The importance of rapid prototyping

A prototype is an anticipation of a final product, which presents its core functionalities. Rapid prototyping (RP), on the other hand, is the process of quickly creating a prototype so that an engineering product design can be tested in the real world and frequently modified.

As a forecast of the end product, the RP process has many advantages:

Market research

Testing a prototype in the target market allows the company to obtain feedback from the end customers, refine and improve the design, and thus increase its competitiveness.

Cost & time optimization

3D-printed prototypes avoid expensive tooling, setup costs, and long lead times. Once they have a prototype, the user can actually check the solution in practice and give feedback. The proposed changes can be implemented instantly and retested before the final version moves into production. This allows us to modify the end product while avoiding cost and time overruns in the event of a failed product, and considerably reducing the overall risk.

Speed

Since it is a projection of the final product, a prototype increases the speed of development of the overall product/solution. RP allows the prototype to undergo the process of design, testing, and, if necessary, quickly adapting and adjusting to new and unforeseen requirements.

Challenging deadlines: an example of rapid solution delivery

For more than 50 years, the Consumer Technology Association’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES®) has been the global stage for innovation. Our American customer Itron, committed to creating efficient utilities, smarter cities and a more resourceful world by delivering innovative technologies and services, was planning on attending CES2018.

The team at Instrumentation Technologies was asked to develop a key hardware solution for Itron. The product was meant to showcase hardware and software solutions for smart cities at CES2018, and consisted of hardware with complex multi-node and multi-root networks, along with development packages for the customer’s user community. Moreover, Itron wanted to present energy-efficient form factors for companies looking for energy-saving or battery-powered devices.

The design, development, and production requirements were dictated by the CES show, and therefore the delivery date was not negotiable. A team at Instrumentation Technologies, made up of fourteen hardware and software engineers, quality control and supply chain specialists, worked round the clock to deliver the product in just four weeks.

The team faced a few critical days at the beginning of the project: clear objectives, materials and procedures had to be evaluated in a short period of time, and they all required an agile approach to hardware design.

Constant communication and regular meetings with Itron’s team were crucial in order to obtain precise definitions of the requirements.

Quality Control was involved in all stages of design and development, which minimized the risks and shortened the testing time prior to the production of the boards.

Finally, the design team evaluated the certification requirements and obtained FCC certification, ensuring that the electromagnetic interference was under the prescribed limits in the United States.

In thirty days, four complete engineering boards and three development kits were delivered to Itron, ready to be showcased at CES2018.

Conclusion

Allowing the user to see, touch and test the model of a future end product can be a determining factor when the customer dictates the requirements, especially when deadlines are tight. Customer feedback is crucial to obtaining a high-quality end solution, and the development of a prototype can be decisive when aiming for customer satisfaction.

 

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