There are things that people overlook when they’re putting together their prototype; we talk to dozens of people every week, so we’ve seen them all. Most of the designers who we work with have already put together a prototype. Some of them have dumped serious amounts of capital and time into these prototypes. Yet very few of them are ready to move into production.
Here are the biggest issues that we’ve helped entrepreneurs overcome as they tun their designs into a mass-produced product.
DFM – Designed for Manufacturing
Just because you’ve come up with a great design, it doesn’t mean that it can actually be mass produced. While developing a prototype, it is crucial that it’s DFM (Designed for Manufacturing). This means that the designs can actually be fabricated and done so at scaled. What’s more, some tweaks that you make to your specs to make your products DFM will drastically increase efficiency and reduce production costs.
Without a background in manufacturing, this is hard to do… but it’s not impossible.
The best people to work with when developing your prototype are in the factories you plan to manufacture the components in. Each factory’s engineers are the most informed on precisely what is possible to manufacture.
We’ve had lots of clients come to us with prototypes that need a total re-design due to it being impossible to manufacture. For that reason, we have an in-house design and prototyping team that works closely with our vetted factories and suppliers.
COGS – Costs of Goods Sold
It’s something that you wouldn’t think is overlooked… but it often is.
There are so many costs and variables in the manufacturing phase of your product. It is important to have a crystal clear understanding of the total cost of the project, well before you get to the manufacturing phase. Every component needs to be priced out by materials, manufacturing, and assembly.
Once you have a complete understanding of all costs, you can make the necessary design choices to meet your target price point. Break it down. Price it out. Adjust.
“The base will be made of steel.” – Not good enough.
Material selection is the right time to be overly specific. There are over 3,500 grades of steel to choose from, and only one of those grades is the best choice for your product. It’s overwhelming at first, but this is not the right time to get queasy over the paradox of choice.
These choices can be broken down into four main categories:
1. Mechanical properties
2. Wear of materials
3. Ability to manufacture
Material selection is an odd balancing act of these 4 categories. Do your research and make sure to get material samples in your hands. Customer feedback on material selection can be a useful tool when you’re on the fence over specific components.
Just because you’ve built a functioning prototype in your basement doesn’t mean you get to jump straight into production! There is a rather long list of things that need to be done before launching into the manufacturing phase, and you need to keep detailed records of every step you take and every plan you make. These design files obviously vary from product to product, but 9/10 times all of the below steps need to be executed:
|Plastics Product||Metal Product||Textile Product||Electronics Product|
|2d + 3D Design Files||2d + 3D Design Files||2D design||2d + 3D Design Files|
|Material Requirements||Material Requirements||Material Requirements||Material Requirements|
|DFM Files Approved||DFM Files Approved||DFM Files Approved||DFM Files Approved|
|Tooling Design||Tooling Design||Pattern Creation||Tooling Design|
|Mold Design||Mold Design||Sizing||Mold Design|
|Hand Made/CNC/3D Printed Prototype||Hand Made/CNC/3D Printed Prototype||Prototype||PCB-A manufacturing files|
|Customer Feedback||Customer Feedback||Customer Feedback||PCB-A programming|
|Tooling/Mold Creation||Tooling/Mold Creation||Software|
|Pre-MP Sample||Pre-MP Sample||Pre-MP Sample||Functionality Specification|
|Hand Made/CNC/3D Printed Prototype|
Funding needs to be 100% solid before moving into the manufacturing phase.
You don’t want to put your entire project on hold because you don’t currently have the cash in the bank. Product development and manufacturing is expensive! There are a lot of unexpected costs that can add up, and if you haven’t secured enough funding, you might have to press pause and focus on the financial side of things.
Usually, you will need to put 30% – 50% down as a deposit to start production. The balance must be paid before the product is released.
Get quotes and timelines on every stage of your product development and production as early in the project as possible. This will give you the numbers you need to accurately plan your finances or secure adequate funding.
You want as much feedback as possible, as soon as possible. The farther down the road of product development you get, the harder it is to incorporate changes in design. Your mom is a wonderful woman. However, her input does not quite count as valid customer feedback (unless, of course, your mother is your target market and doesn’t mind telling you that your design is terrible).
For customer feedback to be valid, it needs to come from actual potential customers! This means going to industry experts and avid consumers in your niche. You would be surprised by how insightful people can be when you ask for 100% honest feedback on the good, the bad, and the ugly.