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Prototype Modification

Prototype design modifications for Cozy Glow Lights

Depending on what changes derive from testing the prototype and consumer feedback, it might make sense to modify the existing prototype rather than incurring the cost and time of creating a whole new prototype from scratch. This is called a modification stage. It allows for a round of refinement which is cost and time effective whilst also mitigating the risk and cost of producing a whole new prototype.

Our Process

<3>Reviewing and Sourcing<3>

1. Disassemble and Reevaluate

There are two different types of modifications. Modify the parts themselves or redesigning parts and remaking them based on the new design and building these back into the assembly. These two different types of modification alter the process of this stage and if there are multiple modifications in the scope of work then the stage may contain both.

Therefore to start, the designer will visually or physically disassemble the prototype to understand the problem further and plan out the changes required to improve it. The scope is specific in this stage and allows the designer to focus their time on specific parts and refine them.

2. Modifying and Redesigning

The designer will modify or redesign the parts, taking into consideration the problems with the original design and feedback from any user testing, to find a solution. This may include making up small mock ups or test prints to check the new solution works. It could be digital or physically made and could be added back into the assembly to check it works with the rest of the design before making properly or ordering it in.

On the hard goods side, once the CAD is updated and the test prints are signed off, the final prints for the prototype modification will be ordered and the supplier will be managed by the designer to answer any questions throughout and ensure that they are delivered to the spec and in a timely manner.

On the textile side, the prototype itself is likely to be altered rather than separate assemblies remade. Often different methods or “ways in” are required when a prototype is already constructed and being modified. Right down to how it is physically fitted into the sewing machine now it is a 3D object must be considered. Our experienced designers allow for this when developing textiles prototypes by including wider seam allowances that allow for fit to be taken in/let out and specific construction techniques are used that mean that pieces can be altered without affecting their durability. We add value to your initial prototype by making in this way where possible and it is one of the main reasons how we can offer a prototype modification stage and save the client the time and cost to do a whole remake. It is also why having the designer who made the original prototype modify it is the most efficient and effective way to develop the prototype, as they know the construction inside and out.

<3>Reassembly<3>

1. Putting the modified part back into the assembly

Reassembling the product with the modified parts is as important as refining the parts themselves. Ensuring the modified parts is not negatively impacting or creating issues with other areas of the assembly is important. For instance, you may have decided the base of a bag no longer requires padding because its making the bag too heavy. However, as a result of removing the padding in the modification, the side panels of the bag are now collapsing inwards. This now requires an alternative construction for the side panels which may have been anticipated in the scope of work and so is refined in this stage, or the design will be reevaluated with the client at the end of the stage to decide if this change to the base is worth making if it causes the side panel construction to add weight to the bag anyway.

2. Ensure construction techniques are in line with manufacturing practices

One of the key differences of our experienced designers creating a prototype is that they are trained to consider manufacture at every step of the design. This means that design features and designs are only included which will be feasible at manufacture. An example of this is on the textile side, hand stitching is avoided as much as possible as this creates a high labour cost and instead our designers are challenged to consider their assembly plan and overall construction to ensure that hand stitching is minimised, and production optimised.

<3>Test<3>

Reassemble modified prototype using construction techniques with manufacture in mind. Test throughout to ensure it is performing. Testing focuses on core functionality to ensure the modified prototype handed over at the end works. Further testing is then carried out by client and target market to gather feedback.

Cheaper than making a full prototype from scratch

A modification stage allows the designer to focus their time and budget on specific parts of the prototype which need refining rather than having to make the whole prototype again from scratch.

A modification stage can also save on material costs as things can be reused and it is not necessary to rebuy parts, materials, and components when you aren’t making the whole prototype.

More often than not, machined parts are ordered from a factory with a minimum order quantity, shipping costs and import tax. To remake the whole prototype would require paying for these parts again. However, if only a couple parts need modifying then we could order them from a UK supplier who have lower costs and no import tax.

