It is half way through the year, the kids are out of school, and New Year’s resolutions have long since faded away into the bustle of daily life. With its impossibly long days and hopefully some beach or poolside respite, the summer is a great time to …
The summer is a great time to head to the beach and to reflect on your prototyping year so far.
Not Enough Tools or Equipment
It is a fallacy that you cannot prototype products without a well appointed shop in which to do it, and there are two ways to overcome this issue. The first is to simplify your product idea so that you can prototype within your means. The truth is that unless you are building products that are truly high tech (like something that would be used on a spaceship) a version of most products can be made with simple tools and materials. It is amazing how far you can get with a drill, some hot glue and materials like PVC, wood, and cardboard. If you have a product with a crazy mechanical design that cannot be made with simple tools, then it may be time to rethink your design. If you can simplify it enough to be able to prototype it at home, the design will certainly be easier to mold or manufacture later.
The second way to overcome lack of tools is to go and find some. Now that COVID is in the rear view mirror, maker spaces are open for business. Maker spaces not only have a plethora of interesting tools (often some with CNC capabilities) they are staffed with volunteers with the knowledge to help you use them and can provide mentorship or a sounding board for your ideas.
If you are lacking tools, maker spaces like Fab Cafe in Bangkok offer a multitude of tools that can be used for a small signup fee or membership.
Not Enough Money
Similar to not having enough tools, this is essentially a resource problem, but sometimes is just a great excuse for not taking the next step in your product journey. Yes, tools and materials do cost money but there are ways to significantly reduce costs. Early stage prototypes and concept models do not need to be beautiful to use for marketing purposes. They are tools to explore the concept and do not have to be fancy. I have made prototypes from soup cans to experiment with user interaction and have had clients use LEGOs to experiment with the size of their products. If you have the joy of living with or being able to spend time with kids, they are constantly prototyping with found objects. They have no money and only the resources of their immediate environment. They can work wonders with pieces of old toys, cardboard, glue, and will even add a dash of glitter for good measure. Use the scrappiness of a child to get through resource issues. Look on Craigslist or Facebook marketplace for free or low cost items where the material or mechanisms can be harvested. See what you have around you that you can take apart or repurpose. This exploration will not only help find resources for your prototype, but may unleash your creativity in a way that helps you overcome a challenge with your product or lead to a whole new idea.
This prototype of a driving simulator wheel was built with cardboard, rubber bands and less than $10 of electronic parts in rural Dominican Republic..
Not Enough Skill
It does take some measure of skill to build prototypes. It requires knowledge of how to use different tools, the behavior of materials, and sometimes electronics or coding experience. Fortunately, we live in YouTube, and now AI enhanced worlds. There are a plethora of YouTube videos to help you learn how to do nearly anything and learn prototyping tools including coding and electronics. As Chat GPT and other generative AI tools start to become available, we can also leverage them to enhance our skill set. For example, I just asked Chat GPT, “Can you write Arduino code to wire a DHT11 sensor on pin 5 that will read the temperature every 10 seconds and turn on a string of 10 addressable LEDs red if the temperature is above 100 degrees?” Within seconds it kicked back viable Arduino code and told me which libraries I need to install for it to compile. And by the way, all of this knowledge is free to access and to use, so the money excuse is not welcome here.
There are some inventors that are great with coming up with ideas and have no skill or the desire to make prototypes.This is ok too, but your path will be slightly different and you are going to need some help. One path is to partner with someone more technical that can help with prototyping and the building of the product. You can also hire people to do the design and prototyping. You can approach designers on platforms like Fiverr or Upwork, but just be warned that you will want to do your diligence about their skills and have NDAs in place before working with anyone there. You can also reach out to a professional product development company like Enventys Partners. There is a significant advantage to doing this, as you get a team of highly skilled designers and engineers on your team that have the experience to build the product in the best way possible. In either case, lack of skills can always be augmented by building a team to fill in the gaps.
If you don’t have the skills to make your product come to life, development firms like Enventys Partners are here to help.
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