machining, injection molding, and other industrial processes.
Each kind of prototype plays an important role in the design process. Recently, many small businesses and startup firms have found innovative ways to complete all the steps of the prototyping process without relying on inaccessible machinery. New developments in 3D printing and other rapid prototyping techniques have greatly sped companies’ ability to quickly and affordably turn out new models for any purpose.
The Importance of Prototypes for Product Development and Attracting Investors
Producing fully functioning prototypes will help ensure that potential investors understand your product’s purposes and capabilities. A well-executed prototype makes entrepreneurs appear more professional when meeting with potential investors, which gives them a big advantage.
Between concept and production, rapid prototyping assists in every stage of the design process. The Hendey Group provides rapid prototyping services for entrepreneurs in all phases of product design. Contact us to find out how we can turn your concept into an investor-ready prototype.