On the fabric side, we make everything in house and modifications can save a lot of unnecessary labour time marking up, recutting, pinning, and sewing a whole assembly to only alter a couple seams or improve overall fit. It can sometimes be more accurate than remaking from scratch as the general construction remains and only a couple areas tweaked which can help when improving fit or structure. While unpicking can be laborious, it far outweighs the time taken to prep and sew the prototype again.

All this results in the prototype modification stage incurring less cost than a further prototyping stage as material costs are reduced and the designer’s time is focused on editing, adapting and modifying what already exists.

prototype modification on a Thomod

Explore Variations

Often your feedback will have highlighted a problem but there are several potential solutions. We can tailor the modification stage scope to explore these different options and help you choose between them for the next prototype. You could also use your modified prototype to show the same users who gave such feedback and have them decide which to use.

For example, you have two zip pockets that need to be opened one-handed with gloves on, but currently the zip is too difficult to operate. Both velcro and magnet fastenings would work but velcro is considerably cheaper than magnets. However, it could get caught on the gloves. Therefore, modifying both pockets with both fastenings and giving the modified prototype to multiple users to test, would help inform this decision.

Sometimes products have parts that are required to withstand a force. For instance, your product has two flexible parts that need to flex open far enough to fit something inside but not snap. Maybe the first prototype snapped when tested and there are two alternative materials with different shore hardness. A modification stage would allow us to try out these two different materials without having to remake the rest of the assembly or create 2 prototypes with each flexible material part in.

Product modifications on coffee machine designs

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Refining Specific Areas to Mitigate Risk

Say the majority of changes are minor and can be easily communicated to the factory through the manufacturing specification, but there is one part that needs changing or needs to be made out of a different material that hasn’t been tested yet. A modification stage could be tailored to change this one part without incurring the cost of a whole new prototype. Without it you risk progressing to a manufacturing specification and sample, only to later find out it has not worked, and more money is required to update the tools to correct it.

Prototype design modifications for Cozy Glow Lights

FAQs

What are prototype modifications?

Changes to the design which can be made to the existing prototype without requiring a full re-make. These can include but are not limited to altering fit; modifying specific parts of an assembly; changing fastenings or switching out materials or components for different ones that can be substituted in without remaking everything.

They allow you to test out changes to the prototype without incurring the cost of producing a full prototype and can sometimes mitigate the risk of skipping a prototype stage to save on costs and go straight to manufacture, only to later discuss a part that hasn’t been made and tested in a prototype, does not work. They allow you to focus on refining specific parts of the design without changing too many factors and losing track of what change has created what consequence. It allows you to test out variations in order to decide which option to take forward into the design.

Generally the designer who made the previous prototype or design stage is best placed to modify the prototype as they know the construction and design inside out. We also design with the future stages of work required to get your product to market in mind in order for you to get the most out of each stage of work and the work produced. For example, our experienced designers design and make prototypes knowing that they are likely to be modified later. Therefore hard goods designers may use a bolt that can be unscrewed so the prototype can be disassembled and modified instead of a locking feature. We add value to your initial prototype by making in this way where possible and it is one of the main reasons how we can offer a prototype modification stage and save the client the time and cost to do a whole remake. It is also why having the designer who made the original prototype modify it is the most efficient and effective way to develop the prototype.

Sometimes client’s only want to change one part of their prototype so are tempted to skip or don’t see the value in making it and so push to move straight to manufacture without testing it. This can lead to the first sample not working and the client incurring extra costs later in production to change tools and manufacturing specifications to correct it. Ideally at the point of moving to manufacture and production, you want to be confident in every part of the design and construction. Prototype modification stage can be a great compromise as it can be tailored to refine one particular part without the need to create a whole new prototype which can slow down the timeline and incur unnecessary costs. This as a result mitigates the risk of moving to manufacture as you can be confident that all changes have been made and tested, cost effectively.

