Manufacturing products in New Zealand means you must be smart and responsive to the market. Incorporating prototyping in your product development process can be a key to a leaner, more agile approach in getting a profitable product to market.

However, before you can determine whether your business needs to develop a prototype, it's important to understand what it is. In general, prototyping is simply the creation of a functional version of your product that can be used in real-world scenarios that invite reviews, tests, and feedback before you officially introduce it to the market.

What is prototyping?

In the contract manufacturing world, prototyping - sometimes known as rapid prototyping - is a set of techniques used to quickly fabricate a scale model of a physical part or assembly using three-dimensional computer aided design (CAD) data. In a nutshell, it's about designing and creating a template that can then be reproduced as many times as necessary.

CAD is a software package that's used to create the drawings for the design. It's in 3D format, so a customer can actually see the prototype before it's built. What this allows designers to do is get as much of the detail correct before the prototype is built.

Challenging the vision

When it comes to challenges, the toughest one to meet is around a customer's vision. The idea is to take that vision and then create a design that comes as close as possible to what they have in their mind - or what they've sketched on a piece of paper. The challenge continues when the prototype is being built; it needs to match the design specifications while still remaining true to the customer's vision.

The other main challenge is around costing. A customer may have an upper limit in mind, but the cost of creating the design and then building the prototype might exceed that. Not only that, but once the prototype has been built, the costs involved may mean that manufacturing it for market is not cost-effective.

What it boils down to is that for both these challenges, the expectation and the reality could be poles apart.

This is where a contract manufacturer can help. Because they have experience in manufacturing, they come with a practicality that can assess a customer's vision and tie it down in reality. At ENI, we'll look at the original concept and come up with a modified design that's both manufacturable and cost-effective.

Design and manufacture

We're working with a company at the moment who imported their product. They were experiencing issues with supply and costs, which drove the decision to approach ENI about designing an alternative, improved product. They provided the scope of what they were looking for, and we drew up some plans and provided quotes. Once they were happy with the design, we went to work building the prototype. The prototype was reviewed and tested, and after some minor adjustments, they took it to market.

They then had two options:

  1. They own the IP, so they can take it out and have someone else manufacture it
  2. They sign a contract with ENI for the manufacturing

In this case, the concept of prototyping is utilising ENI's design team to create the design and then manufacture the product, which is what the customer has decided to do.

Remember, prototypes don’t have to be made by you directly. If your business venture involves a product that requires more technical know-how or industry-specific expertise, it’s not uncommon to engage a product engineer or someone with more experience under their belt to help you craft the preliminary version of your product.

A lot of inventions and business products that seem credible in our imagination become more cumbersome and difficult to wield once a prototype is created. However, this isn’t a drawback of prototyping, it’s a major benefit. Once you’ve created a prototype, you can see where the kinks are in your product and address them. For that reason, prototyping can be an iterative process, where you work to keep improving on it until you feel it is ready to present to a potential investor or your client base.

A contract manufacturer means a customer can benefit from having design and manufacturing expertise under the same roof. At ENI, we’ll find ways to design a prototype that’s as close as possible to both your vision and your budget, and you’ll have the option to utilise our manufacturing abilities and technology to take your idea to market.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help with your ideas for creating and building a prototype, we’d love to start a discussion.

Find out more about how contract manufacturing can help your business to ‘make it big’.