There is a two-fold purpose and a number of phases to making a invention prototype.
- Primary -
The primary purpose is to prove to yourself that your invention will work.
It is a research and development phase that will eventually produce a final "pre-production" model of your invention.
You develop your invention prototype to create a working model that is patentable and potentially profitable.
It allows you to test functionality and make improvements before moving forward. This is an important phase with respect to the patenting process.
If you patent your invention before finalizing your prototype you may not have included any improvements or you may make claims that are no longer a part of your invention.
You will probably make many prototypes before you finalize your product.
Depending on what your invention is - will determine whether you can make a prototype yourself or have it made for you.
If you have access/connections to materials - you may create a prototype yourself, or if not, you will need to make arrangements to have it made for you.
You will need to make drawings, schematics and/or diagrams of your product and it's functions. This process should provide an understanding of how your product will be manufactured - which determines the manufacturing costs.
- Secondary -
The secondary purpose is to prove to someone else that your invention works.
During this phase you are attending to issues related to financing, patenting and licensing your invention or establishing a business to do so.This is where you have a final prototype that you will use, as one of your tools, to convince investors and/or licensees of the profitability of your invention.
Computer Generated PrototypeConstructing a fully functional invention prototype can be expensive and time consuming, however modern technology makes this process less expensive and faster.The drawings, schematics and/or diagrams of your invention prototype can be three-dimensionally created with computer software that is integrated and programmed with machinery.
This machinery can then make "all" or "parts of" your invention using the required materials in various molding processes.
This technology is known as CAD/CAM (computer aided design/computer aided manufacturing) and the prototyping process is called "rapid application development" or "rapid prototyping".
Companies that do this type of work specialized in different fields of manufacturing and tend to focus on certain types of products.
For example, a company may specialize in "rapid electronics prototyping" for circuit boards related to thermostats.
Prototype CompaniesYou can find these companies through a local university where the engineering departments have connections with them.
If you decide to use a prototype maker, you will want to check their references before using their services. You will also want to have the necessary agreements executed to protect yourself.
Most prototype companies charge an hourly rate for the work they do. You should ask for an estimate of time and cost.
Most reputable prototype makers depend upon their reputations for the work they do. They have a good idea about their time and costs.
You may want to stipulate a budget or "price cap" on the work. This prevents "padding" which means they may take longer and bill more hours than is warranted.
Like any relationship, working with an invention prototype company can be mutually beneficial - as both of you can benefit from each others connections.