Sometimes client’s only want to change one part of their prototype so are tempted to skip or don’t see the value in making it and so push to move straight to manufacture without testing it. This can lead to the first sample not working and the client incurring extra costs later in production to change tools and manufacturing specifications to correct it. Ideally at the point of moving to manufacture and production, you want to be confident in every part of the design and construction. Prototype modification stage can be a great compromise as it can be tailored to refine one particular part without the need to create a whole new prototype which can slow down the timeline and incur unnecessary costs. This as a result mitigates the risk of moving to manufacture as you can be confident that all changes have been made and tested, cost effectively.

Overview of Prototype Modification

Modifications are changes to the existing prototype that refine the design further based on feedback of the prototype. They are tweaks and refinements to specific parts of the design which can be updated and altered without affecting the rest of the assembly. As a result, the modifications can be reassembled back into the existing prototype reducing the need to remake the rest of the assembly. There are two different types of modifications:

1. modify the parts themselves such as filing down the inside of a print, so it fits inside another part with less resistance.
2. redesigning parts and remaking them based on the new design and building these back into the assembly.

The modification may only consist of one type of modification or if there are multiple modifications in the scope of work then the stage may contain both.

Understanding the Value of a prototype modifications

While we would all love to have Dyson’s budget and produce hundreds of prototypes before bringing the “perfect” product to market, the reality is it’s not affordable. However, prototype modification stage allows you to refine and solve any issues that arose from user testing and consumer feedback without having to remake the whole prototype. This can be valuable in saving money and time. It can allow you to focus on improving individual parts of the prototype whilst keeping the parts that are working which can lead to better design and increased durability. It allows you to physically try out variations when you can’t decide between them in theory such as fastenings or materials as they can both be applied to the modified prototype and directly compared by you and your target market, to help you make an informed decision as to which to take forward. All these changes sound small but they allow you to push the design to be the best it can be in a cost-effective way as you build upon the existing prototype and don’t incur the larger cost of producing a whole prototype again.

Limitations of service

After the prototype has been tested and the changes collated, the designer will inform you if the changes are suitable for a modification stage or if they need to be made as a further prototype. For instance, if the whole bag needs to be made in a different fabric, this is not something that can be done in a modification stage and in this instance, it would be less efficient use of time to do so. There are limitations when modifying a prototype that mean it may not look as polished as your original prototype. For instance, once a seam in unpicked and resewn it will never look as neat as the first time, or once a screw is taken out of a thread it may wear slightly and not rethread as tightly. Sometimes because the prototype is already part constructed, we must use temporary construction techniques such as glue or hand sewing as we physically cannot access parts that otherwise would have been assembled in a different order. Prototyping is and always will be an iterative process, and this includes prototype modifications. Whilst we aim to make as much progress within each stage of work, it is likely that based on testing and user feedback you will find further areas to change and refine after receiving the modified prototype, especially if the stage is focused on refining specific areas of the product. The modified prototype is not necessarily ready for production after this stage, and many require another round of design or prototyping before progressing to the manufacturing phase.

Prerequisites

Prototype modifications are not part of the prototype stage. The prototype stage follows the agreed design for prototype and while we expect changes to arise once the prototype has been tested, the modification stage follows as a separate paid stage to develop the design and solve these problems without incurring the cost and time of producing another full prototype. A clear scope of work will be agreed prior to commissioning the modification stage that lays out the changes to be made to the existing prototype.

What comes next

Dependant on the functionality and user testing feedback, you might need further design stages or further prototypes. However, if the feedback is predominantly aesthetics based then you’ve reached a good point to start considering styling and branding stages to develop the aesthetics of the product. This can include developing a house style across a future product range, logo development and how this is applied to the product. More often than not, this can then be communicated to the factory directly through a manufacturing specification and the next version of the product can be made by them as your first sample. This is an efficient way to progress to the manufacturing phase. However, for various reasons clients may require a final prototype sooner, such as presenting to a buyer or showing at a trade show, in which case we can discuss producing this in house with all the styling and branding applied.

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