Invention Prototype Development

You have your new product idea and are ready to develop your invention prototype.

A common and costly mistake that new inventors make is to rush to develop a prototype design before they have worked out all of the kinks. It takes time to design a prototype. This can be frustrating for a new inventor who wants to rush to market. In every case I can think of, anyone who tried to rush the process either wasted a lot of money, developed a poor product that did not sell, or both! 

I discuss the invention design cycle in detail in my Invent And Profit System TM but here are the basics: Follow the process as described here and you will have the best opportunity for success.

Tip: Do not pay money for a professional prototype until you are at stage 4 of the design/redesign cycle.

Inventor's Success Tip

"Do not pay money for a professional prototype until you are at Stage 4 of the invention design/redesign cycle."

The Invention Prototype Cycle - 6 Steps

This chart demonstrates the invention design/redesign cycle that successful inventors follow when developing a successful invention.

Invention prototype flowchart from
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No-cost Prototype Design - Step 1

Make the first version of your invention prototype out of paper, pencil, tape, glue, or whatever you have laying around the house.  I have done this for every one of my products and trust me, you will discover both problem areas and opportunities for improvement from this very simple, no-cost exercise. 

As you will see in the graphic, you will need to make several of these basic prototypes and tweak your design a few times before you are ready to move to step 2.

How To Design A prototype - Step 2

Once you are satisfied with your no-cost invention prototype you are ready to take a trip to the hobby, hardware, or home improvement store.  I actually enjoy spending hours roaming the aisles of these stores looking for pre-existing products that I can use, alter, or cannibalize for parts to make my next prototype.  Be prepared to keep an open mind and open eyes to find parts that will work for you. 

I have used toilet parts, PVC pipe, glue, wood, screws, roofing flashing, tape, and a host of other materials to develop my invention prototypes.  Every item is fair game if it will work well for you.  And, once you find a good part, keep looking because you will inevitably find something better on the next aisle.  Again, you will build a working model and then redesign it a few times before you are happy with the outcome.

Prototype Design - Step 3

By now you should be fairly comfortable with your invention prototype design. Now is when you will develop professional design drawings often referred to as Computer Aided Design or CAD drawings. Some people are proficient in the use of CAD software and others, like myself, need to hire someone who works in this area. I work with an engineer who not only designs my drawings but can also assist me with choices of materials, sizes, strengths, etc.

Ultimately you will want to work with someone who has designed products for manufacture because not only do you need a good design but you need a design that can be manufactured easily using common manufacturing techniques and equipment.  This is not the place to save money and try to do it yourself as it will surely cost you a lot more in lost time, mistakes, manufacturing troubles and more if you are not experienced in this area. 

Again, like in every other step of the process, you will continue to redesign your invention prototype until it is just right.

Make A Professional Prototype - Step 4

Finally you are ready to make a professional prototype.  Most products today can be made on a 3-D printer.  This technology did not exist when I started making prototypes and everything was made painstakingly by hand.  Today, you put your CAD designs on the computer and print them out in full three-dimension prints. 

3-D printed prototypes are very accurate and will provide you with a product that you can test in the real world.  You can also use these prototypes to test your market. (I discuss testing the market later on) 

Invention prototype designPrototype design for disposable safety needle
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One Last Prototype Design - Step 5

Your professional invention prototype is complete and you have worked out all of the final kinks. Now, once you are ready, you will work with your manufacturer to review your design and comment on whether there are any manufacturing issues.

Once you both agree on the manufacture-ready drawings then you will have your manufacturer make one last prototype using their machines and the actual materials you plan to use for the retail product. I have made it to this stage and realized I had to make even more last minute changes for every product I have manufactured. 

However, once I am ready to engage in the very costly manufacturing process I know that I have done everything I can to identify problems up front so that I do not waste money on a bad mold or bad run.

Moving Forward to a new product - Step 6

Finally, you are ready to move from invention prototype to actual production of a product for consumer use!