Here’s a typical prototyping and low-volume production scene: The prototype performed well in testing and then injection molding tools were produced. 1 or 2 Months later, the first molded components were going to be assembled. Unexpectedly, parts that should fit well have to throw away. Design changes were required and the launch date suffered. Understandably, panic and recriminations followed.
Subsequently detail inspection revealed this happened because the mold designer added essential draft angles that were missing from the prototype. Clearances became interference fits and the product no longer worked like the prototype.
Problems like these are common when moving from prototyping to low-volume production. It’s a transition fraught with numerous challenges, any one of which can delay a project.
The Relationship Between Prototyping and Low-Volume Production
It is not a simple process to bring a new product to market. There will be full of missteps, design changes, test failures and customer feedbacks which will force revisions. Based on these reasons, multiple prototypes will be needed. These serve several purposes, including:
Explaining the product concept to potential investors
Evaluating manufacturing and assembly feasibility
Eliciting feedback from potential customers
Complicating matters, there's the volume equation. Prototypes are needed in single digit quantities. More units are needed for testing and perhaps distribution to potential customers. Then, as the orders start coming in, bigger quantities are needed — perhaps hundreds, hopefully quickly growing to thousands. Unless you’re Apple launching a new phone, though, volumes are likely to ramp up slowly and that has a huge impact on your production economics.
Finding the Right Partner for Prototyping and Low-Volume Production
Prototyping and low-volume production are distinct yet intimately interrelated steps in bringing a new product to market. Viewing them as isolated activities risks failing to benefit from lessons learned during prototyping. Finding a partner able to support both steps ensures a design team can navigate the many issues involved in selecting and using the optimal manufacturing processes.
At PT, we have extensive experience managing the transition from prototype to low-volume production and make it a point of sharing our tooling theory with our partners so that no important details get lost along the way. Contact us today to start the process of bringing your product to market.