Prototyping serial Manufactoring
Definitions: Prototypes, short series and mass production.
The mission of most inventors is to transform an idea into a product ready for sale. Whether you intend to sell the product or if your desire is to sell the patent, you must know the stages and steps to complete the path.
Prototypes: These are the initial versions of the products. Prototypes are designed and manufactured with three fundamental objectives: Demonstrate that inventions work. Present the invention to investors and industrial partners. Bring the invention closer to the processes of industrialization. The prototyping process allows you to learn enough about the product, its functions and foreseeable complications in the manufacturing processes. For this reason, the necessary iteration speed conditions the techniques useful for prototypes are manufactured.
Short Series: Pre-series or short series are called the manufacturing processes of replicas of functional prototypes. Once the operation and appearance of the functional prototypes is validated, the prototype is replicated with non-industrial techniques. The objective of the short series or pre-series, is to activate patent sales processes and learn about the usability of the product. Short series are usually less than 150 – 200 units.
Mass production: This is the process of industrial manufacture of inventions. With the accumulated learning in the prototyping and manufacturing stage of short series, an adjustment process is carried out so that the product can be manufactured in series. In the industrial manufacturing stage, the main objective is to achieve mass production methods that are very cheap, so that the product reaches the market with sufficient economic margin.
Objectives: Prototypes, short series and mass production.
- Demonstrate that the idea works.
- Optimize the parts and pieces of the product thinking about the possible future techniques of mass production.
- Define a patent that accumulates all the learning of the prototyping process.
- Show your product to potential investors or those interested in exploiting or buying the patent.
Value the interaction users – prototypes.
Have sufficient units to start the process of selling the patent, attracting investment or approaching factories to produce in series.
Correct critical operational details that can only be discovered in a test process with real users/customers.
To make manufacturing per unit as cheap as possible, to maximize the economic margins of the product.
Activate 100% of the sales channels of the product.
Maximize business opportunities with potential buyers of the patent or interested in exploiting it commercially.
6 Steps to Mass Prototyping
Mistakes in the industry are almost irreversible and very expensive. After a decade working hand in hand with Inventors, we can assure you that: every euro you save in the first Steps, will be multiplied by tens of thousands of euros in the later stages, which is where you really play the economic viability of your product in the market.
The design of the prototype is divided into two stages, in the first the concepts of the inventor are expressed graphically to align interests and product vision. The second stage includes a product optimization work that will have a high impact on the future profitability of the product, which is, in short, what investors and potential buyers of your patent will value you.
Taking as reference the industrial design defined and validated in the first stage, the parts and pieces will be manufactured using handcrafted pieces. The first objective is to demonstrate that each part works correctly and then integrate them and form the first version of the your working prototype. It won't be perfect, but it's a critical step. It's the first time you'll be able to "touch" your idea.
Although in the previous stage, the main operating hypotheses are validated. The truth is that the process of evolution of the first models to a prototype version that, in addition to meeting the expectations of operation, is aesthetic and apparent to be a final product is critical. Along with the delivery of this version of the prototype, all the necessary documentation is delivered to be able to replicate it.
Before investing in the process of adaptation to factories with the capacity to reproduce the product in thousands of units, you will surely want to make sure that customers accept it, know how to use it, or have the necessary units to present your prototype to private investors, potential interested in buying your patent or industrial partners to take the project to the next level. Short series do not usually exceed 200 units.
The process of adaptation to the industry includes two stages. First, potential factories are identified based on the compatibility between their manufacturing capacities and needs, unit price and logistics costs. Once the right partners have been chosen to undertake the mass production of the product, the necessary technical adjustments are made so that the parts and pieces can be replicated in thousands of units automatically.
After obtaining the first samples of the product, manufactured industrially, it is essential to carry out tests to validate the quality of the result. Subsequently, the product will be ready to be commercially launched in the target markets that are convenient.
Techniques for mass production.
Production of plastic products
Manufacturing by Rotomolding: This is a process of pouring plastic powder into a structured mold. Once the powder is introduced, the temperature is raised to achieve the function of the material while the mold rotates continuously. Subsequently, the mold is cooled and opened to extract the shaped piece.
