In the previous post – G – Getting a Plan for Your Invention – we recommended the first step is to target a retail price point for your invention, which then points to appropriate paths to market. For example, a low priced product is unlikely to sell well in a luxury retailer like Neiman Marcus or Nordstrom. Similarly, a higher price point is not appropriate for Walmart.
Now that you have the general outline of a plan to take your invention to market, it is a good time to begin working on a prototype (if you haven’t done so already). Inventor’s meetings and online forums are abuzz with discussions around prototyping with a common question being: are prototypes really necessary? Here is my answer: yes prototypes are necessary. In the same vein that you would not consider building a new skyscraper without blueprints, you cannot launch a new product without prototypes. With my Savvy Caddy wallet, I ultimately went through about 10 prototypes before I had the final design nailed down. That was for a simple wallet product.
Back to the central question posed in this post: how do you get a prototype done? The answer depends upon the nature of the invention. My first product was a simple design such that I made most of my prototypes myself, at a low cost, out of leather swatches, needle and thread. Later I had a seamstress sew a professional prototype, appropriate for presentation to potential licensees.
Mechanical devices and many other products are more complicated, where prototype cost and complexity become more challenging. In such cases, the first prototype is often very a very crude proof of concept that may be little more than a scale model made of materials that will not be used in the final product. Don't fret too much over the first prototype, it is okay if it is ugly and not perfectly functional.
The good news is that there are lots of resources to assist you if you know where to look. Spend some time at a local university where engineering students or professors might assist you at a very reasonable cost. A variety of companies, including Quirky and 3-D Systems, have 3D printers that can churn out a prototype cost-effectively.
Join a local inventor’s group. United Inventors Association – www.uiausa.org has a list of inventors groups across the USA as well as other resources for inventors. Do a Google search and other research as UIA's list of inventor's groups lists some, but certainly not all groups.
Stay tuned for the next post – I – Initial Prototypes – What to Expect