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What is a Prototype? - Definition, Function & Theory

Instructor: Tara Schofield
In the product development process, one of the key steps is creating a sample of the product before it is manufactured. This lesson will explain what a prototype is and the benefits of using one in your business.

What Is a Prototype?

You have a great idea for a new product. You can imagine in your mind how it will work and how cool it will be when it's done. You can see in your mind how each of the pieces work together and how much easier it makes your life. But putting that into words is a little challenging. You go to work to make something physical that resembles the picture in your mind. You create a rough mock-up of what the final product will look like.

You have just created a prototype. A prototype is an initial creation of a product that shows the basics of what a product will look like, what the product will do, and how the product operates. A prototype is not meant to be the final version, it's the rough draft form of the product. It will often have elements that demonstrate how the product will work, even though the prototype may not have the functionality that the final product will have after it is professionally manufactured. The prototype helps you to get a solid idea of what the product will be and make alterations while the item is still in concept mode.

Benefit of a Prototype

A prototype is a valuable tool in the product development process. It gives the inventor or the creator a chance to see their idea come to life. By creating an initial example of your idea, you have a chance to make changes to the design, work out problems in design, and make alterations to make the product look nice. The prototype is essentially a rough draft of the product. Once the prototype is created, steps can be taken to refine the product, both in design and function.

Prototypes may be used to demonstrate a potential product and can also be used as a tool to gain financing or investments. When a potential investor can see what the item is you want to create, they can get a better vision of what you want to produce and may be more interested in putting their money towards the project.

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