Prototypes validate designs. Just as -- or possibly more -- important, they validate designs before they go into production.
The advantages of prototyping in manufacturing products using complex features like motion control, such as a counterbalance hinge, are easy to see. The additional cost of prototyping can actually mean substantial savings by preventing an expensive “oops” once your product hits the market.
Some, but not all, motion control solutions providers make prototyping a standard practice in their facilities. Some manufacturers will produce a prototype even if the customer doesn’t ask for one. The reason? Safety and liability.
There are other reasons to prototype a motion control design. Let’s look at them all!
The Advantages of Prototyping in 8 Simple Facts
Motion control design prototypes offer a fairly long list of benefits. Some are obvious, others not so much.
The advantages of motion control prototyping are as follows:
- Makes the product cheaper in the long term (More on this in a bit.)
- Cuts down on lead time because there’s less backtracking to fix issues
- Proof of concept: You’ll know your heavy-duty hinge manufacturer has built (and, ideally, tested) to your engineering specifications
- Offers a hands-on lesson in the best ways to design and assemble the component
- Helps with any large-scale, full-product prototyping you choose to do on your own later
- Helps with certain certifications. If your manufacturer can create a successful prototype, you may be able to get product certification before investing in tooling
- Get early buy-in from sales and marketing. If they believe in what they see, they can get a head start on producing marketing materials
- Enhance safety, reducing liability concerns. Both OEM and contract manufacturer will rest assured knowing the product won’t malfunction or slam on its customers’ fingers.
When You Don’t Prototype a Motion Control Design ...
Stressing the importance of prototyping might be more effective by showing you the dangers of not prototyping. The hazards include:
- Production delays caused by design inadequacies
- Expensive tooling changes
- Extended time to market, resulting in an advantage for competitors
- Delayed release of sales and marketing information
- Increased liability because of unforeseen flaws that create a risk to end users
How Much Does Prototyping Cost?
Hinge prototyping costs totally depend on the partner you choose.
If you take your idea to a design house, they’ll probably charge you for the design and the prototype. Other hinge suppliers find it’s good business to figure prototyping into the development costs of larger orders. They may even provide you the first prototype for free.
Prototyping might add to the overall cost of developing your motion control solution. But working out problems and having a manufacturing partner to lean on for design advice is priceless. (Cue sappy Mastercard commercial.)
Examples of Prototyping for Safety
The importance of prototyping is clear for all industries, but especially in certain high-stakes industries. Industrial, construction, medical, and food applications come to mind:
- Industrial, construction, and food: Developing motion control hinges that can withstand heavy use as well as heavy weights is critical. Heavy-duty toolboxes and food appliance lids can be a chore to lift, and dropping them is a huge injury risk. You could also be in danger when using, say, a grill if you have to reach over a flame as you struggle to open it fully.
- Medical and food: These industries present a liability risk if you design something that causes contamination. For example, a leaky gas cylinder could ooze onto food or harm a hospital patient. Because they are so important to employee, customer, and patient safety, these components must be developed to remain sturdy and reliable.
Prototyping Does Not = Testing
Prototyping makes 100% sure that the manufacturer made what your specs called for. However, it doesn’t always assure that your design will actually work in the real world.
That’s the job of testing. Testing services help you evaluate what might go wrong, the odds of something going wrong, and the steps needed to stop it from happening.
Examples of testing a motion control design include:
- Life-cycle testing to help predict a product’s reliability over time
- Drop testing for determining a product’s resistance to impact
- Component failure testing to check on the component’s resistance to weather, stress, temperature, etc.
- Design failure mode and effect analysis (DFMEA) to look at ways to improve the design
- Process failure mode and effect analysis (PFMEA) to identify failure risks before tooling has been acquired
Prototyping plays an important part in carrying out these tests and ensuring reliable test results. It’s as close as you can come to testing the actual product before it goes into production.
When Failure Is Not an Option
Given its cost-effectiveness and many benefits, prototyping is an obvious step in development and manufacturing of motion control products. Reducing the possibility of failure means reducing the potential for embarrassment when your product hits the market.
Try to snag a hinge and counterbalance manufacturer that offers in-house prototyping. Bonus points if they also offer at least a few of the testing services above!