prototype manufacturing is the pre-manufacturing phase of a machined part. Simply put, a prototype is an early sample, model, or release of a product. It’s designed to test and try a new design to enhance precision by system analysts and users. Prototyping serves to provide specifications for a real, working system rather than a theoretical one. In some workflow models, creating a prototype (a process sometimes called materialization) is the step of the formalization and the evaluation of an idea.
Different than the Finished Product
It is important to realize that by their very definition, prototypes will represent some compromise from the final production design. Due to differences in materials, processes and design fidelity, it is possible that a prototype may fail to perform acceptably whereas the production design may have been sound. The counter-intuitive idea is that prototypes may perform acceptably whereas the production design may be flawed since prototyping materials and processes may occasionally outperform their production counterparts.
Importance of Prototype Testing
It is possible to use prototype testing to reduce the risk that a design may not perform as intended. However prototypes generally cannot eliminate all risk. There are pragmatic and practical limitations to the ability of a prototype to match the intended final performance of the product and some allowances, and engineering judgment are often required before moving forward with a production design.
Prototyping Saves Time
Building the full design is often expensive and can be time-consuming, especially when repeated several times. As an alternative, rapid prototyping or rapid application development techniques are used for the initial prototypes, which implement part, but not all, of the complete design. This allows designers and manufacturers to rapidly and inexpensively test the parts of the design that are most likely to have problems, solve those problems and then build the full design.
Prototypes and the Perfect Design
Final production designs often require extensive effort to capture high volume manufacturing detail. Such detail is unwarranted for prototypes as some refinement to the design is to be expected. Often prototypes are built using very limited engineering detail as compared to final production intent, which often uses statistical process controls and rigorous testing.