Product prototype

This is the phase during which the item acquires finite form and becomes a tangible good. Product designers may develop similar prototypes with different styles. Manufacturing questions will also be discussed. During this activity, numerous technical developments will occur. This will include all aspects of scientific research and development, engineering development and design, possible technology transfer, patent analysis and cost forecasts.

Rapid prototyping and 3D printing

Reducing the time to develop products is a top priority for firms, especially in consumer markets. Time to market is now measured in months, not years.

Rapid prototyping is a process of developing a range of prototypes quickly for consideration by the firm. Stereolithography (SLA) is the most widely used rapid prototyping technology.

Stereolithography, or 3D printing, allows you to create almost any 3D shape you can imagine. If you can get it into a computer-aided design (CAD) program, you can probably create it. It enables the firm to try out the prototype in actual use. For example: a chair manufacturer will produce different arm-rest shapes using 3D printing and try them out in actual chairs to see how they feel.

The basic 3D printing process goes like this:

  • Create a 3D model of your object in a CAD program;
  • A piece of software chops the CAD model up into thin layers – typically 5-10 layers per millimetre;
  • The 3D printer’s laser ‘paints’ one of the layers, exposing the liquid plastic in the tank and hardening it;
  • The platform drops down into the tank a fraction of a millimeter and the laser paints the next layer; and
  • This process repeats, layer by layer, until the model is complete. A typical run might take 6-12 hours.

3D printing is, generally, considered to provide the greatest accuracy and best surface finish of any rapid prototyping technology. The technology is also notable for the large object sizes that are possible.

Technical testing

It is difficult to distinguish between where prototype development finishes and testing begins. This is because, in many industries, it is frequently an ongoing activity.

Market testing and consumer research

In today’s competitive marketplace, products tend to go straight from consumer research and product development to national launch. For example: Google makes beta versions of applications available for use by consumers. This enables trial and feedback.

Adapted from

Trott, P., 2008. Innovation management and new product development. Pearson education.

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