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the importance of prototyping

Have you ever asked yourself what the importance of prototyping is? Or indeed what is a prototype? If so, please read on as we try to explain it to you.

What is a Prototype?

A prototype is an early sample, model or release of a product built to test a concept or process or to act as a thing to be replicated or learned from.

At JC we know and trust in the importance of of prototyping and have always had our own in-house prototyping facility and it has proved to be incredibly beneficial to our clients.  It is one thing having a concept or idea drawn out on either a piece of paper or via a computer programme, it’s quite another to see it in the flesh; something that you can walk around, touch… see!  That’s when you can really start asking yourself questions like is it fit for purpose?  Does it truly enhance our brand?  Will it grab our customers’ attention?  Is it stable enough?  Is it robust enough?  Is it attractive enough?  Will it last multiple seasons or just one … and is the answer to that OK?

In other words, prototyping a product is important because:

  1. It provides a true test of the design and its intended function
  2. It means that the prototyped unit can be tested in its true environment and potential overlooked issues with the manufacturing process or the design itself can be highlighted and changed / implemented ahead of full scale production
  3. It provides an opportunity for the manufacturing cycle to get familiar with the unit before full production swings in
  4. It is also a chance to review the prototyped unit and potentially add value for our client as well as reviewing the way we manufacture to see if we can achieve the same results but take time out of the manufacturing process

So some very clear advantages to building a prototype into your schedule. Are there any disadvantages to prototyping? Well there is a time element and a cost element to consider. However, and as we have said above, if you don’t prototype then the design is not truly tested and potential overlooked issues are not flagged until production is already in the manufacturing cycle (which is often too late as the raw materials are already purchased, the majority, if not all parts, are already cut / folded / welded etc). Ultimately both our clients and the team at JC Metalworks want a fully functioning unit for the best price possible and prototyping really does ensure that we get that each time, every time.

What does it cost to make a Prototype?

As you might expect the cost for prototyping is a higher price than it would be for a production unit (multiple amount of units) as set-up costs for machinery is concentrated into one unit as opposed to the cost being split over numerous units, but the benefits of reviewing the design / manufacturing processes and value engineering in its true environment by far outweighs this increased cost. We are often able to recover the prototype costs, and in some instances more besides, by making changes to the prototype which have helped the manufacturing and production cycle.

OK Let’s Make a Prototype! What Next?

Because of the importance of prototyping, at JC Metalworks we have a formal process which starts in our Engineering Department. They develop the manufacturing drawings prior to issuing them into the Manufacturing Department once both the Engineer at JC and our client are happy with the concept.

At this stage the manufacturing drawings go through the manufacturing cycle which our Engineer oversees. To prove the importance of prototyping, any issues will be highlighted along the way.  Once we reach the last stage before dispatch (Assembly) the prototype is reviewed by our Engineer to make sure it is to the agreed design and at this point we will have a final meeting and discussion with the Manufacturing Team to make sure all changes requested are discussed and agreed upon.  Our client will then receive the unit to test.  Once tested approval will be given or additional changes will be requested and implemented along with any and all changes requested by our Engineer / Manufacturing Team.

Anything Else to Know?

In most cases a prototype will go through all stages to test the unit in its finished form but we can also prototype in its raw finish to remove the cost of finishing / painting if we know for sure that the paint will not cause issues with the fit and function.

For further information or to speak to one of our team about creating your next prototype please submit an enquiry form or just give us a call at our Loughborough HQ.

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