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10 Ways to Reduce the Cost of Prototyping

By Konstantin Dolgan posted 08-26-2022 12:19


Product Design Develop Tools

10 Ways to Reduce the Cost of Prototyping

Read time:
2 minutes

Prototyping is an essential phase in the new product development process. This is where craft, sciences, and technology meet to bring an idea into existence. It allows you to test the feasibility of your product idea and gather feedback from potential customers, partners, and other stakeholders. The benefits prototyping brings often come at a high price, though. Prototyping can be costly, especially considering that, in most cases, you need to create multiple kinds and versions of your prototypes. 

At the same time, each prototype is unique, and building it requires a custom approach. Making one or two items (of anything), in general, is pricey, but producing prototypes entails building something that didn’t exist before, so there is no standard procedure or an established method for doing so. In addition to that, a team of experienced professionals and expensive equipment is typically needed when building prototypes. 

By following these tips, you can reduce the cost of prototyping without sacrificing quality or compromising on the goals of the project. With careful planning and execution, it is possible to complete the prototyping stage on time and within budget. 

  1. Define the goals of the next prototype early in the process. This will help to scope the project and better understand what features need to be included, as well as which ones can be left out.
  2. Have a plan for what to do with the prototype once it’s complete. Will it be used for testing? Market research? Fundraising? Knowing the answer to this question will help to determine the level of detail and functionality that needs to be included in the prototype.
  3. Only produce what is required to achieve the goals of your prototype. If you just need a “Ford” for your testing, don't make a "Mercedes". The level of detail and functionality should be in line with the goals of the project.
  4. Keep the design simple. The more complex the prototype, the more expensive it will be to produce. Size matters too. If your product is large, start with a scaled-down prototype. It will be less costly but will still provide useful data.
  5. Use less expensive materials if acceptable. For example, if your product is designed to be metal, you may want to consider making it out of plastic or wood at the beginning to reduce the cost and the time required to make a prototype.
  6. Don't try to tackle prototyping several systems or different types of components at the same time. For example, if your new product has a mechanical, an electrical, and a software system, work on the electric components first; the mechanical and the software systems are likely going to be considerably simpler, faster, and cheaper to modify. 
  7. Do not start building another prototype until you have fully tested and evaluated your previous one, and then made any necessary modifications.
  8. Consider using automated prototyping equipment, and the latest technologies such as 3D printing or CNC machining, to speed up production and reduce the amount of human labor needed to make your prototype. These technologies have come a long way in recent years and can be used to create prototypes and even finished products quickly and affordably.
  9. If at all feasible, utilize off-the-shelf components. Instead of starting from the ground up, you can repurpose existing products. This will lower the cost and time needed to make your prototype. Get your engineers' ingenuity to work!
  10. Consider outsourcing prototyping. There are new product development companies that specialize in prototyping, and they can often create prototypes for a fraction of the cost of doing it in-house. In addition, outsourcing allows you to focus your company's resources on other areas of development.
  11. Be prepared to iterate. It’s rare for a prototype to be perfect the first time around. Expect to make changes and tweaks along the way. You may want to start by developing several versions of low-definition prototypes before investing time and money into a high-fidelity model.

    Do you have any other suggestions for reducing the cost of prototyping? Please share them in the comments.

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    1 comment



    10-20-2022 00:16

    Great summary! I also use a Prototype Use Agreement. This is intended to ensure that the person who is using and testing the prototype has a clear understanding of what it is, why they're using it, and that they need to return the prototype after a certain amount of time.