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The Essential Guide to Know the importance of Prototyping in your New Electronic Product Design
"Prototyping a Product helps to projectile your design and saves your time"
Hope you may aware about the word ‘Prototyping’ which is a first stage of any Product Development life cycle. If you are having something in your mind i.e., idea and not knowing where to start and how to evaluate your ideas, then definitely this article might help you if you continue reading further.
How Prototype Plays vital Role in any Product Development Life Cycle?
The Product Development Life Cycle consists of phases from development, growth, maturity, and decline. Nevertheless, one step that can help across all of these phases is Product Prototyping. (Click here to understand what is Golden Sample)
Prototype might take some good time but it helps to analyze the challenges and make changes to product at an early stage than doing the same when the product has incurred with some cost, energy and when it is almost ready.
Creating a product prototype even before the development phase is what helps to figure out the production cost, product features and time of market (turnaround time), also helps to steer PDLC in a right direction.
What is Prototype?
The prototype will typically include as many, if not all, priority aspects of the design including the hardware/software operation, mechanical and external interfaces. Of course, the goal of the prototype typically dictates which prototype implementation is used at what stage of the project’s overall design cycle.
Key Differences Between Prototypes and Product
The word prototype derives from the Latin words meaning that “original form” hence prototyping is just a formulation of the envisioned product.
It may be similar enough to work like a actual product with all the necessary functionalities to convince any decision makers with a proof of some results, but the end product may have drastic changes based on the material availability, cost considerations and user friendly.
Prototypes are not production quality and should not be held to the same standards of the final product. Prototypes help you learn what features need improvement, so you can quickly perfect your product and get it to market. The journey from concept (Check this link to know the journey of Product Development) to market is typically a long road riddled with hidden obstacles and unforeseen turns.
Let us understand how the prototyping can help during a creation of any electronic product development step by step.
Prototyping In Electronics: How To Make It Cheap And Fast?
Electronics Prototyping is always an intimidating concept for most entrepreneurs most especially if they have zero background with electronics and micro-controller programming. The terms alone sound so technical which adds up to the intimidation factor of electronics prototyping.
However, your electronic design ideas will never come to life unless you brave it out and face the complex world of electronics prototyping or by creating a PCB prototype. Any great product in the market today has started out as a very basic and only functional prototype.
Electronic Prototype Development can easily be divided into two stages: PCB prototyping and electronic product prototyping. PCB prototyping is more focused on the electronics aspect of the product while the final electronic product prototyping focuses more on the functionality and design of the end product including the enclosure design and development.
Different Phases involved in Electronics Prototype
Below step by step phases may give better clarity in understanding that how prototypes can be generated without any hassle.
- Identifying the Basic requirements : Buyers just don’t buy things for buying, they buy them to serve a particular purpose. Hence the most basic and foremost thing is to understand the requirements of the end user which should be a solution to the customers problem.
- Proof-of-Concept Prototype : A proof-of-idea or confirmation of-head model is a model that is adequately close to the imagined gadget to establish sufficient certainty that the thought can do what is planned. Issues that are distinguished can be cured well before the more expensive and complex research process starts.
- Prototype Product Evolution : Demonstration prototypes are the next step in product advancement. When designers and investors believe that the product is achievable, the prototype serves as a demonstration tool to offer the plan to other people. Generally, investors are interested in the feasibility of the concept. Sometimes the model is needed to file for a patent for the device.
- Revise and enhance the prototype : Before sending it for actual production the prototype has to be reviewed by the technical team or by the user to enhance and upgrade the product. This helps to determine the technical feasibility as well as to resolve discrepancies among users before final approval.
Also it is very important to understand in and out of different types of prototyping and their contribution to the respective field/domain.
1. PCB Prototyping
PCB prototyping is a lengthy process since it involves a lot of Sub-Processes; from Design Conception, Circuit Layout up to the PCB Integration. It will also involve work with a third-party which is the PCB Manufacturer. First off, you cannot create a prototype board if you do not have a design in mind (Click here to understand on how to create a prototype board). Start with a concept and develop the design so your electronics engineer will know what to achieve out of the PCB design and gather the right electronic components and topology needed for your electronic product.