Plastic injection: Plastic injection is one of the most widely used mass manufacturing techniques. Taking as a reference the existence of a mold or matrix, usually made of steel, the molten polymer is injected inside to obtain the desired piece inside the matrix.
Extrusion: Extrusion is a technique where polymers are also injected at high temperatures to form parts from a matrix. On the other hand, instead of forming the part, cooling the mold for its subsequent extraction, a continuous injection is made while forming a continuous product with the desired geometry.
Vacuum: This is the compression of a sheet inside the molds or dies. With this technique it is possible to manufacture in series the interior linings of the pieces.
Mass production of metal products
Metal cutting: Cutting is a technique used to separate metal parts into desired shapes. Various tools, such as saws, lasers or plasma, are used to remove excess material and obtain the required shape.
Folding: Bending is a technique that allows metal sheets to be shaped by applying force to bend them at specific angles. This is achieved using bending machines that exert pressure and manipulate the metal to obtain the desired shapes.
Welding: The welding technique is used to join metal parts by melting or pressing the materials. There are different welding methods, such as arc welding, spot welding or laser welding, which allow to create strong and durable joints.
Machining: Machining is a process by which metals are shaped by removing material using cutting tools, such as lathes, milling machines, or drills. This technique allows to obtain metal parts with precise shapes and high quality finishes.
Shearing: Shearing is a technique used to cut metal sheets by using shears. These tools apply a concentrated force on a cutting line to separate the material and obtain parts with clean, straight edges.
Stamping: Stamping is a technique that involves pressing a metal sheet with matrices to obtain specific shapes and patterns. By applying force, metal sheets are deformed and components with precise and repeatable details are created.
Casting: Casting is a process in which metal is melted and poured into a mold to create a certain shape. Once the metal cools and solidifies, it is extracted from the mold, resulting in metal parts with complex shapes and consistent mechanical properties.
Mass production of electronic products
Component assembly: Component assembly is a process in which electronic components are placed and welded onto a printed circuit board (PCB). This can be done manually or automated by assembly machines, such as pick-and-place machines, which place components in the correct positions and weld them to the PCB.
Solder: Solder is used to attach the electronic components to the PCB. Different welding methods are employed, such as reflow soldering, in which heat is applied to melt the tin and join the components, and wave soldering, in which the PCB is immersed in a wave of molten tin to solder the components.
Encapsulation: Encapsulation is the process of protecting electronic components by applying a protective cover, such as epoxy resin or plastic, around them. This helps protect components from moisture, dust, and physical impacts, and also provides electrical insulation.
Testing and quality control: Testing and quality control are essential techniques in the industrialization of electronic products. Functional testing, performance testing, and durability testing are performed to make sure electronics meet quality standards and perform properly before being shipped to market.
Final assembly: Final assembly involves the integration of all electronic components and assemblies into a housing or chassis. This may include assembling displays, keyboards, batteries, connectors and other items, as well as conducting final tests to ensure proper operation of the entire product.
In the mass production process, there are no shortcuts.
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In the process of mass manufacturing a product, there are no shortcuts. We describe the main risks of taking these steps early.
How much does it cost to mass produce a new product?
The process of transition from the prototype to the final product, industrialized and ready to be reproduced thousands of times automatically, can be more or less expensive depending on the quality with which the functional prototype has been raised.
According to our experience, the integration of the engineering disciplines involved in product development, as well as experience in transition processes "prototypes" – "mass production" are the aspects that most condition the price of the industrialization process of a product.
Integration of engineering disciplines: For example, in a prototype of an industrial IOT machine, it is essential that the departments of design, electronics, telecommunications, mechanics, work side by side, in the same environment, where they materialize their work and thinking about the integration of results. It is very common for inventors, to save money at this stage, to hire companies inexperienced in these processes or worse, to manufacture it with independent professionals who do not live in the same space.
Taking into account these variables, we have witnessed very similar product industrialization processes, with comparable costs, precisely because of the way in which the industrialization process had been foreseen from the prototype.
Much has to do with the process of attracting investment or selling the patent. Private investors or large brands that could buy the exploitation rights of your patent, will value in the prototype, the real proximity of the same with a future industrialization process, a variable that substantially conditions the price of the operation.
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