Prototyping Companies: How to Choose the Best One


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How to choose the best prototyping company


Prototyping companies FAQs


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Researching prototyping companies is the first step to transforming your excellent idea into a tangible product. Having a quality prototype made can help you solve problems, improve production efficiency, boost product quality, and enhance functionality, all on a low budget. Validating your ideas through a physical prototype is one of the most important steps in launching a new product. 

Be prepared for a lot of back-and-forth conversations between your team and the prototyping company before your initial product is complete. If the company making the prototype stumbles upon a hurdle, it’s your responsibility to help them overcome it. But don’t let this small truth put you off. It’s an excellent opportunity to refine your product and create a better user experience in the end.

Creating a prototype of a physical product is a lot different than creating a demo for a mobile app. Here’s everything you need to know about prototyping companies to get off to the best start. 

Typical scene found in prototype companies made up of a desk supporting a laptop, a 3D printing machine, and several plastic prototypes.

Types of prototyping companies

There are many different types of companies that build prototypes and turn your rough napkin sketch into a physical product. Rapid prototyping services, 3D printing companies, manufacturers, machine shops, engineering firms, and product development companies are just some of the different options you have to help you build prototypes. 

Here’s a comparison of some of the most popular types of prototyping companies to help you make the right choice. 

Small 3D printing shops

A small 3D printing shop that provides rapid prototyping services is a great place to start. Because this option is so popular, this type of shop can be found all across the country and, most likely, close to you. These shops often use SLA 3D, SLS, FFF/FDM printers and require 3D CAD files to create prototypes. 

Pros:

  • Fast turnaround times
  • Available in most cities

Cons:

  • Lack of professional engineers to create products from scratch
  • No support for mass production in the future 
  • Limited Design for Manufacturability (DFM) experience
  • Unable to accept complex projects with electronics/hardware

Major design firms

When researching prototyping companies that can do everything from start to finish, it’s worth considering a major design firm. These companies have teams of designers, engineers, and the tools needed to build a prototype of almost any product you can think of. They can support you through the entire development process, although their high rates may be beyond your budget. 

Pros:

  • The complete prototype design team in one place

Cons:

  • Expensive prototypes
  • Best suited for established companies

Large manufacturers

Large manufacturers are also a popular choice among people looking for prototyping companies, but they rarely help small startups in the early stages. They focus more on high-volume orders that keep their machines running. Large manufacturers are better for making minor adjustments to their current range of products and providing you with a sample.

Pros:

  • High-quality product
  • Support from people knowledgeable about product building

Cons:

  • Rarely get involved in developing ideas from scratch
  • Retain some or all of the ownership rights
An example of what prototype companies do: a machine creating a prototype from plastic.

How to choose the best prototyping company

Whatever type of product you want to create, it’s essential you choose the best prototyping company for your needs and situation. Choosing the right firm could be the difference between an excellent prototype that wins over investors and a poorly-made one that does nothing but eat into your budget.

Follow our five steps and you’ll be on your way to launching a successful product. 

1. How much experience do the prototyping companies have? 

The best prototyping company understands the complete production process from start to finish and has an in-depth knowledge of concept validation, prototype design, and production. All tasks need to be carried out by people experienced in their specific roles. 

2. Do they have the right equipment?

For the best results and fastest turnaround time, you need to choose a prototyping company with modern technology and multiple machines. This helps avoid delay and ensures they won’t outsource the work to another company. 

3. What services do they offer?

You may need a simple 3D print job today, but tomorrow you may need a functional prototype for testing. So you don’t waste time, look for prototyping companies that offer a great range of services and various finishing options. 

4. Can they accommodate last-minute tasks?

No matter how organized you are, sometimes things happen and you need a prototype building right now. Can the company you’re thinking of partnering with provide you with a decent prototype at the very last minute?

5. How much do they charge?
Cost is one of the most important things to consider when looking at prototyping companies. You need to decide if you’d rather pay hourly or per order then choose a firm that fits in with your budget. 

Prototyping companies FAQs

Q1. What are the 3 types of prototyping?

The three main types of prototyping are iterative prototyping, parallel prototyping, and rapid prototyping.

Iterative prototyping is when a prototyping company creates a product from product design, tests it for functionality and usability, revises what didn’t work, and creates a new, better version. 

Parallel prototyping compares several design concepts simultaneously, drafts several designs, and compares them to determine the best version before creating a physical prototype.

Rapid prototyping uses innovative 3D printing and CAD software to transform the prototype idea from the computer to the printer. 

Q2. What company makes prototypes?

Some of the top US-based prototype creators include Estes Design & Manufacturing, Inc., Applied Rapid Technologies Corp., STANDARD ADDITIVE, Concurrent TEchnologyies Corporation, and All Metal Sales, Inc. 

Use our tips in this blog post to wade through the mediocre prototype companies and discover the best one to help you successfully launch your product. 

Q3. How much does it cost to get a prototype made?

Prototyping companies charge anywhere between $30 and $50,000 to create a prototype, depending on its size, materials required, and complexity. 

A simple 3D printing prototype will cost $30-$5,000, while a complex 3D printing prototype will cost $1,500-$20,000. A complex electronics prototype costs $10,000-$50,000, and a mobile app prototype costs $2,000-$12,000. Consider using a prototype cost calculator to get a better idea of the cost before you commit.

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