Idea! > Prototype > Building

Idea to prototype:

“All children are born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.”-- Pablo Picasso.

The Sketch.

No excuses allowed here, dust off those childhood artistic skills and get to work sketching your idea. You’ll need this to creatively work out any kinks as you go – from here you can get your sketch, dimensions, and any notes to a designer who can turn it into a CAD file or 3D rendering. You can start by clicking here to find a designer to help bring your sketch to the next level.


Obviously there are many types of prototypes depending on your project. Some can be done with a 3D printer or metal fabricator, in clothing you’ll need a cut and sew professional, or in the food industry you’ll need to work with a package designer or co-packer.

You can click here to start your search for a 3D printer, fabricator, cut and sew professional, or whatever best suits your project’s needs.

In some cases manufacturers will help you with the prototype. It’s important to understand that quality manufacturers are very busy and you should have all of your files and dimensions in order to respect everyone’s time.

Once you have thoroughly tested your prototype its time to find the right manufacturer.

Types of prototyping:
3D printing
Metal fabrication or CNC machining
Cut and sew and tech pack development (will include size charts etc)
Plastics and molding
Package design & development
Co-packer (food product development)

3D printing is essentially a process where material is deposited layer by layer to form the complete object. To have a design 3D printed, you need STL files. 3D printing is a great process for quick turnaround of functional prototypes but the surface finish is not as good as production grade parts. Though the parts can undergo post processing to provide a great surface finish. There are various types of 3D printing techniques suited for various applications.  

Stereolithography(SLA)-  A high accuracy prototyping technique capable of producing products with tight tolerances and relatively smooth surface finish. SLA is especially suited for prototyping of small detailed parts as well as creating appearance models after post processing.

Selective laser sintering( SLS)- SLS is competent in producing strong functional parts with accuracy. SLS can help produce complex designs with no need of an additional support structure. It can be used for functional prototyping as well as custom or short run manufacturing. Although the surface finish of the part is usually rough.

Fused deposition modelling( FDM)- A cheap and fast way of producing prototypes. With the low cost of machine and material, it can be used to produce low cost, basic proof of concept prototypes. But, the parts produced are of low quality and accuracy compared to other techniques.

Digital light processing( DLP)-  A very similar technique to SLA, it is a fast and an accurate way of producing complicated design prototypes. But, the parts cannot be left out in the sun or they will degrade. Moreover, it is a very expensive method of producing prototypes.

2. CNC machining
CNC machining creates parts by selectively removing material from a block, just the opposite of 3D printing. CNC machining can produce parts with high precision and low tolerances over the wide range of materials like metal, wood, plastic etc. The surface finish produced is better as compared to 3D printing. However, the cost is higher for manufacturing single or few units, it is more cost effective beyond 20-40 parts.

3. Vacuum Casting/Silicone Molding
Vacuum casting can help produce units faster and at a low cost. Versatile mold shape and sizes help in producing a variety of shape and design with exceptional surface finish. Although, additional cost and resource might be required to produce the final product. It is suited for creating production grade prototypes in small batches.

4. Laser Cutting
Laser cutting technology that uses a high-powered laser( CO2 laser) to cut through a sheet of material to achieve the desired shape. The laser cutting process is highly accurate and yields excellent cut quality in a variety of materials like metals, fabrics, wood and some plastics. Due to being cut from a sheet of material, there is an inherent limitation to the complexity of parts that can be made using laser cutting. Unlike CNC machining, laser cutting is cost effective at low as well as higher volume.