You have the idea. You’ve run it through the wringer and it’s still standing. Now you need a prototype. I had no idea where to start, so I googled “prototype”, and cold called companies. Of course I didn’t know what to ask them once I got them on the phone! I’ve now completed several prototypes with PRG Prototyping, Inc, and asked CEO Tyler Harrell to answer some questions so that you are more prepared than I was.
by a GIRL: You receive countless prototyping inquiries from entrepreneurs across the country. When do you know an idea is a good one?
TYLER: We don’t take on every idea that comes through the door. Any new product concept must have market potential and consumer desire. If these 2 things are missing, you will likely not succeed. I subscribe to an old marketing philosophy test to determine which ideas are “good”: (AIDA) attention, interest, desire, action. I believe a product idea must be able to draw attention from the intended market. Sometimes that’s a niche market, other times it’s mass market. Then the product must raise interest by demonstrating advantages and benefits. Once you have interest, the consumer must then desire what you have, or visualize the product being used in their lives in some way. The final step is action. Action can obviously be a direct sale of your product, but more importantly, the action of how and where you will sell the product is far more important. If the final action step answers the target market question, then there’s likely a way to succeed with your invention.
by a GIRL: Inventors are a paranoid bunch (with ample reason!). What should they require of a company in terms of confidentiality?
TYLER: Each PRG Prototyping employee must sign a strict confidentiality agreement to be employed, and every client that comes though the door is offered a mutual NDA (Non-Disclosure) and confidentiality agreement. We also clear our prototype shop of any product in development so that we don’t jeopardize your project confidentiality.
by a GIRL: What do you think makes one prototyping company better than another?
TYLER: How much of their team is in-house because not only do you want to ensure talented engineers are designing your prototype, but you are also concerned with speed to market. When you have engineering talent in house, a full in-house prototype development shop, challenges can be addressed more quickly reducing development time and overall time to market. You also want a company that invests in the latest technology to provide the fastest turnaround of all prototypes.
by a GIRL: So what is an inventor looking at in terms of cost?
TYLER: We provide basic CAD (computer aided design) services that start at $1,200, and full-scale product development and prototyping services to prepare a product for manufacturing. These services range anywhere from $5,000 – $15,000 depending on the complexity of the product. Electronic hardware and software programming can also dramatically increase the development costs.
by a GIRL: I now know an important part of an inventor’s development budget is not only: “What will it cost to make my prototype?”, but also “How much will 50 samples cost?”. Samples can get costly because the numbers are so small.
TYLER: Which is why you need to choose a company that also specializes in low volume runs of prototyping. My company has developed proprietary tooling processes to develop up to your first 10,000 samples. The best news is that China can’t even compete with our pricing on low volume samples.
by a GIRL: What are the phases of prototyping? Do I send you my kindergarten-style drawings and you send me back something fabulous?
TYLER: Ummm…something like that. First we conceptualize the product using 3D CAD software and then we identify the materials through testing. Just because a material works on one design, doesn’t mean it will work in a different design configuration. With engineering and prototyping, you’re trying to eliminate the things that don’t work, while at the same time trying to create what will work. *******************************************************************************
I’ve learned to get comfortable with arts and crafts. The way I communicated my second product idea to Tyler was through a ton of glue, cardboard, and shower curtain rings. I now embrace my time spent wondering the aisles of Home Depot, Michaels, and Staples searching for the best way to communicate a creative concept. The faster you can get your idea across, the less money and time it will take you to nail the prototype. Good luck!