From Idea to Invention Prototype - All You Need to Know

Invention prototypes are 3D embodiments of how your invention idea will look like or how it will work, when it is actually produced and manufactured.

It’s the real life manifestation of your product concept.

There are two types of prototypes:

  • Look a like – this prototype is just a fake model of how your product will look like from the outside, without the ability to function as intended, a mock-up.
  • Functional prototype - this prototype is a fully functioning model of your invention idea- one that doesn’t necessarily look like your final product will end up, once it’s professionally designed, but does exactly what your product will end up doing.

The general idea behind having any kind of prototype is to have something real and tangible that communicates your ideas in a 3D product form.

Do I need an invention prototype?

There is no legal or other obligation to have a prototype for your invention.

You can get a patent without a prototype, as long as your invention can be created and is not an amorphous idea.

Why should you still consider building a prototype?

There are two main reasons:

  1. To improve your product idea – While you might have a clear idea of what your product will do and how it will look like, nothing beats the opportunity to actually look at your brain-child in real life.No matter how much effort you have put into conceptualizing your invention idea, once you see it in real life, you will discover something about the product you didn't realize before.A prototype can disclose the little flaws that often escape us in the ideation phase – is the product easy to use?Does it look like something people would like to buy?Is the way you imagined it makes sense?Do the parts get stuck in the process? Having a real invention prototype to look at is bound to help you improve your final product.It's better that you discover the issues with your invention and fix them, and not your potential investor, manufacturer or customer.
  2. To help communicate your product’s benefits and appeal -Let’s face it, in most cases, your main objective when inventing a product is to commercialize it and make money out of it.To do that, you will need the help of many future partnerships: someone to build it, someone to sell it or even just someone to invest money in the product development process.You will be approaching potential investors, manufactures, licensees and the likes. Having a prototype of your invention to show them, will make the process of communicating your ideas so much easier.They will be able to see the benefits and not just imagine them. Communicating with them will become effortless.

If you are convinced of the benefits of having an invention prototype, the next step is to build one!

But before you do that, it’s best to spend some time thinking of your invention strategy.

What are you trying to achieve with your invention prototype?

Which benefits or characteristics of the product are its most important selling points?

Do you want to show that your product design works well with other products on the market?

Do you want to show how the way your product is designed makes something happen easily and conveniently?

Are you interested in projecting an image of luxury or is function the key thing here?

Who is your prototype audience? Are you targeting marketing people? manufacturers?

What is the single most important feature your prototype needs to communicate?

Answering such questions will help you decide how your prototype needs to look. Is it enough to have an empty shell that shows how the product will look like, without actually doing what it needs to do?

Is it more important to have a functioning model, even if it looks horrendous, as long as it communicates that the idea behind the product works?

Invention prototypes are often created in the early stages of a product life cycle  At this stage, you don’t yet know if your product will be a success or not, and if all your investment will amount to something.

Working within a budget is probably of the utmost importance. You want to get the greatest benefits at the minimal cost.

By prioritizing what your prototype needs to achieve, you can make some important choices on what to invest in and how to build your prototype.

Making a prototype

Now that you know what you want to achieve with your prototype its time to decide whether your objectives can be reached by making the prototype yourself, or by getting some professional help to help you build your prototype.

In the next article, you can read all about how to make a prototype. 

Return from Invention prototype to Patent invention basics 

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