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Another use for an invention prototype may be to get a jump on marketing and sales. Prototypes can be used for product photography, packaging development and the creation of sales literature. In this way, you won't have to wait until a production unit is in your hands to accomplish these tasks.
A prototype is an important aspect in your product development process. And even though virtual prototypes are becoming increasingly popular, many inventors still make an actual physical prototype.
Documented in your inventor's log, a photo of your prototype and pages that describe its making serve as good proof that you were the first inventor. Your prototype can also help you work out product flaws. No matter how advanced a virtual prototype may seem, there are practical ergonomic reasons for wanting to hold a prototype in your hands, feel its weight and ease of use.
To create an image of your invention prototype or model, you can use either a digital or a film camera. What it really comes down to is personal preference and what you can afford.
A digital image may be more convenient because digital images can more easily be uploaded to the computer and sent via email. Printed film photos take an extra step to upload. Either scan the photo into a computer or request a high-resolution photo CD when you drop off your film.
If you're using film, use 400-speed negative film. It's the most flexible consumer-level film and works best in a variety of lighting conditions. If you're using a digital camera, set it at its highest resolution for the best quality image.
Now that you have a working prototype of your invention, why not use it to test your market?
Reaching out to potential customers during the product development stage is considered to be a major factor in the successful development of any new invention. The feedback of people who would use your product can help you shape it into one that will fly off the shelves.
Field work, using your prototype, is one of the best ways to get customer feedback. Gather small groups of people together who are willing to give you their opinions. Have them sign non-disclosures, of course. And, use the opportunity well, by thinking through the questions and issues you want to solve.
Manufacturers who review your invention prototype want to know more than if it works. They'll also be interested in how much it costs to make and if it is possible to mass produce cheaply. Even if your invention is stronger and faster than any other product available, if it costs more to build than people will pay for it, it will be impossible to sell to a manufacturer.
The last thing you need to do before you press that button is to look at anything that might be obstructing the camera lens. Be careful that your finger or the camera strap doesn't slip in front of the lens. Check the lens periodically to make sure it's free of dust.
Also, if you're shooting outside on a breezy day, wait until the breeze dies down before you take the picture of your invention.
Get as close as you can to the subject you're shooting by filling the viewfinder with your invention prototype or model. This helps eliminate background clutter and draws further attention to the invention prototype by making it the only item in the photo.
Be careful if your invention is small. Cameras have a minimum focal distance meaning you can only get so close to your subject before you lose focus. Most auto focus cameras have an indicator light that lets you know if the subject is in focus. If not, consult the manual for the camera or lens to find the minimum focal distance.
Read your video camera and video editing software manuals to create the best invention prototype videos. Plan your shots before you start filming. Determine the best place to shoot your invention prototype video, who might act in it and ways to demonstrate what you want. Also, gather everything you'll need beforehand so it's ready and available.
When photographing your invention prototype or model, it's important to keep the camera still. The best option is to use a tripod, but if that's not possible, follow these guidelies to get a clear, sharp picture.
Stand with your feet apart and your knees slightly bent. Hold the camera with both hands and your elbows against your body. Exhale. Press the button. If necessary, you can lean against a wall, chair or railing for further support.
If your invention prototype or model is low to the ground or if you need to take a picture from a low angle, keep your elbows in to your sides while you get down on one knee.
Take as many photos of your invention prototype or model as you can so that you will have plenty of great shots to choose from. Photograph your invention prototype or model at different angles and different distances. Use different backdrops. Study advertising and product shots in your favorite magazines to get ideas of how the pros do it. If you see something that catches your eye, try to immitate it. If your invention is a working model, get a friend to take pictures of you demonstrating the invention in its natural environment. Be creative and have fun with the project.
Keep the length of your videos of invention prototypes should at around a minute or less. The shorter the better. Because most most attention spans are short, you have a brief period of time to get your core message across.
If your invention is extremely complicated or requires a lengthy demonstration, you can make a longer video, but it should never eclipse 5 to 10 minutes in length.
Rapid prototyping is a fairly new process that's a good alternative to more expensive injection molding. And there are plenty of companies that employ this method for you to choose from.
Rapid prototyping starts with a virtual design or animation and transforms it into cross-sections. Then each cross-section is made in physical space until the model or part is finished. Rapid prototyping does not have the same durability as injection molding, but it can definitely suit the purpose of demonstrating your new product's features and capabilities.
Both the spokesperson and the cameraperson should rehearse before filming the invention prototype. The spokesperson should be familiar with the lines and the cameraperson should be familiar with the camera and any movements he or she will have to make while filming. Then the spokesperson and cameraperson should practice together.
When filming invention prototypes, point out its main features and benefits. Describe how the invention functions as a whole and how the parts work together.
However, keep in mind that while you want to explain the most important aspects of your invention prototype, you also must be succinct enough to retain your audience's attention.