Once the design is ready, the electronics engineer will now map out a circuit design before laying it out on the potential printed circuit board. Circuit and PCB integration is done to make sure they are both compatible and you need to contact the PCB manufacturer regarding their PCB specifications for this. Once the PCB layout design is done, it will take a week or two for the manufacturer to deliver your first PCB prototype.
Expect a few modifications and corrections which has to be made after receiving the first PCB prototype. It may require a second or third serving before the final PCB prototype will be made perfectly by your PCB manufacturer. You’ll be lucky enough to have everything perfect on your prototype board on the first try. It is often a good start to look at China for your development since product development companies there are highly flexible.
2. Product Prototyping (Exterior Design)
Once the PCB prototype is ready, you can now move on to work on the actual product design as the electronic schematics are now done. PCB prototyping is simply a sub-process of the actual electronic product prototyping process. This stage focuses on the exterior design of the product along with the mold which holds the PCB. Functionality, aesthetics and design are the primary focal points of electronic product prototyping and makes sure the end product is desirable in the market.
PCB prototyping may sound so technical due to the electronics knowledge involved but the electronic product prototyping process is more crucial because it covers the entire prototyping process and does not only cover electronics. Electronic companies have different preferences with electronic prototype development as there are others who settle with 3D models while there are companies who really dig actual product prototypes such as mold injection. Depending on the company’s budget and size either will serve right in electronic prototype development.
Pros and Cons of Prototyping
- Reduced time and costs: Prototyping improves the quality of the specifications and requirements provided to customers. With prototyping, customers can anticipate higher costs, needed changes and potential project hurdles, and most importantly, potential end result disasters. Strong prototyping can ensure product quality and savings for years to come.
- Improved and increased user involvement: Most customer want to feel like they are involved with the intricate details of their project. Prototyping requires user involvement and enables them to see and interact with a working model of their project. With prototypes, customers can give their immediate feedback, request project changes and alter model specifications. Prototyping most importantly helps eliminate misunderstandings and miscommunications during the development process.
- Reduced time and costs: Nothing makes customers happier than projects that come in under budget. Prototyping improves the quality of requirements and specifications provided to customers. Needed changes detected later in development cost exponentially more to implement. With prototyping, you can determine early what the end user wants with faster and less expensive software.
The disadvantages of prototyping must be weighed before deciding to implement them into project development.
- Insufficient analysis: A focus on a limited prototype can distract developers from properly analyzing the complete project. The potential end result: A potential overlooking of better solutions, incomplete specifications or the conversion of limited prototypes into poorly engineered and developed final projects that are hard to maintain.
- User confusion: The worst-case scenario of any prototype is customers mistaking it for the finished project. Customers seeing a rough prototype may not understand it merely needs to be finished or polished. Also, customers can wrongly perceive the prototype to accurately model the performance of the final system. Customers may also grow fond of prototype features that are not part of the final system.
- Developer misunderstanding of user objectives: For every project to be successful, developers and customers must be on the same page and share the same project objectives. If customers require all proposed features of a prototype be included in the final product, this can lead to team and mission conflicts.
- Excessive Development Time: Remember, prototypes are by nature designed to be developed quickly. If a developer spends too much time developing a complex prototype, the project can run into roadblocks (especially if there are disagreements over prototype details) and run over both time and cost budgets.
The Bottom Line
Hence it is very important to have good prototype before making any product in reality but something virtual perfectly tangible prototype making is on of the art. Many times investors outsource this process to an expertise who are capable enough to bring the design on paper to a first level of product in reality. If you are looking for one such then do not worry you are at the right place.
You might have the Electronic Design or Components of the product organized, and you just want our assistance and guidance on the mechanical chores of the product, or may be even vice versa. We are equally capable of helping you on both or either of the product fronts.