Do I Need A Proof-of-Concept Prototype?
If you are serious about creating a product for mass production, the answer is yes. Read on to understand why.
Remember that prototype that you hacked together in the garage using materials you found around the house, and with the limited tool collection you had on hand? What key learning points did you take away from the finished product? Maybe it got you to the point of having a prototype to have and to hold. However, maybe it didn’t execute the concept you envisioned. Perhaps the concept was beyond your skill level or you didn’t have, or couldn’t find, the materials and tooling you needed to make the prototype function at a proof of concept level. Perhaps you learned early on in the process that key assumptions you had made were incorrect and the prototype needed a complete redesign to achieve the correct functionality?
The proof of concept prototype is the next step in development. There is a good chance that you will have multiple prototypes, and if you do not, maybe you’re missing something. For example, my last invention had more than 20 iterations before I was comfortable enough with the product to cut the production tooling and ramp up production for the market.
The proof of concept prototype is rarely the pretty and sexy thing that you’ll be stocking store shelves with, so aesthetics are not nearly as important as functionality. It’s ok if it’s ugly. Make it affordably, but most importantly make it work. The proof of concept prototype needs to meet your minimum product requirements outlined on your product requirement document (don’t know what that is? Read about it here, and download a template to get started).
Depending on the complexities of your product, proof of concept prototypes can range greatly in development costs. While expensive research and development is not always a fun financial party, the proof of concept prototype is where the rubber meets the road, and where you get the first validation of your problem solving solution.
If all this sounds like a bit too much and you are thinking about skipping this step, do not pass go, do not collect $200. The proof of concept prototype is worth the time and financial commitment. I have seen several instances where people have skipped this stage and gone right into production based on assumptions. Rarely does it work out, and if it does, rarely does the product have the quality required to keep it on store shelves.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the proof of concept prototype can carry a lot of credibility when it comes to raising money or getting those pre-orders in the door. In many business competitions, it’s not uncommon to see a stack of theoretical products that look good on paper. However, your proof of concept prototype will draw the attention of the right people, as it demonstrates commitment to the process. Furthermore, it can help people get excited when a physical product is in hand.
The proof of concept prototype will also help you better understand and develop your intellectual property (IP). Furthermore, it will help your patent attorney create and file for your patent. A good IP attorney will see areas where the patent can be made stronger once he or she understands the functionality.
SoProto Power Tip: Your proof of concept prototype doesn’t need to match your exact vision of the final design of your product. It is most important that it meets the functionality requirements that are key to making your product unique and valuable.