Prototypes are important for the technical fields so that the associates can proceed with the production process further without any complications. From impeccable designs to flawless final products, prototypes help with building new technical components on all counts.
Due to this reason, we consider hardware prototype development as a crucial aspect of the technical industries. So that it can help sustain domains like aerospace, military, and healthcare to a large extent.
Today, we are going to discuss hardware prototype development in detail so that you can clear your mind regarding this concept completely through our post.
What Is The Meaning Of Hardware prototype development?
Hardware can be anything from your keyboard to your mouse. It is something that you can touch in your everyday day usage. Since the development of technology has taken over different domains, hardware is undergoing different advancements at the same time.
Take IoTs, for example. Several smart homes and offices are relying on tech-based hardware on all counts. Therefore it is important to understand the meaning of modern-day hardware to fully understand how it influences our technical fields.
Advantages Of Hardware prototype development
In this section, we are going to take a look at hardware prototype development to see how it is important and why you need to consider it from now on:
- This concept is important for the protection of your personal ideas and designs.
- Hardware prototype development is also crucial for the encrypted sharing of your designs with trusted parties. You also keep your copyrights on all counts.
- When you aim for this, you can easily make your brand more accessible and prominent in terms of competition.
- You can also aim for professional and successful business meetings and negotiations with your clients through prototyping.
Types of Hardware prototype development
It is important to know that when we are considering hardware prototype development, we need to get familiar with their requirements. So that successful prototype development can be possible. It is because there have been some cases where producers were unable to meet these requirements, and it resulted in flawed designs and final products later.
1. Proof-of-Concept Hardware prototype development
The POC type of prototype is one of the most common types of hardware prototype development that different producers rely on these days. These prototypes are more important when you are aiming for something that needs to be tangible and easier to execute. You can use different off-the-shelf methods, but using Arduino and Raspberry Pi are some common techniques.
When it comes to Arduino for the POC prototypes, we get to know that it renders more features for making these prototypes a successful attempt. It can easily adjust to your requirements for hardware prototype development through its remarkable features and functions. Therefore, there is no doubt that such software is crucial for the development of intense and complex hardware prototypes.
Other than this, producers find it easier to work with 3D laser printing and laser cutting. Different types of industrial-grade enclosures come in handy for the fine completion of this procedure. However, experts believe that it is not a good idea to complicate procedural stages at this stage because it can mess up the designs and final products later.
2. “Works-Like” or Functional Hardware prototype development
Another type that is common here is functional prototypes. These prototypes are different because they are flexible in nature as compared to others, and experts believe that they are more efficient as well. Different sensors and shields are there in these prototypes that give them different functional attributes on all counts.
Such prototypes allow you to have a higher degree of customization as well. It is amazing because other prototypes never or cannot allow this to the users. It also implies custom PCBs. In this process, you never rely on redundant components and always try to exclude irrelevant components during the hardware prototype development. Therefore it also comes in handy for the proper utilization of the internal space.
You can use these prototypes to bring your ideas of electronics into reality. Plus, these are somewhat more affordable than other prototypes as well. It is also important to know that when it comes to availing the benefits of functional prototypes, then, you need to seek professional help from product development agencies to ensure desired results.
3. ‘Looks-Like’ Hardware prototype development
These prototypes are also crucial to learn about when you are aiming for prototype hardware development. Now, what makes them different is that they are totally not functional. However, these look like final products and are thus called “looks-like” prototypes.
Well, this name makes it easier for us to understand them and distinguish them from the rest. Such prototypes are mostly common in the areas of industrial design where products need to emphasize more on the end design for consumer electronics.
4. Alpha Prototype
You can also call them engineering prototypes. Another important category to know about when you are studying hardware prototype development. Well, these prototypes are a combination of works-like and looks-like prototypes.
So now you know how you can avail advantages of two types of prototypes in a single one! Such prototypes are crucial when it comes to crowdfunding and Kickstarter. One important point about these prototypes is the customized PCBs. You need specific containers and enclosures to work on these PCBs so that you can make desired amendments regarding these. You must change the aesthetics, small details, and shape if needed during the process.
After all the changes made, it is important to combine the prototypes with the designs made and see if the designs fully match the prototypes or not. You will also find different producers that use the latest techs, like 3D printing and CNC machining, to give an edge to alpha prototypes under the concept of hardware prototype development. Now don’t think that after all this, you will be able to get the desired results because every alpha prototype needs to undergo injection molding, which is a process that takes place on a much larger scale.
Due to this reason, producers who rely on Kickstarter mostly face disappointment because the process is overall time-consuming and demands more investment. The molding itself is a hectic procedure, and you need to develop the molds as per DFM standards.
5. Beta Hardware prototype development
After alpha prototypes, we have beta prototypes. Now there are some similarities between these two types. One is that both alpha and beta prototypes appear alike, and they are also common in their functions.
