Most of us have heard of the word prototype but what exactly is it? Put simply, a prototype is a mock up version of the final design of a system or product designed for use. The reason prototypes are constructed is to allow a company to analyze and test the product before going ahead with final production. Building these prototypes are essential to gathering information from customers who may evaluate the product. After the evaluation process comes refining the prototype which consist of fixing any problems found.. The engineering stage consist of final production of the finished prototype.
That’s a basic description of what a prototype is and the stages it goes through before final production.
So, what would you think are the advantages of building a prototype?
While it may cost a bit more to build a mock up design of a system versus just going ahead with the finished design, a prototype has some distinct advantages. One key advantage is a prototype can be evaluated and refined. Designers and their companies can search for flaws in design and operation of the system and rectify before going ahead with final production. This saves not only money and time in the long run but also eliminates second guessing once the design is implemented and put to use.
For the end user, a prototype can also be beneficial by allowing them to test the design hands on and suggest any changes which may help them when working with the system. Additionally, testing a prototype allows users to determine if there are any missing components essential to the final design’s efficiency. Furthermore,an evaluation of a prototype also allows users to come up with solutions to any problems much quicker. Building and evaluating a prototype basically helps builders and designers as well as end users to find and fix any errors much quicker.
So, what would be the disadvantages of building a mock up prototype?
At first glance one would think there are no disadvantages. However, there are a few.
One main disadvantage would be the prototype may end up having too much analysis, meaning the design could end up becoming too complex for end users. Practicality may become an issue. Evaluating a prototype may lead to other problems like incomplete analysis. This could lead to a final design that may have more defects than the initial design.
With this said, the advantages of building a prototype however, do outweigh the disadvantages. So, while there are a few disadvantages, prototypes are a valuable asset to a company in the early stages of production.
Prototyping, like modeling has been around for decades and while it still has it’s disadvantages, the concept works for many different application and designs. Using the same techniques as modeling, a prototype is built after the initial design is configured.
Many companies specialize in building prototypes which allows the company and it’s employees to evaluate the product before agreeing to put it to final production. Modeling and prototypes do save companies money and time but also gives them in idea of what the final design will look when it is completed.
Ok, so hopefully, this gives you an idea of what a prototype is and how it can benefit both the company it is built for and the people who will be using the final design of the system. There are a number of different types of prototypes too. Virtual prototyping, Manufacturing Prototypes and advanced prototypes are all different types of prototype designs used to create a mock up system or product of an initial design.
Now that you have an idea of what a prototype is, what would you think would qualify as a good model or prototype? How about a new type of vacuum or a printing machine? Products and machines such as these are often mass produced and an initial assessment of the product can obviously help companies avoid costly mistakes. Modeling plastic fenders for cars intended for mass production is also another form of prototyping.
The concept of prototyping is one that has been tried and proven to be effective. You may have seen or used a prototype in your everyday life which allowed you to see the advantages of creating one before final production.
A final fact about prototyping that you may have not known! Prior to 1880 every inventor had to pass their working prototype before the U.S. patent office before going ahead with production. While this may have changed, the concept of building a prototype before mass production hasn’t. Look around you, you’re sure to see some amazing designs of systems and products that were sure to of had some initial prototypes and models before they were set to production!