The product development process is made up of many complicated steps. One of the first critical steps for manufacturers is creating a production-quality prototype – one that is made using the same design, process and materials as the intended production part. Here are 4 things to consider before beginning the development of a production-quality plastic prototype.
Keep design intent at the forefront. Not carefully analyzing the design of your product prior to the prototype stage can lead to a time-consuming cycle of prototyping and making modifications. Worst case scenario, it can force you to call back a production run and have to create tooling all over again. However, if careful design analysis is done prior, the number of prototype runs will likely be reduced and the product will go into production quicker.
Anticipate tweaks. The prototype development process helps manufacturers develop the parts needed for the first working model of their product. Upfront engineering can help reduce the number of steps needed to complete the production-ready part. One piece of advice is to work with an experienced design engineer who can help you create a plan that includes anticipated tweaks. This will make the process easier, more affordable and ultimately cut time between testing cycles. Additionally, choosing a partner that provides in-house sampling will keep information flowing from one step to the next, helping to avoid delays and unexpected costs.
Be involved and document each step. There are many steps throughout the prototype development process and it is likely that tweaks will occur. Given this fact, it is essential that communication and findings are well documented. This information can play an important role during the production process and for future part engineering, patent and intellectual property protection. Keep detailed notes and make sure your design engineer partner provides all the necessary documentation to seamlessly take your part from one step to the next.
Consider keeping prototyping and production under one roof. Manufacturers have the choice between using various service providers to assist with the prototype development and production process, or choosing a partner that provides all services within the same company. When working with multiple providers, critical information can be lost from one step to the next. Relying on a partner that provides experienced engineer support, material selection, tooling, testing and production will ensure information and time are not lost.
There are many important factors to consider when embarking on the plastic prototype development process – especially when producing a part that is production quality. Keeping design intent in mind, anticipating tweaks, thoroughly documenting and partnering with a service provider that keeps the process under one roof, can all contribute to your project staying within the designated timeline and budget.
Are you starting a new production-quality plastic prototype project? What challenges do you anticipate as you begin the process?