Electronic prototype development plays a key role in developing and manufacturing the innumerable amount of products and devices that make up the vast consumer electronics market. Why? Think of just about any consumer electronic product on the market, and it’s almost a certainty that it involves a purposeful design, incorporating many components.
Take a look around your desk: your computer, monitor, phone, headset, and any number of other devices, all may appear simple at first glance. Though the more you look at them, the more you realize that they have been carefully designed to serve a specific purpose, and they are all more complex than they may initially appear.
This is where electronic prototype development comes in. Designing these products to fulfill a certain function and work a certain way — the right way — isn’t an easy process. What’s more, it doesn’t all happen on paper, or with the first attempt at manufacturing a production run. Numerous tests and iterations must be run in order to create a successful electronic product, prototypes are the best way to achieve that.
What is Electronic Prototyping?
Now that we’ve discussed the big-picture importance of electronic prototyping, we can take a more detailed look, including the “what” and the “how” of it — as well as more about the “why.” To answer the first question — What is electronic prototyping? — we can say that it is a way of testing one or all of the following for an electronic product:
Since those qualities apply for nearly any type of prototype, we can look at some more of the details specific to electronic prototyping. In general, when testing and iterating an electronic product, it’s important to ensure that the “internal” operation of the product — the wiring, power source, heat management, failsafes and so on — are working correctly.
It’s also important to ensure that “external” elements like the housing or casing are sound, both in terms of function and appearance. What’s more, it’s essential to consider the internal, non-electronic structure of the product, which can play an important role in its functionality and safe operation. In most cases, that structure will be tied to those “external” elements, since they may be the same material and even part of the same piece.
How Is Electronic Prototyping Done?
In the early stages, prototyping of the wiring and other electronic elements of a part is likely to be done separately from designing and testing the housing or casing of the product. As both elements are perfected, more integrated prototyping can be done. A good, experienced electronic prototyping company will possess expertise in managing these unique elements of the process, and will work with you to ensure that the resources you invest in prototyping — money and time — are productive and of value to your product (and your bottom line).
Since most housings or casings for consumer electronics are made from thermoset or thermoplastic materials (and are mass produced through injection molding), most standard prototype services and methods can be used at these earlier, pre-production stages. Before we look more closely at those services, let’s look at what electronic prototyping can show you, and why it’s important.
Why Is Electronic Prototyping Important?
As mentioned above, an electronic part should never just be designed on paper or a computer, and then sent through to production. There are far too many elements at work to be sure that you’ll hit on the perfect design and functionality on your first pass. Electronic prototyping (depending on the process and material in use) can illustrate and allow for testing and fine-tuning on a number of elements of your electronic product:
- The external appearance of the housing or casing
- The strength and durability of the casing, depending on wall thickness and other factors
- The internal layout of the product, including how and where wiring and other electronic elements will be configured
- The ease (or difficulty) of manufacturing a product with a particular design or process
- More efficient design elements for a better product
Electronic prototyping can, in a nutshell, let you see your product in a way that a design or drawing can’t show you, allowing for more innovation and improvement in your product overall.
What Electronic Prototyping Services Does RevPart Offer?
If you need a prototype as soon as possible, 3D printing will likely be your best choice. 3D printing lets you quickly get an electronic housing or casing prototype designed to your exact dimensional standards, allowing you to gauge the appearance, configuration and some elements of the functionality of your product.
For prototypes to gauge the manufacturability of your electronic product, our plastic injection molding prototyping services can help. We specialize in creating prototype and low-volume molds from special materials, including urethane, in order to let you cost-effectively test how your product will handle an actual production process, using the actual material in which it will be manufactured. If your intended production quantity is lower than 100,000, you can potentially use the same low-volume mold to fully manufacture your product, provided the prototype is successful. If it’s not, we can assist with further iterations, making use of existing resources and tooling in any way possible.
Though many shops will tell you that CNC machining of plastic is unreliable or not possible, our facility specializes in proving them wrong. We have years of expertise in using subtractive manufacturing to produce plastic prototypes that can be used to test for nearly every aspect of your electronic product. We don’t force you to commit to minimum production quantities or machine time, and we offer the same fast turnaround as we do for the rest of our services.
For flexible electronic products like wire housings or casings, our silicone molding services are the right choice for you. This highly flexible material can also be integrated with other prototypes made from other materials and processes to provide a better view of the overall layout of your product.
The RevPart Difference
Our experience with several electronic prototyping processes, combined with our focus on fulfilling any and all short-run and prototyping needs for our customers, means that we’ve developed a unique expertise unlike any other on the market. Our No. 1 focus is keeping our customers happy and successful. We work tirelessly and draw endlessly on our years of experience to make sure that’s the case. Contact us today to see for yourself.