October 26, 2022

The Ultimate Prototype Product Development Guide for 2023

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Have a brilliant idea but wondering how to turn it into a real product? Well, you're not alone, we get asked about prototype product development all the time. 

But engineering a prototype can be a real brain teaser. Many creators face a mountain of challenges trying to make a working model, even when they have a clear vision for their end product.

Here's how it usually goes: 

Let’s assume you’ve a contract manufacturer already. So your brilliant idea takes off with the discovery stage. You're looking at whether your idea is technically doable, and then you move to the design stage. You talk to engineering teams, explain your goal, and start tossing around different designs. Your product designers are ready and eager to bring your idea to life.

Sounds smooth, right? But then, you hit a wall. The gap between the concept and the final product is wider than expected. Maybe you manage to make a pre-production prototype, ready to get early user feedback. But crafting that real, physical prototype? That's a tough nut to crack.

The Common Problem

Here are a couple of facts: 

  1. Developing a prototype isn’t that simple and many, if not most, fail 

  2. But new product development in China is on the constant rise, so you know it’s not the infrastructure or the available expertise to blame 

Statista generated a report on the expenditure of new product development in China, which shows that "In 2020, the Chinese high-tech industry spent around 615.24 billion Yuan ($84 billion US) on new product innovation, which is 87.8% more than in 2019."

So where’s the catch, why do so many fail, and how do you make sure you succeed? 

Here’s the dry, but 100% proven fact:

With the proper support, planning, and approach, you can make killer prototypes without much frustration or delay while staying cost-effective.

This ultimate guide will show you (both in theory & fact sharing, and through our own experience) how to go from a napkin sketch to an effective prototype - if it’s a good idea to begin with. We validate unique product ideas all the time, and I’ll tell you how in a few moments, but we decline over 60% of the manufacturing leads that we get. 

Prototype Product Development – What is a prototype exactly? 

Let’s kick it back a notch and start from the basics. 

Prototyping is a key part of making a new product. It's your chance to try out different designs before you commit to mass production.

As a business owner or product manager, you know how hard it is to bring a product to life from just an idea. Jumping straight into mass production without testing a product model is a big gamble that can cost a lot of money. That's why prototyping is so important – it helps you avoid unnecessary risks.

So what exactly are prototypes? Are they working models or just visual mockups? Prototypes can take many forms. Some are functional models, while others are used to experiment with the product's look or feel. We'll dive deeper into this later.

First, let's quickly explore why prototyping is so crucial in product development.

Related: Check out our detailed guide on Rapid Prototyping Factories in China for a deep dive into procedures like fused deposition modeling and 3D form mold making.

Why do we make product prototypes?

Well, imagine launching a product without any testing. You're in the dark about how people will use it and if there are any design mistakes that could upset customers. If it fails, you're stuck with a warehouse full of unsellable products after investing time, effort, and money. 

Not great, right?

That's where prototypes come in. They give you a clear idea of what your product is, help you show it off, gather feedback, make scaling up easier, and boost your brand's reputation, as per a Forbes article. 

Here’s another example:

Let's think about a luxury watch you're designing. You have many questions about its look, feel, user response, comfort, production cost, and more. You can't ask your potential customers what they think because the watch doesn't exist yet.

That's when prototyping helps. It lets you create a working version of your product idea, answering your questions along the way. 

Here in China, I see them prototyping all kinds of products, from luxury watches to medical devices. Related reading: Watch Manufacturing in China.

Let’s move on! 

The 5-Step Product Prototype Development Process

Creating a prototype is a journey from idea to final product. Here are the five main steps:

1. Market Research and Ideation:

Before you make anything, you need to understand who's going to buy it and why. Research your target audience and their needs. Then, gather your team to brainstorm ideas. This can be done through mind maps or open discussions.

2. Product Design and Testing Phase:

Once you've chosen your idea, it's time to design it. Use product design software like Fusion 360 or AutoCAD to make a 3D model and check if your product is doable. You'll have to consider things like design, materials, and cost. Then test your product using software simulations and real-world scenarios to see if it will work as expected.

3. Building the Prototype:

This is the tricky part - turning your idea into a physical model. Consider design, materials, manufacturing process, and cost. According to the research conducted at the University College of West Flanders, there are three ways to do this - traditional prototyping, rapid prototyping, or virtual prototyping.

4. A/B Testing:

This step involves creating two versions of your product and testing which one works better. You'll split test groups, giving each a different version, then ask them about their experience to decide which product to proceed with. It’s simple and works like a charm! 

5. Final Design:

After testing, it's time to finalize your product. Choose the final design, materials, colors, and packaging. After that, you're ready for mass production!

And that's how you create a prototype! It might seem complex, but taking these steps can help ensure your product's success.

