Sometimes a company needs to create a new product either for a specific customer or to expand their market range. Before they go into full production they have to make sure what they are building does what it is intended to do. In order for them to make sure they are making exactly what the potential customer wants they may have to manufacture one or more prototypes of the product. When you are creating a product prototype there are a couple of different ways to do it.
Hand Made Prototypes
Many times the first prototype will be made by hand meaning there is no automation or manufacturing. Since it is a new product the company doesn’t yet have a manufacturing process to make the part or product. Eventually they are going to have to determine a selling price based on their costs and markup, so to be competitive they will need to keep costs down. They may also find that they need to purchase additional manufacturing equipment to make the product more efficiently and cost effectively. The limitation on making prototypes by hand is that it won’t be functional and probably won’t be made from the same material as the finished product.
However, prototypes are important as a basis for understanding how the product will function, what materials it may require, and how it can be built.
Outsourcing the Prototype
Some companies sell products they can’t manufacture simply because they don’t have manufacturing facilities or a budget for distribution. When these companies have a new idea for a product they have to look outside the company to get a prototype constructed. This can be cost prohibitive and painfully slow process, especially for small businesses.
Using CNC Equipment to Create the Prototypes
If making the prototype will involve a lot of cutting, drilling, or machining it may be more cost effective to use CNC controlled equipment. If your company doesn’t already own a multi-station CNC machine purchasing one can help you create inexpensive prototypes. The advantages of using a CNC machine are that once you program construction steps into the machine you can very easily make adjustments to the program to refine future models. Using CNC-based equipment can also make it much easier if you have several different potential business contacts interested in viewing your new product. The best part about using CNC equipment is that once the product is ready for production the manufacturing process is already digitally stored. Once you have written the steps for running the lathe, milling machine or multi-station CNC equipment the product is just about ready for production.
Choosing the Best Way to make a Prototype
There are several things to consider when you decide you need a prototype for a new product or customer. If your company has the equipment and the engineering expertise to design and manufacture a new product it is probably best to keep the project in-house. To do this you may have to purchase some additional equipment like CNC controlled equipment to make the manufacturing process scalable.