8 Essential Steps to Create and Test a Working Prototype

If you have an idea for a new product, creating a working prototype is a crucial part in the development process. A prototype is an early version of your product that allows you to test and refine its functionality before investing a lot of time and money in production. In this article you can find 8 Essential Steps to Create and Test a Working Prototype, plus Bonus.

Before that, let us remind you that thanks to Neutrone it’s incredibly easy to partner up with a Maker near you that can assist you in creating your prototypes.

Problem: international manufacturing is complicated.

– Big MOQ
– Timezone & communication gaps
– Costly shipping, risk of delay

Solution: manufacturing with the help of local Makers is easier.

– Produce as little as 1 item
– Same time zone and language
– National (fast) shipping

Having said this, let’s get started.

8 Essential Steps to Create and Test a Working Prototype:

Step 1: Define Your Product Concept

Before you start building your prototype, you need to define its purpose and key features. Ask yourself, what problem does it solve? What are its unique features? What is the intended user experience? Defining these key elements will help you stay focused throughout the prototyping process and ensure that you end up with a prototype that serves your end goal.

If you have doubts, visit our guide about 5 Essential Steps to Turn Your Idea Into a Product.

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Step 2: Create a Sketch or CAD Model

Sketching is a low-fidelity way to quickly iterate on your design ideas. Use pencil and paper or a digital sketching tool to create rough sketches of your product. This step is not about creating a final design but exploring ideas and refining your vision. Use annotations to add notes and make changes to your sketches.

If you’re a pro, you can consider creating a computer-aided design (CAD) model of your product. This will give you a visual representation of your product and help you identify any potential design issues. You can use free or paid CAD software, such as SketchUp or SolidWorks, to create a 3D model of your product.

Alternatively, you can reach out the Makers here on Neutrone who can provide CAD services.

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Step 3: Choose Your Materials

Once you have a design in place, you need to choose the materials you will use to build your prototype. Think about the properties your product needs to have, such as strength, durability, or flexibility, and choose materials that will meet those requirements.

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Step 4: Build Your Prototype

With your design and materials in place, it’s time to start building your prototype. Depending on the complexity of your product, you may need to enlist the help of a professional Maker. Fear not! Here on Neutrone you can find hundreds of Makers near you to help you along the entire process. Just search for “prototyping” services.

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Step 5: Test Your Prototype

Believe it or not, this is the most important part. It can define whether you should proceed or not in your project. Now that you have a physical prototype, it’s time to test and refine it. Test your prototype with potential users, gather feedback, and make improvements. You may need to iterate on your design several times before you end up with a prototype that meets your requirements.

Basically, at this stage you can already check whether you have product market fit. To do so, we need to ask the right questions, and avoid influencing the user who’s providing feedback.

Some questions you might want to ask to check if you have product market fit:

  • When is the last time you’ve encountered this problem?
  • How did you try to solve it?
  • What didn’t you love about that solution?
  • What could make your experience better?

And from here onwards, present your prototype and assess the reaction of the users. Remember: avoid leading or suggestive language that might encourage users to respond in a particular way. For example, instead of asking “Don’t you think this feature is great?”, ask “What are your thoughts on this feature?”.

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Step 6: Refine Your Prototype

Based on the results of your testing, refine your prototype until you are happy with its functionality and design. This may involve making changes to the materials used, the design, or the manufacturing process.

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Step 7: Create a Final Prototype

Once you have refined your prototype, create a final version that is as close as possible to your finished product. This prototype will be used to pitch your product to potential investors or to test it with a focus group.

Step 8: Test Again Your Final Prototype

Before reaching the actual production at a wider scale, we would recommend you testing your prototype as many times as it takes to make your product idea turn into an amazing product. And just like in Step 5, you must ensure you’re not suggesting the answers to the people you will seek for an opinion.

To recap the do’s and don’ts:

  • Don’t pitch your ideas to customers.
  • Learn facts. Dig and ask more questions till you have exact facts and data.
  • Don’t mention your solution.
  • Don’t listen to opinions, collect facts and pain points instead. After that, see if your product solves them.
  • Compliments mean nothing. Really nothing, as people are just being nice with you. Deflect them and dig deeper.
  • You can’t learn anything useful unless you’re willing to spend a few minutes shutting up and let the other person talk.

If the test is successful, go on with the actual production. Else, move back a couple of steps and repeat. And remember, it can take weeks or months (sometimes even years) to reach a level of product refinement you can consider satisfactory.

If you’re aware of internet celebrities like Linus Sebastian (LTT), or Marques Brownlee (MKBHD), you’ll also know that it literally took them a year or more for their most successful merch products to move from concept to prototyping, and then down to final production stage.

So be patient and embrace the journey. It’s going to be awesome!

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Bonus: Find a Maker Near You to Manufacture Your Prototype

With Neutrone.com, it’s so easy to find a Maker near you to partner up for your next prototype and product idea. Use the search engine below and in the homepage to find the talent with the right set of skills. Filter them by product category and services. Finally, message them to start a conversation. They are waiting for you!

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So here you have them, 8 Essential Steps to Create and Test a Working Prototype. By following the steps above, you can create and test a prototype that accurately represents your product and helps you identify any issues before you invest in production. With a successful prototype, you’ll be one step closer to bringing your product to market.

Our Ideas section provides several examples that can inspire you. Lastly, if you want to learn more about digital manufacturing, you can visit Wikipedia.