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4 Different Types of Prototypes Inventors Should Know

Did you know there are actually different types of prototypes, with different functions? Here’s a breakdown of the top four types of prototypes, and what their functions are for your product development.

When you have an idea for improving an existing product or developing something new, it is vital that you make a prototype. A prototype is the embodiment of your idea, which can be used to test its feasibility and get feedback. It can also help you get funding or convince others that your idea has potential: there are many different types of prototypes, but they all provide insight into the viability and market appeal of your ideas.

For that reason, there are several factors to consider when creating a prototype. At first, for an initial prototype, you will want to develop it as cheaply and quickly as possible to save time and money, at this stage a mock up is the most convenient. As you progress through product development and move to more advanced stages, cost effectiveness is replaced by quality of the result and is often replaced by MVPs.

Below, we have summarized the four main types of prototypes, in order of importance to your feasibility study and development process:

1. Mock up

The most basic of prototypes, a mockup is simply the outer shell of your product. There are no functional features, just the visualization of what your product will look like. It may seem like the most useless type of prototype, but it can actually be very useful for planning product development and the most economical.

Whether on paper or in 3D model format, seeing your product idea visualized through a mockup is a great way to move forward and continue your product development.

2. Basic Prototype

The basic prototype is one level higher than the mockup. And unlike the mockup, the basic prototype will have some sort of function. If you choose this type of prototype for your product, it will often have function over aesthetics in mind, which means you will be able to see how your product works, with all the essential components to make it work, while the exterior design takes a back seat.

This is where your idea can really be validated, because it has a basic functional purpose.

3. MVP (minimum viable product)

This type of prototype is a working prototype that has also been developed aesthetically – essentially a mashup of the two previous prototypes mentioned. In this prototype you can see what your idea will look like in the real world: it allows you to test your idea with your target audience and present it to potential investors.

Although the previous prototypes were more basic, it is important to keep in mind that MVPs use commercial components, so they are subject to certain size restrictions.

4. MVP Premium

The final type of prototype is the MVP Premium, which includes everything above with the addition of customer-made components. This option would also have improved functionality and aesthetics, making it even more lifelike and ready for mass production.

This prototype is made with customised components, especially the PCB (printed circuit board) which will help to reduce the size of the device and improve on its usability.

In short

It’s important to note that none of these prototypes are ready for mass production; they must first go through an additional process, which we usually call Design for Manufacturing (DFM) where we guarantee its manufacturability and point out a number of manufacturers with who to work with.

Not sure where to start with your idea? Check out our whitepaper, “Dare to Invent: the Art of Invention,” which explores what it means to be an inventor, along with some handy tips for what to come prepared with when approaching LastBasic with an idea.

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