Eliminate background distractions in your invention videos. In video, there are two types of background: audio and visual. Be aware of background noises that may distract your audience from the invention. Visually, pay attention to everything in your shot with your invention prototype. Check the foreground and background to make sure there aren't any distractions and remove excess clutter.
Run the video camera for an extra second or two before and after each shot in your invention prototype video. You can edit out what you don't want later, but this ensures that you will get the entire shot you do want.
To take the best photograph of your invention prototype, eliminate background clutter from your photograph with a backdrop. An easy backdrop to use would be a plain, solid, neutral-colored sheet or tablecloth.
For best results set up your invention some distance (at least a foot) from the backdrop and make sure the backdrop doesn't block the light source. Your backdrop should complement or contrast with your subject.
More adventurous photographers may try photographing the invention in its natural environment or while it is in use. Even if you try one of these options, do a quick check of the background to ensure the proper setup for photographing your invention model or prototype.
You'll save time making your invention prototype if you take some preliminary steps before you begin.
Make detailed drawings in your inventor's journal or on your computer that show how you expect your new invention ideas will work and what each piece should look like. Using these drawings, build a preliminary prototype out of materials that you have around your home. You can build out of materials like cardboard or styrofoam. It doesn't matter at this point if your invention prototype is functional. This will help you see how things will fit together before you start spending money on the actual invention prototype.
When shooting your invention prototype video, don't limit yourself to eye-level shots. This can be visually boring after a short while. To add variety to your invention video try this: when recording children, seated adults or invention prototypes intended for use at ground level, crouch down to that level. Also, try the same shot at different angles - from above, below and both sides.
If you can get your hands on a tripod for your invention video, use it. Unnecessary motion in the camera frame distracts the viewer and may cause motion sickness. If viewers are distracted oby camera movement, they are not paying attention to your invention prototype.
If no tripod is available, the cameraperson should brace themselves against another stable surface like a wall or a chair. If the cameraperson must move while recording the invention, movements should be as slow and smooth as possible. Practice the movements ahead of time for best results.
Define the problem that your invention solves early in your invention prototype video. If possible, demonstrate how an activity is performed without your invention and the problems that result from it. Then show how your using your invention solves these problems.
Don't overuse the zoom feature in your invention prototype video. Overuse of the zoom is a sure sign of an amateur. Zooms are usually too fast, cause unwanted camera movement and are not pleasant to watch.
In a movie, television show or commercial, if you see the subject of the shot getting closer, it's probably the camera getting closer to it (a move called a “Dolly Shot”), not the operator using a zoom lens.
The zoom button is best used to frame shots of invention prototypes while the camcorder is paused. If you must move closer to the invention while recording, carefully move the whole camera. The effect is much different and more inviting to watch.
Developing your invention idea into a marketable product takes financial resources. There are places along the way where hard work, organization, and bootstrapping can save you substantial sums. But not when it comes to making a prototype, presentation, or packaging.
You only get one shot at making a first impression. The professionalism of your presentation materials says a lot about you. It communicates your level of professionalism, and how much value you place on your invention. It addresses what kind of a person you would be to work with and how passionate you are about gaining success.
Your materials say just as much about you as they do about your invention. Don't give potential licensors, investors, manufacturers or any other potential business associates any wrong cues about your product or intentions by skimping on your presentation materials.
In many cases, you will need to hire a prototype maker regardless of whether you're looking for a virtual or physical prototype. The first thing you should do is have any prototype maker sign a non-disclosure agreement.
Discuss your project thoroughly. Bring any sketches you may have. Tell them exactly what you want, including as many details as possible. And get an estimate of costs. Depending upon the size, complexity and materials of your project, costs could run high.
Remember that because your product is a work in progress, you will need to work closely with whomever you hire, so you must be able to communicate well with this person.
If you need to loan your invetion prototype for a company for review, take a few precautions to keep your prototype safe and to ensure it's timely return.
Assign one company member to be in charge of your invention prototype. That person will be responsible if any damage occurs. Work out ahead of time that the company will pay for any repairs that need to be done after the invention prototype is returned to you.
Negotiate the amount of time that the company is allowed to keep your invention prototype. The shorter the time period the better as it encourages the company to act quickly.
Get everything in writing. Get the signature of the most senior manager available to sign the loan contract. If you feel uncomfortable, enlist the help of a patent agent.
When you reach the point that you need to make an invention prototype but you don't have the money to put into professional manufacturing, go back to school. Not to take classes, but to find students who would be willing to work on your prototype at discounted rates. By giving you some invention help, they'll get great experience and an impressive addition to their resume or portfolio.
For the best pictures of your invention prototype, take photograph your prototype outside on a slightly overcast day. The diffused natural light behind the clouds will light the subject more evenly and allow for greater detail in the image than if you take the picture in direct sunlight.
