Why prototype before crowdfunding?
With a functioning prototype, you can prove to your crowdfunding backers and the media that your idea is an actual working product.
You will go through the following steps of prototypes until you can actually start crowdfunding:
0)Proof of Concept (PoC)
1)Various Prototypes for Different Purposes
2)Design For Manufacturing (DFM) Prototype
During the prototyping phase, make sure to take full advantage of Fab labs and their equipment, in addition to DIY electronic platforms such as Raspberry Pi and Arduino.
(If you don’t know the difference between the two, check out this post here to find out if you should be using Raspberry Pi or Arduino)
Three (or four) steps of prototyping
Step 0) Proof of Concept (PoC)
The point of the PoC prototype is to find out if your product idea is technically and scientifically feasible. This type of prototype is also called “breadboards” or “duct-tape prototype” and there is no need to make it resemble your final product.
To keep this process efficient, you can use things that already exist, like DYI development such as Raspberry Pi or Aruido. Keep in mind these kits are usually much larger than custom PCBs and should not be used for later prototypes.
With a PoC, if you find your idea unviable, you can tweak things around or go straight back to brainstorming without having to lament over wasted time and money building a full prototype.
Step 1)Various Prototypes for Different Purposes
Once you’ve proved your idea’s feasibility with the PoC, then it’s time to make the design in your mind into a reality. Since you will be making many of them, each prototype does not have to be completely finished devices as long as they serve their purposes.
These are the prototypes where you experiment each function, treating each decision as a hypothesis and find the right choice through much trial and error.
During this stage, it is crucial to test if your design allows for the incorporation of the mechanical and electrical requirements of the device. By making these prototypes, you also have something to present to investors and friends and receive feedback for further improvement.
-These physical models can be created within only a couple of days with 3D printing, stereolithography, or plastic laser sintering.
Mechanical and Electronic Prototypes
– German hardware startup Senic recommends the following:
“For electronics, ordering parts from SparkFun, Seed Studio, Adafruit or TinkerSoup is great because they have a huge selection and ship fast.For mechanical parts we use our local construction market or websites likeMcMaster-Carr.“
-You’re probably fixated on the hardware at this point, but don’t forget about software. Keep in mind the process of full system integration of software can take up to several months so it’s good to balance software programming at the same time you’re building other prototypes.
This is the prototype that looks and feels like the end product featuring all of the key functions.
You can use this prototype to start making your crowdfunding campaign videos as well.
Step 2) Design For Manufacturing (DFM)
The DFM prototype is the prototype which should be a replica of the MVP, but its fabrication and assembly is designed for easy manufacturing. The DFM is crucial because it allows for a smooth transition from prototype to mass production.
Creating the DFM prototype will be difficult and I understand it may not be your top priority at this time. I assure you though, since this transition from prototype to mass production is the “death valley” of hardware startups, making this DFM the make or break factor of your project’s success.
Remember, the DFM is built for manufacturing, so once you’ve got the DFM, you can move on to the next step, building the production timeline. Take this advice from MIT professor Elaine Chen:
“The best DFM strategy I know is to design every custom part with the target manufacturing technique in mind. Then, start interviewing suppliers for each part, and engage top candidates in design reviews early and often” –Elaine Chen (Bringing a Hardware Product to Market)
Through this process, you probably will have gone through 10-20 prototypes by the time you finish your DFM.
There’s no denying that prototyping will cost time and money. But there’s nothing like a sound prototype that will impress your backers and the media bringing you one step closer to crowdfunding success!
That was #2 of our Tips for Crowdfunding series!
Keep on the lookout for our 3rd article on Production Timeline and Price Setting coming soon.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.