Prototype Iterations in product development

People experienced in developing new mechanical product know that it is an iterative process. You concept, develop and then iterate a product. The prototype iteration process starts with the development of a Solidworks File that defines all parts of the assembly. A model is made of the assembly from 3D prints or CNC cut parts of each piece of the assembly. That prototype is evaluated and tested to find every improvement possible at the stage. These changes are then incorporated back into the Solidworks file and new model is built. The process is repeated until the product is ready for manufacturing.

The variety of acceptance of this process is interesting to me. There are those who don’t iterate and those who iterate too much. The more inexperienced developers get frustrated by the fact that problems even exist on a first prototype and focus on blame rather than on discovery. The other end of the spectrum is a very experienced person that can’t stop the process even as the changes proposed have diminishing returns.

The inexperienced developer that expects everything to be perfect after the first round of prototyping is usually reacting to the cost of prototyping and views having to spend money on a second round of prototyping as some sort of failure that should have been prevented. We in the service industry have the responsibility of educating our clients that iteration is expected. It is not a failure. You can’t foresee every aspect of how something is going to work by looking at the model on a screen. The transition from screen to reality brings unexpected problems and challenges. That needs to be clear from the onset. The value of making a better product by making changes in the early stage is clear. It is far more expensive to make changes after the product has been launched. Sometimes it is even too late. In today’s instant social media age, a bad reputation happens so quickly. It is much better to spend the time and money up front than to move forward with a product that you know has problems, but you don’t want to take the time and money now to fix.

On the other end of the spectrum is someone who can’t stop the process. Granted there are always going to be improvements that can be made. Losing site of the big picture though can sink a product for no good reason. You must ask yourself “is moving that button over .100 really going to sell any more product”? Will any body but you notice that change when using the product. Are you making this change to improve the usability, aesthetic or functionality of the product? Will it lower product or distribution cost, ease assembly or improve the return on investment in any way? If the answer is no, then why are you spending time and money on it? Analysis to paralysis is very real for some people, teams and companies. Nothing is perfect but there is appoint of diminishing returns.

Take your iteration process to the next level. Develop a product you are proud of. Create something that people will use and enjoy using. Invest in a product that will bring you a return on that investment. If you have produced a product that does these things then perhaps it will have a long enough life that you will have an opportunity to make a second generation incorporating all the learning that you have gathered along the way.

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Edited by Leafly Mould Provides Injection Mold, Plastic Mold, Injection Molding, Die Casting Mold, Stamping Mold