Whether you already have a thriving startup or have just been inspired by the most recent episode of the hit show Shark Tank, many people today are interested in making a Prototype. Easy access to the internet, modern technology and training means that there really is a market out there for even niche products — and innovators are ready to fulfill that demand. But the logistics needed to actually manufacture a prototype — not to mention the strategy needed to do so properly — are still not always easy.
But have no fear. By following a few basic tips, you can be sure to start turning your Idea into reality.
1. Learn the Language
Once you have the design mapped out conceptually, the next step is getting it made properly. This can be easier said than done, though. If you’re not doing it personally in your garage, then you’ll first have to find a Manufacturer. Keep in mind that one overlooked hurdle is simply explaining your concept to the manufacturer.
Be precise, clear and knowledgeable about your product. Try to learn and use the language of those who will be making it for you, particularly if the item has innovative features or confusing attributes.
2. Custom 3-D Printing
One good way to ensure that everything comes out according to specifications is to use a 3-D printer. Eventually, you may have to make real molds or others means to mass produce the product at scale, but when starting out, if the prototypes can be made with a 3-D printer, it could save some hassle.
Many manufacturers use high-end 3-D printers. For example, Apple Rubber uses 3-D printing to create custom moldings, seals and o-rings. And putting precise plans into a computer that can translate them into reality means that any errors will be in the design as opposed to the execution.
3. Testing the Prototype
The importance of this step cannot be overstated, but too many people don’t put enough time into it. Most are so excited to actually have something tangible in their hands that they neglect the quality assurance process.
Also keep in mind during this critical stage that the product’s designer may not be the ideal, objective user. After all, they were so involved in the origin story that they may not be able to see the product with fresh eyes like an everyday consumer would. The product must be easy to use and intuitive to the average person. So be sure to test the prototype rigorously, including using outsiders who have no idea what it even is.
4. Selling Your Idea
For many inventors and engineers, this is the hardest part. Having the aspects of intelligence that help you create and innovate does not necessarily mean you have the same skill set required to communicate and sell your idea. While this notion may be cliché, it doesn’t mean it’s not often true.
But this is the most important part of all. Even great innovations can be shelved forever if their creators cannot convince those with funding that there is a big market for the product. One thing that will help is having other, business-minded stakeholders. Maybe it’s a friend or relative — someone who already believes in your vision — but it will help to have a confidant, particularly if they can show support with at least some level of financial backing. This way, you can come to the table with, if not actual sales, a financial case for existing interest.
In the end, it mostly comes down to the age-old art of the sale. Get a meeting and convince the person on the other side of the table that you have something special. Bring your passion to the room, but don’t forget that they won’t immediately care how much blood, sweat and tears you put into this prototype. Sell your product to the point where they cannot afford to pass on your idea.