Rapid prototyping is a quick and dirty process. It’s entirely results driven and focuses on stripping back ideas, isolating design considerations and testing them as quickly as possible to inform further stages of design development. In this article, we’re going to cover when to use rapid prototyping, how you can do it, and why it’s one of the most important tools at your disposal.
Contrary to popular belief, rapid prototyping is a tool that can be effective for designers at all stages of product development, not just the beginning. It’s important not to view rapid prototyping as just the first prototype you make, due to its low cost, but rather, as a technique used throughout all stages of a holistic design process to inform the final product.
Imagine product development is a jigsaw puzzle, and each piece represents a consideration that is crucial to the success of the design. Traditional thinking would be to create an initial prototype, get 20% of the pieces right, create another prototype, get another 20%, and slowly progress the development of the product in a linear fashion. The problem with this is that you’re trying to juggle too many pieces at once, and getting them all 100% right at the same time becomes very difficult this way.
Effective designers understand that through rapid prototyping, you can answer segments of the puzzle one at a time, and by focusing on just one or two design considerations, getting them 100% right becomes much easier and time efficient.
For example, perhaps one rapid prototype is created to test the functionality of a hinge design, another to see the rough form of the product, and a third to test the load bearing capabilities of a suggested material. Individually, these quick and dirty ‘experiments’ only provide you with one answer, but combined, they give a much clearer picture of your product. It’s much easier to test all three independently and combine them into a 4th, more resolved prototype, than if you had tried to test all three at the same time
While yes it is true that 3D printing and rapid prototyping go hand in hand, it’s certainly not the only way you can solve design questions. Often, a prototype can be as simple as a cardboard mockup or a clay sculpture, simple in principle but highly effective in helping you answer questions relating to form and dimensions. Every project will have different considerations that need answering, and successful designers have an array of rapid techniques at their disposal to help find these answers. It’s up to you how creative you want to be!
Here are some examples of common techniques we use at B.Product to help us fill the jigsaw puzzle. We offer a specialised prototyping service that has helped hundreds of our clients answer crucial questions regarding their ideas, helping to realise their concepts. No matter how far along your design journey you are, click here to learn more about how we can help you prototype your project and take the next step towards commercial success with the backing of our award winning portfolio.