It can be daunting to order your first batch of prototypes, especially if the company you will work with is unfamiliar. Working with a prototyping firm doesn’t have to be difficult if you know what to expect.
This article explains what you can expect from prototyping companies. Also the article explains the differences between making your own prototypes or having them made by a prototyping expert. It also provides advice on how to make your partnership seamless, from basic design principles to effective communication strategies.
Topworks is a prototyping expert and has helped many small businesses and startups to create prototypes.
What companies create prototypes?
It is important to learn how prototyping companies work before you prepare a prototype for a partner.
Prototyping is different from production. Prototypes can be used to demonstrate parts, make investor pitches, and do feasibility testing. They are not sold to customers or used for any functional purpose.
Prototypes are used in a variety of ways:
- Evaluation and testing
- Test run of the production
- A market research study
- Pitch sessions for investors
Prototypes are used only for testing and demonstration purposes, so they are seldom needed in large quantities. Prototypes are usually made in small quantities, often fewer than 100 units. Many are also one-off items.
Prototyping companies do not necessarily require a factory that can produce mass quantities. Prototyping companies (or rapid prototyping) tend to offer a variety of manufacturing processes, including CNC machining and 3D printing. — With a focus on creating small batches and unique parts in the shortest time possible.
Many companies offer both production and prototyping services. Topworks is an example of a company that offers prototyping and short run production. This allows customers to easily move from initial concept to production.
Companies that make prototypes don’t expect you order more than a few thousand units of your part. They can help you improve your design and give you tips to save money.
Find a trusted prototyping company
There are many prototype companies out there. It can be hard to choose the right one unless you’re willing place test orders with every one.
There are a few things that will help you choose a trustworthy CNC shop or other prototyping business.
The following are the areas where a good prototype company must excel:
It goes beyond checking your prototype before you ship it. Documentation and certification are essential to ensure that quality control is done correctly.
It is a fact that product designers must work quickly. This can make it crucial to gain an advantage in the marketplace. Look elsewhere if your prototyping company is not meeting deadlines.
It’s more than being polite on the phone. Good customer service is about adapting to unusual requests, offering helpful advice, and generally going the extra mile for your prototype. Don’t settle for less.
Topworks is a well-known prototyping company that excels in speed, quality, pricing, and customer service. Click here to request a quote on your prototyping projects.
How can you order a prototype
You might not know how to order a prototype if you have never dealt with one before. What is the cost of a prototype? What is the average time it takes to build a prototype?
Prototyping starts with a request to quote (RFQ) in almost all cases. This is your request to the prototyping company outlining the work you require.
After receiving the request, the prototyping company calculates the cost of the project based on factors such as labor time, manufacturing equipment, and materials. The cost breakdown is sent to you in a document called a quote (or quotation). The next step is to decide whether you accept the price quoted and tell the company to begin building the prototype.
What is a typical RFQ? Most prototyping companies, like ours, use an online form to submit RFQs.
Your digital design file is the most important part of your request. This file should be in a standard format such as STEP or STL so that the prototyping company can immediately see what you are looking to build. You can submit a request with no digital file, but it’s much more difficult for the company to provide an accurate quote.
Also include information such as how many units you require, what material you prefer, whether you need a surface finish if you have a tight deadline, and any other requirements not apparent from the CAD file.
Your company will be able to build your prototype sooner if you give more detail.
- Place an order for a prototype
- Use CAD software to design your prototype
- Send the company prototyping a request to quote, including the digital design and other pertinent information.
- Accept or decline the quote you receive
- The prototyping company should be paid
- Get your prototype
- Collaboration with companies that produce prototypes
Prototyping is a complex process that requires a lot of collaboration between customers and prototyping companies.
Even if a company can provide a quote for the project, they might have many issues to address before they begin machining, 3D printing, or molding the item.
Prototype companies may offer feedback about your design and suggest ways it could be improved. They may also need additional information from you, such as a technical drawing or an annotation of the part.
The more you spend on your initial design, you will save time dealing with prototyping companies. Be sure to adhere to the design guidelines of your preferred manufacturing method. A CNC-machined prototype, for instance, must be constructed differently from a 3D-printed one.
A non-disclosure agreement is another important step before manufacturing. This contract prevents prototyping companies from selling or sharing your designs with unknown parties. You can find templates for NDAs online.
After the design and legal issues have been finalized, the prototyping firm will start making your parts according to the agreed schedule. They should also indicate the expected lead times ahead of time.
If your prototype has multiple components, your prototype may be manufactured in-house and outsourced to other manufacturers. If they intend to use a third-party, however, you should be informed by the prototyping company.
You may be provided with updates by the company during the process. However, this is not a standard or necessary.
Many prototyping companies offer some degree of guarantee for defective or damaged parts.
How to source prototypes from China
While the global market is changing rapidly, China may still offer the best balance of quality and value in prototyping.
It can be more difficult for Western startups to find a Chinese company that produces prototypes than a local supplier.
Here are some tips for outsourcing prototyping work to China
If possible, visit the company: Although this is not an easy task for most buyers from overseas, it can be a good idea to go and see what they are doing.
Interrogate the company. Ask as many questions over the phone as possible. Get technical. You’ll have problems later if the company doesn’t get it.
Verify their certifications. ISO certifications show that an independent body has audited an organization. Although certifications are not the complete story, they can be a helpful place to start.
Is it worth it
High-quality prototypes can make a big difference in the success of your product.
Prototypes that work better are more reliable surrogates for your final components. They also feel and look better, which makes them more attractive to potential investors and customers.
It is much easier to form solid partnerships with companies who build prototypes than it is to try and build a prototype yourself.
Get a quote from Topworks to design your prototype.