From Prototype To Production Process Overview


Creating a prototype is one thing, but it can be quite difficult to turn it into a finished product. This is the reason why a lot of prototypes for concepts or processes never make it to market. How to move from prototype to production?

We’ll cover a lot of ground in this article, including how to successfully move from prototype to production, as well as the necessary steps and strategies.

prototype production- from prototype to production

From Prototype to Production Process

Transitioning from a prototype to production phase can be a daunting task, particularly for newcomers to the manufacturing industry. It is a common misconception that this process is universally applicable to all product development ideas, but in reality, each manufacturing process is unique, just as each product is distinct. The success of a particular process with one product does not guarantee its effectiveness for a new product.

The general process from prototype to final product involves several key steps. First, there’s the conceptualization of the product idea. Subsequently, a design drawing is created, a task that often requires multiple iterations to ensure both seamless functionality and manufacturability. The third step entails developing a 3D model based on the drawn design, followed by the creation and testing of a prototype. This iterative process may be repeated to optimize the product’s functionality.

Once the prototype’s functionality is confirmed, the next decision involves determining the desired quantity of the product. This choice dictates whether soft or hard tooling is utilized in the rapid prototyping molding process. Following this, a manufacturing contract is signed, and production commences. In the case of product parts, assembly is recommended before shipment. While this process may seem linear, the reality often involves considerable back-and-forth adjustments to meet stringent quality standards.

Now that we have an overview of the prototype to production process, let’s delve into each step in more detail.

Develop an Exceptional Digital Prototype

Transforming your innovative concept into a tangible product begins with the crucial step of creating a prototype. Explore various methods for prototype development to effectively bring your idea to life.

Conceptual Prototyping

Conceptual prototyping involves conveying your ideas and exploring concepts aligned with your vision. This cost-effective method facilitates the identification of basic production requirements, key features, and potential challenges. Utilize techniques such as Styrofoam cutting or sketching to visually showcase and communicate your idea.

Feature Prototyping

Feature prototyping focuses on developing specific parts of a system to gather information on their workings and functionality requirements. This approach is particularly useful for understanding limitations and constraints within mechanical or electrical systems.

Evolutionary Prototyping

Employ evolutionary prototyping when a working prototype requires further analysis and modification. This method allows for continuous refinement, with variables like performance, cost, and material availability subject to ongoing adjustments. The iterative nature of evolutionary prototyping persists until reaching the stage of high-volume production and launch.

Estimated Timeline for Prototype Creation

The timeline for creating prototypes depends on the current phase of prototyping. During the concept and ideation phase, it may take one week to one month, contingent on the speed of design approval. If the design is finalized, the prototyping duration ranges from a few days to several weeks, depending on complexity.

For prototypes requiring modifications, the use of rapid prototyping can significantly reduce the time to just a few days. However, employing traditional prototyping processes for modifications may extend the timeline to several weeks or even months.

Conduct Market Research and Test the Product

Now that your prototype is ready, it’s crucial to assess its market demand and acceptability before moving on to full-scale production. Here’s how you can accomplish this:

Test the Demand for Your Product

Utilize crowdfunding projects as a straightforward method to gauge the demand for your product. If people are willing to contribute to your crowdfunding campaign, it indicates a high potential for demand once the product is in production.

Tooling, Sampling, and Non-Production Release

Transition from the digital prototype to a physical sample involves the tooling process, generating replicas for testing purposes. Sampling evaluates the product’s performance and functionality, allowing for necessary adjustments before initiating mass production. This non-production release phase requires thorough documentation for various manufacturing processes, including plastic prototype manufacturing, machining prototype tooling, and 3D printing prototype.

Ensure Prototype Suitability for Mass Production

Following the prototype development phase, modifications may be necessary to enhance quality and address any flaws. Rectifying issues during the prototype stage proves instrumental in saving time and production costs in the long run.

Transition the Product from Prototype to Low-Volume Production

Once the prototype design is finalized, ensuring alignment with standards encompassing form, function, aesthetics, and fit, the next phase involves moving toward low-volume production.

Low-volume production typically involves manufacturing products in modest batches, ranging from 50 to a few hundred units, to address initial market demand. Depending on the project scope, low-volume production may serve as a precursor to high-volume production or represent the entirety of the manufacturing process.

Consider the following factors before embarking on low-volume production:

Prepare Required Documents

Several essential documents streamline the low-volume production process:

  • Product Requirements Document (PRD): Defines the product’s purpose, value, and features.
  • 3D Files: High-quality design files detailing the entire system.
  • Material, Color, and Finish Document: Specifies the color, material type, and finish for each part of the prototype.
  • Costed Bill of Materials (CBOM): Provides a detailed cost breakdown for all prototype components.
  • Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA): A signed agreement with manufacturers or suppliers to safeguard project files.
  • Final Prototype Review Document: Chronicles the prototype’s progress, emphasizing key challenges and issues.

Optimal Lead Time

The lead time, crucial during the production phase, varies based on the approach to manufacturing. When outsourcing production to a manufacturer from the design and prototype stages, the lead time is typically brief. Conversely, if you engage the manufacturer after prototyping, the lead time extends significantly. This is attributed to the need for the manufacturer to generate 3D design models, along with potential training for engineers on crafting and testing your prototype components.

Additionally, the lead time is influenced by the complexity and scale of production. Elaborate designs naturally require more time than simpler ones, while small-scale production generally boasts a shorter lead time compared to large-scale endeavors.

