Prototyping your invention means making it come alive! A prototype can be either a virtual three-dimensional (3D) representation of your invention which can then viewed over the internet on a computer screen, or an actual functional prototype made from either plastic and/or metal materials, and which may further include electronic circuitry, motors, batteries, etc. First Inventors uses the industry standard SolidWorks computer aided design (CAD) program for generating both the virtual 3D prototype as well as for designing and developing the functional prototype.
A simple virtual 3D model will display the entire outside surface of the invention, and may include some additional “inside features” if they are required to clarify functionality. The inventor as well as any potential purchasers or licensees can view the model on a computer screen and rotate the object to view all sides. A more complex model will show the internal parts of the invention. Most simple inventions will require only a virtual model and not need a functional prototype. For most inventions, an outside surface rendering model for the virtual 3D prototype is sufficient for potential licensees to understand and appreciate your invention. As an example, a virtual prototype model of the invention disclosed in Step 1 can be viewed here, along with the revised model based upon Step 4, Competitive Analysis. Note the addition of the finger wells as suggested by the results of the Competitive Analysis.
A functional prototype is an actual physical model which performs the invention’s major functionality. The functional prototype design begins first with a well defined set of user specifications. These set of user specifications are first derived from the initial problem definition and solution, and further modified by STEP 2, Friends and Family User Group Study; STEP 3, Professional Invention Evaluation; STEP 4, Competitive Analysis and Marketing Strategy; and STEP 5, Patent Search and Analysis. The set of user specifications is very important at this point because the functional prototype will use these specifications as a blueprint for further product development.
The next step in developing a functional prototype is to define a set of technical specifications based upon the set of user specifications. The set of technical specifications serves as the technical foundation for transforming the “paper” invention into a functional prototype. For example, a user specification would state that the product will be used during a swimming exercise, while the corresponding technical specification would stipulate that the product should remain operable over a temperature range of 32 – 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Based upon the set of technical specifications, a block diagram of the prototype is then created which defines the technical functionality and implementation, and the design process continues until a final prototype is constructed.
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