In any product’s life cycle, during its development stage, prototype services are commonly employed for testing, analysis, and validation of the product. The process is a detailed one comprising industrial designers, engineers, and other specialists. In the past, industrial designers would frequently work independently of an engineering team, by handing off a concept and set of requirements to them (or vice versa) and simply wait to act upon the results.
Why Product Prototyping is Not Just a Service But a Partnership
Today, to ensure successful product development, industrial designers and engineers work in a collaborative partnership to transform a product concept into a marketable commodity or select merchandise. Open lines of communication or even sharing the same workspace promote an ongoing exchange of ideas between engineers and industrial designers that, ultimately, is a key that will lead to that product’s success.
Industrial designers work to develop concepts or initiate designs for the manufacture of products. Whether at work, in school, at home, or any environment, the everyday manufactured products people use in their daily lives, is the result of a product development cycle that begins with industrial design. Not only is a product’s aesthetic, functionality, usability, and manufacturability a result of industrial design, but its material innovations, ergonomics, end-user benefits, and even corporate branding.
Nevertheless, those objects and products for mass production for large numbers of consumers must go through a product development process. Once conceived, industrial designers start a collaborative relationship with their engineering team in moving toward a functional prototype design. The relationship is vital to a product’s success.
Engineering uses scientific processes to find solutions and figure out how things function. In many ways, it is a multidisciplinary profession that draws on math, chemistry, electronics, material science, and physics to optimize processes and, in relation to industrial design applications, the development of products. Engineering has many sub-disciplines, among them are chemical, electrical, mechanical, civil, industrial, and, in this regard, design.
Working in conjunction with industrial designers, engineers bring expertise in design tools and techniques in creating drawings, models, and blueprints and providing prototype services. Both disciplines share similar skill sets in the arts and sciences. The distinction is fine—each must have knowledge of material sciences, production, fabrication techniques, and manufacturing processes. That said, industrial designers are primarily concerned with form whereas their engineer counterparts deal with function. The collaborative process between industrial designers and engineers brings form and function together. This is best illustrated during prototyping.
In many instances of product development, during the iterations of prototyping, initially, it’s not uncommon for two types of models to be built. The first being a “looks-like” prototype of the product and the second being the “works-like” prototype. The former demonstrates a look, a possible form, or aesthetic that the finished product will possess while the latter “works-like” prototype will demonstrate its functionality. Once form and function are agreed upon, a third prototype can be made or rendered using CAD programs.
In prototyping, engineers and industrial designers utilize CAD (computer-aided design) programs to design, create, and configure products during development. CAD software can simulate 3D modeling to address any potential issues with form and function virtually—before building a prototype. More than offering efficiency and realizing cost savings, CAD 3D simulation modeling can aid in improving, enhancing, or refining the product design.
One of the keys to successful product development occurs when industrial designers and engineers form a collaborative partnership in bringing a product to market. From product concept to marketable commodity takes enormous time and effort. As both engineers and industrial designers share a common objective of creating an aesthetically pleasing, highly functional product, collaborative efforts can increase form and function that will pay lasting dividends.