Total Manufacturing Budget

The pace at which your product progresses from prototyping to low-volume production is substantially governed by your manufacturing budget. With a substantial budget, the transition to low-volume production tends to be seamless. Sufficient resources empower manufacturers to design, create molds, and utilize the correct materials for your project. Conversely, a below-optimum manufacturing budget prolongs the production timeline.

Initiate Production for Multiple Units

The culmination of the design and manufacturing process is often marked by high-volume production. Before handing over products for extensive manufacturing, here are key considerations:

Intended User Experience

Contemplate the desired user experience throughout the prototyping and mass production phases. Envision the emotions and interactions you aim for users to have with your product.

Overall Production Volume

Assess the volume of products you intend to manufacture. Tailor your production volume based on the anticipated demand for the product. Whether opting for low or high-volume production, this decision hinges on understanding the market demand. For efficient on-demand manufacturing, rely on our trusted company, which streamlines the process, offering high-quality custom parts with professional prototyping and production capabilities.

Maximum Manufacturing Budget

Delve into your manufacturing budget, encompassing the entirety of the production process expenditure. Being mindful of your budget prevents potential roadblocks, ensuring a streamlined process without unnecessary delays or resource wastage.

Launch Your Product

Following the low-volume production, often serving as a pilot run, your product is now poised for its official launch. However, post-launch, quality control personnel assume a crucial role by subjecting the initial samples to rigorous testing against established quality procedures, including comprehensive lifecycle assessments.

Moreover, the quality control team conducts thorough inspections and observations of factory production, meticulously documenting and reporting any significant shifts in quality. A comprehensive review encompasses the analysis of process flow, data collection and confirmation methods, the efficacy of in-process testing, packaging and inspection of finished goods, as well as the factory’s adeptness in handling unforeseen conditions.

It is imperative to highlight that, prior to release, each shipment undergoes rigorous quality control scrutiny. This involves comparing the product’s quality against previously approved samples and adhering to predefined quality procedures. The overarching goal is to guarantee sustained product quality post-launch, with no compromises in standards.

Strategic Approaches from Prototype to Mass Production

As the adage goes, failing to plan is planning to fail; however, effective planning alone does not guarantee success. To ensure a smooth transition from prototype to mass production, consider implementing these intelligent strategies:

Anticipate Challenges: Production, Shipping, Regulations

Embrace a proactive mindset by planning for potential challenges in production, shipping, and regulatory compliance. This pragmatic approach safeguards your resources and minimizes unnecessary waste.

Recognize that engaging a reputable manufacturer can be time-consuming, expensive, and complex.
Address challenges in developing a repeatable assembly process, implementing quality control measures, and establishing comprehensive documentation.
Effectively communicate part tolerances and specifications, particularly for mechanical or electronic components.

Anticipate import fees and taxes, especially when dealing with overseas suppliers.
Assess the shipment’s medium of transport, considering factors such as time and cost. Air shipment offers speed but at a higher expense compared to sea shipment.

Allocate time for essential government testing and certifications, including safety testing and electrical assessments (UL), CE testing, and FCC certification.
Maintain flexibility in repeating these regulatory processes as needed.

Embracing a comprehensive approach to planning ensures a resilient foundation for the prototype to production transition, acknowledging and mitigating potential challenges along the way.

Validate Product Design with Manufacturer’s Proof of Concept

It’s a crucial rule of thumb to involve engineers or manufacturers familiar with the manufacturing process and materials required for your product before assuming it’s ready for production. Contact component suppliers to create a “proof of concept” to validate their claims, ensuring you embark on production with confidence in the feasibility of your product.

Allow for Design Adjustments Before Tooling

Ensure no further design adjustments are needed before proceeding with tooling. Though waiting for design adjustments might seem time-consuming, it’s a prudent step to avoid tooling with an incorrect design. Investing a few extra days in design refinement is more economical than facing the consequences of tooling with flawed specifications.

Conduct Performance and Reliability Tests

Implementing tests to assess the validity, performance, and reliability of your design and prototype is a prudent strategy to save time and resources. Subjecting product samples to accelerated life testing in rugged conditions reveals potential weaknesses, allowing for necessary modifications before full-scale production.

Pilot Run Validation Before High-Volume Production

Prioritize a pilot run before initiating high-volume production to validate the suitability of the product design for manufacturing. Manufacturers typically conduct pilot runs with a limited number of product pieces (20 to 100) to identify and address potential prototype and design issues, ensuring a smoother transition to large-scale production without incurring additional costs due to product failures.

Formalize Development & Manufacturing Contract with Manufacturer

Signing a development and manufacturing contract establishes explicit rights and responsibilities for both parties. Specify the desired terms in the contract, such as holding the manufacturer accountable for product quality issues or securing exclusive rights to the tooling. The contract provides a legal framework to safeguard your interests and expectations.

From Prototype to Production Services

With the correct manufacturing company, the process from prototype to production shouldn’t be too difficult to handle. This is particularly valid if you hire the appropriate manufacturer. Our team of skilled professionals and engineers at Sungplastic provides high-quality products from prototyping to mass production. In addition, we provide low volume manufacturing and rapid prototyping services, including CNC machining, injection molding, 3D printing, and sheet metal fabrication.

In addition, we provide a free DFM analysis, a fast quote, affordable shipping, competitive pricing, and 24/7 engineering support.

Please feel free to consult us on any project, from prototype to production.

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