However, one big difference that sets these prototypes apart is the element of DFM optimization which always includes large-scale and high-end manufacturing processes. Take silicone molding, for example. You can consider it similar to injection molding, but it helps you with the production of almost 50 units in a single go. The enclosures used for this molding are specific and industrial grade.
The workers also pay close attention to the plastic components so that the simulations won’t create a negative influence on these fragile components during the process. You can also not forget about the technical analysis, thermal simulations, tolerance analysis, along with structural amendments.
Every producer relies on beta prototypes as per different certifications like FCC, RoHS, and CE. Critical and intense testing methods make these prototypes safe and reliable for fine performance under stressful conditions.
6. Pre-Production Hardware prototype development
Pre-production is a crucial stage in the process of hardware prototype development. At this point in the process, you can easily make copies of the end designs and components that you desire. You can even escalate this copy manufacturing as per your queued orders.
You need to cut small pieces of steel molds, and this is where you cannot make any further changes. The designs remain intact, and everything that you have changed proceeds further with the process. At this stage, the workers make sure that the prototype and the designs are impeccable.
So that the final product can meet the client’s requirements. If everything is in place, you call it a “golden sample,” which showcases 100% quality of the product. The producers often separate some samples for PVT purposes as well. When you see that there is no need to make further changes, then it is important to work on the product packaging too.
Best Tools to Build Hardware prototype development
The field of hardware prototype development has undergone different upgrades, and the tools that we use for it are also changing. So the latest tools that we use for this purpose are important. A smart prototype product or provider will make sure to rely on these tools to enhance the results and meet the client’s expectations and requirements completely.
One of the most common and appreciated prototyping tools is ARDUINO. It is an open-source platform to make your prototype development more fun and easier. You can use it for both hardware and software development both. You can make changes to its circuit board as per your needs. Besides, its IDE is also supportive of different computer species.
Coding with Arduino is a lot simpler, and different prompts make your coding faster as well. You can use Arduino for different purposes, and each time, you get desired results from it. Therefore for different users who are into hardware prototype development, there is nothing that can compete with Arduino on all counts. From basic AI tools to complex robots, Arduino can handle all your prototyping complications.
2) Raspberry Pi
The Raspberry Pi is, however, an affordable alternative to Arduino. It is portable hardware, and you can use it by connecting it to your personal laptop or PC. No matter what is your computing level, you can use this thing easily. Even beginners find using Raspberry Pi fun and a lot easier during their computing journeys.
You can just consider it a mini PC, and it can serve internet browsing, using spreadsheets, computational processing, and much more. Want to play games with Raspberry Pi? It is possible! Today different organizations are using this portable hardware for weather-detecting purposes and combing IR devices like IR cameras for different motives.
3) Off-the-shelf enclosures
Housing is important for the well-being of your electronics. When we are learning about hardware prototype development tools, we need to understand that off-the-shelf enclosures are crucial for this purpose.
You will find different enclosures available for this, but you have to identify your needs for choosing an enclosure. There are also different factors that you can consider while selecting the perfect enclosure for your electronics. There are some providers that will allow you this, and you can avail of this service from them as per their charges as well.
4) 3D CAD software
If you have never been familiar with 3D CAD software, then it’s high time that you do! Well, CAD proves to be handier when you are considering custom plastic parts and other technical components.
The degree of customization that CAD offers is unmatchable as compared to other prototyping tools. There is no doubt that CAD is a little bit on the expensive side for some producers, but it is all worth it. However, you can still use CAD’s free version to obtain different features for the development of impeccable prototypes.
Considerations for Hardware prototype development
There are some salient considerations regarding hardware prototype development that you must consider for procuring desired results. These considerations will help you understand your client’s expectations, and you will be able to meet their requirements successfully.
You need to know that hardware prototype development cannot be done in a jiffy. Instead, the duration of completion of these prototypes mainly depends on their nature. Simple and basic prototypes can be developed in a few weeks. At the same time, complex prototypes can even take months! However, you can still strike a perfect balance right from the beginning of the prototyping process to get the desired results.
Can you meet the deadlines? What requirements of your clients will take more time to complete? Are you prioritizing completely in terms of prototyping? What type of tools are you investing in, and are they really with it?
All these factors will help you develop a sense of evaluating your options to work your client’s requirements successfully. For the speed-to-market, you need to know that complex and intense prototypes will reduce it.
For simple and basic prototypes, the speed-to-market is more. Being a brand, you need to pay heed to marketing and new product launches to attract more people to your services. It will help you meet the market demand, and you will be able to secure a firm position in the market at the same time.
There is no doubt that you need to gather all the possible information for hardware prototype development before practically beginning with it. There have been cases when producers had to face severe loss of investment due to ignorance and lack of knowledge.
RayPcb hopes that from this discussion, you can now easily comprehend hardware prototype development and give your production an edge from this day forward.