Managing First Prototype Expectations

Managing First Prototype Expectations is key to your success from day one.

Your first prototype should not be your last. If it is, then it is very possible you have not thought through your product long enough to create something with true market value that will please a customer.

This is our first 3D printed Prototype
The very first 3D printed prototype. It worked well.

My product attempts have taken several prototype iterations before I have felt confident about moving forward with tooling or even with funding. Each prototype has taught me more about my product and has helped increase quality, reduce price, and incorporate innovation.

Early stage CAD image

I have met many entrepreneurs that have tried to go from initial prototype to production, only to be met with insurmountable obstacles that ultimately resulted in failure of one type or another. Several ran out of money, others realized what they were trying to accomplish simply was not possible with their design, engineering, or materials.

What did they have in common? Usually it was their first time creating a product and they did not know what they did not know. The unknowns are unavoidable and are just part of the process, but learning about the process in advance can help one navigate with a little more confidence. You need more than one prototype.

My goal when working with folks is to be sure we set the expectations of the process from the start. It’s a linear process, but complicated nonetheless, and requires a solid road map from the get go.

When I created my first product for mass production, I did not realize the challenges that lay ahead. Without my seasoned team of engineers in place, I would have run into problems that would have been total showstoppers. For example, I initially set out to create much of the product from stainless steel because of my perception of performance gain and appearance. However, it turned out to be a material that simply crippled my product from working the way I wanted it to. Fortunately, once I got my engineering team in place, I was able to gain some forward momentum.

TaggioPro heads ready for market.

We tested all types of materials in an effort to get the best performance possible. At the end of the day it was polyoxymethylene, or POM as it most commonly known, that met my performance expectations. Not only was POM much easier to produce, it also reduced costs and increased the product longevity by decreasing wear on the rest of the product. Quality testing also revealed that it withstood our harshest testing; from sun exposure to being run over by a heavy SUV type vehicle. I learned that my expectations needed to be flexible when producing a new product because just about any part of the journey can take an unexpected turn for the better or for the worse.

When working with a first prototype expect there to be points of failure that you simply could not have foreseen. Expect to learn a lot and to subsequently have to change your plans accordingly. These changes may encompass things such as production timelines, funding, and initial launch dates of prototypes or final products. Expect to stay fluid throughout the process, expect to be stressed out at times, and expect that lack of attention to detail will bite you in the ass if you let it.

Created a product and have a story of your own? How your expectations did not meet your reality? I would love to hear it. Comment below.

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