3 Things You Must Consider for Prototype Product Development

Creating a great prototype involves three major things you should keep in mind:

1. User-Friendly Design: 

Your product's design is key because it determines how easy it is to use. No one wants a product that's hard to handle! Ensure your prototype is designed with user needs in mind.Most of our clients claim that they previously received a poorly designed prototype and are challenging to use. As a result, the entire process got delayed, and they had to spend extra money.

2. Cost-Efficiency: 

Money is important in business. If you spend too much on your prototype, your final product's price will be higher and less competitive. It's true that prototyping isn't cheap, but it needs to be cost-effective to make a good profit.

Now, that’s not to say prototyping done right is dirt cheap, we’ve been doing this for a decade. Prototyping should be cost-effective enough to help you stay in the marketplace and earn a good profit.

Related reading: Manufacturing Costs for Custom ODM Products in China.

3. Compliance with International Standards: 

If you're looking to compete globally, your product must meet certain rules and standards, like ISO or FCC. But don't worry, a trusted manufacturer will make sure your prototype complies with all these standards.

While dealing with all these, you might wonder how to handle your business. That's where a reliable contract manufacturer comes in. Whether it’s us or another company, it must ensure your prototypes are up to every possible standard and anything that can come back and bite you in the a** down the line.

Who Should Develop Your Prototype?

Wondering how to run your business while making a prototype at the same time? 

If you’re outsourcing prototype/product development, all the way up to mass production & shipping, the answer is simple: Partner up with a contract manufacturer.

A company like MorphoMFG can take care of everything, from making a user-friendly design to mass production. This way, you can focus on your business while we handle the rest.

But you might be wondering if it's a good idea to go for a manufacturer in China in the first place. Many top brands like Apple and Nike manufacture their products in China. 

But the real concern isn’t “Should you go to China?” Obviously - YES! 

The important question is: “Who do you work with in China?”For every legit company with actual expertise and tons of success shipping high-end products into the Western market, there are anywhere between 10-100 honeypots and “Yes, yes, yes” factories and companies you do not want to work with.

“Yes, yes, yes” men are people who say “Yes” to every question, concern, demand you make - regardless of if it’s true or not. They don’t care about building a reputation of success, they’re only after numbers & deposits. 

So if you want a reliable one-stop solution for your product development, I humbly invite you to consider my company - MorphoMFG.

Here’s why.

Morpho MFG – Helping Companies Develop Prototypes for Their Product Development Process

We’ve seen it many times. Would-be great products fail spectacularly because of the manufacturer’s incompetence or inexperience, or simply due to lack of care, IP protection, quality control, adherence to laws, regulations, miscalculations in shipping costs, fees, the list goes on and on.

MorphoMFG is a Guangzhou-based contract manufacturing company in China with over 7 years of experience. I’ve personally spent years visiting Chinese factories daily and marking down the ones who do their work best - each in their own speciality material or type of product and industry. 

Over the last decade, we’ve built invaluable relationships with these efficient factories and suppliers and they pick up our calls every time because of that. 

Fair warning:

But anyone offering you a shorter timeline is either inexperienced or only after your deposit. So they sweeten the honey artificially and try to shove it up your behind. Or they’ll just outsource your project themselves and you might as well gamble away your deposit in the nearest casino.  

Our onboarding process usually takes 30 days - yes, 30 days!

Click here to know more about how we develop our prototypes here at MorphoMFG.

Visit our homepage or schedule a call with one of our business development experts. It’s complementary and they have real manufacturing experience. They can validate your idea on the spot. 

Frequently Asked Questions

In case we’ve missed anything or as a summary of the article.

Question: What types of prototypes exist?

Answer: Three common types of prototypes are virtual, traditional, and rapid prototypes.

Virtual prototype is a computer-made model, used early in the design stage. 

Traditional prototype is a physical model made with methods like CNC machining. It's used to test the product's design and function.

Rapid prototypes are physical models made with 3D printing, allowing quick creation of complex designs.

Have questions or want to get a feel of how prototyping would work for your product idea? Click here for your free call now. 

Question: Which company is best for developing prototypes for product development in China?

Answer: If you’ve Googled this already, you’ve seen many who claim to be the best in this domain. So how do you make the right decision? There’s a lot to say here, but let’s just say that experience with the Western market is key (successful projects). 

Also, the company should have physical offices in China (a mailbox on an empty piece of land doesn’t count, I’ve taken rides to some of these “companies” listed in China to see this in person).

Read next: Choosing the Best China Prototype Manufacturing Partner in 2023

About the author

Josh Fairbairn

CEO of MorphoMFG, fluent in Mandarin, Blogger, and Youtuber. Josh loves interesting materials and the craftsmanship that goes into creating innovative products - watches, tech, games, whisky, leather, wood, blockchain & electronics. Josh and his team in Guangzhou, China are striving to create (& consume) the world’s highest quality products. Partnering with entrepreneurs globally to help solve the world's problems - whether small or large.

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