Three Essential Ingredients for Creating Successful Prototypes and Reducing Costs

All complex products require iterative prototyping. With each round representing increased investment, it’s imperative to take strategic measures to reduce costs. Not every partner is equipped for the task, and mounting expenses are often the norm rather than the exception.

At Pivot UK, we are a one-source, global product development firm with end-to-end experience in taking your product from proof of concept to prototype to final design to manufacturing and distribution. With over 50 years in business, locations across three continents, and a portfolio of internationally award-winning products that spans fourteen industries, we are the go-to partner for delivering successful innovations to market.

The Prototyping Process — A Brief Overview

To better understand the nature of iterative prototyping, it’s helpful to know the difference between various types of builds. While complex products can involve dozens of iterations, prototypes generally fall into the following five categories.

Appearance Prototypes

The most simple of all prototypes, these “looks like” prototypes resemble finished products. Appearances, however, can be deceiving. Appearance prototypes are “dummy” prototypes that are essentially empty shells intended for crowdsourcing campaigns or to build anticipation for product launch.

Proof of Concept Prototypes

Proof of Concept (POC) prototypes vet the foundational design and technology premises on which a product stands. Unlike appearance prototypes, proof-of-concept prototypes rarely resemble the finished product. They validate design aspects and determine if a design meets minimum viability requirements. Last, they often play a key role in proving to potential or current investors that a product is worth capitalising.

Functional (Engineering) Prototypes

Fully-fledged functional prototypes are a combination of appearance and proof-of-concept prototypes whose purpose is to test product performance. Although proof-of-concept prototypes may have tested aspects of the design, engineering prototypes test the product as a whole.

Pre-Production Prototypes

As their name suggests, these prototypes validate a design for production to ensure the design interfaces flawlessly with manufacturing equipment. These prototypes generally look and function like the final product, or very close to it.

Design-Validation Prototypes (DVPs)

DVPs ensure that products meet strict industry standards and regulations. They are among the most complex prototypes, especially when created for medical and security-sensitive innovations. This is also the stage required for securing certifications. At Pivot, we deliver FDA registration and ISE and ISO certifications (ISO 9001:2015, ISO 13485:2016, ISO 80079-34, and IEC 60601-1) to ensure strict quality control and regulatory compliance.

Three Essential Ingredients for Successful Prototyping and Cost Reduction

Creating successful prototypes and reducing costs depends largely on three things: DFM expertise, AR and VR applications, and 3D printing.

1. DFM Expertise

Many companies and the development partners they work with conceive of prototyping exclusively as a job for the design department. While the design dimension of iterative prototyping is undeniable, engineering and manufacturing insights are equally critical. In other words, successful prototyping represents a trifecta of expertise culled from multiple disciplines brought together in a single, highly sought-after speciality: Design for Manufacture (DFM).

DFM unites design, engineering, and manufacturing to ensure that prototyping and every phase of the broader product development process is aligned with and optimised for supply chain and manufacturing. This ensures that prototypes — and fully-fledged products — are designed only with the parts, components, and materials deemed most effective, functional, and affordable. It also ensures that products can be cost-effectively manufactured at scale. (It does companies no good to invest in a prototype and eventual product that is dazzlingly innovative and high-performing yet cost-prohibitive to produce for the mass market.)

2. AR and VR Applications

AR and VR are qualitatively different from the digital prototyping approaches that have been around for more than a decade. While digital 2D renderings have their place, they are fundamentally disconnected from real-world contexts. AR and VR overcome this limitation by rendering designs at scale. In so doing, they can be actively experimented with to determine how they will behave in their native environments.

AR and VR applications streamline design processes and facilitate in-depth testing prior to production at a fraction of the cost of conventional approaches. These applications enable our teams at Pivot to achieve high-fidelity visualisation of a design early in the process.

Mixed reality prototypes also provide the basis for effectively exploring a wide range of options for making strategic improvements that deliver maximum cost savings. Only as a design is virtually refined and a virtual prototype vetted does the cost of creating a physical prototype come into question.

3. 3D Printing

Once many rounds of virtual prototyping and testing and completed, 3D printing is an incredibly cost-effective approach to bringing products to life. Pivot’s AR/VR-led and 3D-printed prototypes can cycle through more than a dozen design iterations in the time traditionally required to produce a single build. With 320,000 square feet of manufacturing facilities worldwide (including options in the American Midwest), Pivot is equipped to handle both small and large production runs that enable our clients to flexibly scale volume to market demand.

Looking for a Premier Product Development Partner?

Pivot delivers an agile, expedited, and cost-effective process to take your product from prototype to production. If you’d like to learn more about our collaborative approach to doing business and how we’ll make your product vision a winning market reality, contact us today.

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