If you take the picture indoors under fluorescent lighting, use a flash. Fluorescent light creates a greenish cast on images that the flash balances out.
If your invention prototype is too large to move easily, you'll need to find an alternate way to show it at trade shows and at meetings with potential customers. Consider the following ways to showcase your invention prototype when it can't be physically present:
-Make a scale model. If possible, use the same materials that are in your larger invention prototype.
-Use a video to capture your invention prototype at work. Film your prototype from all sides to give viewers a better idea of how it works.
-Create a virtual prototype. Many companies offer services that allow you to create a 3-D computer image of your prototype.
In order to begin building your invention prototype, you should have a solid idea of how your invention will work. You also should have a working prototype before you start showing your invention at trade shows. The process of building a prototype will almost always take longer than you anticipate, so give yourself plenty of time. One of the benefits of building an invention prototype is that design flaws will become apparent as you build. You'll be forced to modify your design until it is efficient and working smoothly.
A virtual prototype of your invention will provide a number of benefits that can help license or sell your invention:
- Virtual prototypes are rendered in 3D, and have the ability to show both the design and utility of a product in a sophisticated format worthy of their interest and investment.
- Virtual prototypes cost less to develop than physical and working prototypes.
- The animation and movement a virtual prototype is capable of makes your invention come to life
- By posting your virtual prototype online, you can reach more prospects quicker and more cost effectively.
A great inventors help option is to hire a professional prototyper to create a working model of your new invention ideas. Although these services are expensive, they may save you money in the long run if your invention prototype is especially complicated.
Before beginning work with an invention prototyper, require that person to sign a nondisclosure agreement. Because you will be sharing all of the working details of your invention with this person, it is crucial that you protect your rights as an inventor.
Make sure you agree ahead of time about how much the prototyping will cost. If possible, get a flat fee for the entire project.
If you don't have access to a computer with video editing software and a disc burner, use a VHS tape. DVDs and VCDs are the wave of the future, but not everyone is comfortable using them or set up to use them on their computer.
If you are able to burn video CDs or DVDs, offer this as another option for people who are interested in viewing your invention prototype video.
If you are sending a VCD or DVD to a different country, be sure to use the standard format for the region that country resides.
Because you know the most about your invention and are the most enthusiastic about it, you are the best spokesperson for your invention video. If you feel uncomfortable in front of a camera or would rather take the video, choose a spokesperson as knowledgable and energetic as yourself. Write a script for the person to make sure that your important information is conveyed in the way you want it to be conveyed.
A prototype, or working model of your invention serves several vital purposes.
In the early stages of prototype development, you could very well find that unexpected design or utility flaws will surface, giving you the opportunity to revise your invention.
Once you have a working prototype, you'll use it to try and attract licensing prospects, investors, manufacturers or even enlist the help of invention service companies. Nothing will demonstrate your idea as well as a prototype, as it speaks louder and more completely than drawings and written descriptions.
Always use as much light as possible in your invention prototype video but avoid a strong light behind subject. Backlighting creates a silhouette effect that hides the details of your model. Also do not position your actors with their faces toward the sun. This will cause them to squint.
Virtual prototypes are held on CDs, making them convenient and easy for any interested party to view. CDs are also very inexpensive to produce and mail. The quality of the virtual prototype is photographic and the ability to view it from all sides makes it appear as if your invention is real.
Invention prototype development is a necessary dimension to new product development. Done is stages along the way, your prototype is not just a presentation to the outside world, but a tool that will guide you to design the best possible product. As your product becomes more complete, your prototype will develop in sophistication too.
Crude Prototype – This is a beginning prototype and can be completed by yourself. The purpose of this step is to build something that will give you a better understanding of where you are going with your invention. At this point materials are not important, and this does not have to be a working model.
Working Prototype – Your working prototype should allow people to test out some of the working features of your invention. It does not need to work as well as a finished product, but does need to perform its functions. At this stage, you will need to think about the final materials for this product and develop a more sophisticated model.
Final Prototype – A final prototype is also called a manufacturing prototype, because it closely resembles the one that will be on the market. It should look and function like a finished product. If you are going to license your product rather than manufacture it yourself, you don't need to take your invention to a final prototype.
While a crude prototype can be made with cardboard and glue, a working and final prototype must begin to both resemble and work like a real product. Here are some basic manufacturing methods that you might craft your prototype with.
Casting: You can make parts of your prototype from a liquid metal or plastic that hardens into a specified shape and size. Casting is produced with a mold, and can be done in metal, plastic or rubber.
Machining: Starting with foam, metal, plastic or wood, lathes, grinders and milling machines are used to take material away to achieve the shape you need.
Fabricating: Sheets of metal or plastic can be cut, bent, folded and in the case of plastic – vacuum formed to create shapes.