Prototypes - What you need to know!

What exactly is a prototype, the good, the bad and the not so pretty...

You have an idea for a product, and the first thing that everyone starts saying is "Do you have a prototype?" Before you start spending money and wasting your time, let's talk about what you should expect from a prototype...

When we started SCARY Design, dinosaurs roamed the Earth and we foraged for food... No... but it sure seems like it! The fact is, Microchip was a "new" company, and had one microcontroller, the PIC16C84, the first "microcontroller" with on-board EEPROM. In order to "program" it, one needed an in-circuit-emulator (ICE) with a "bond-out" IC. This had to be soldered into the circuit (if using SMT), firmware developed, then, cross your fingers, a "chip" programmed and soldered into the circuit. Things weren't as stable as they are these days; it was not uncommon that the internal oscillator wouldn't start, forcing all kinds of capacitor and resistor changes until it started running. Then, you better hope you didn't create a bug or two for yourself; you'd have to un-solder the part and start again...

Things weren't much better on the "hardware" side. If you wanted an actual "looks like" prototype, it meant doing design in 2D (!), drawing multiple views, then, if you had the capabilities, cutting the model from any number of various "modeling woods" or having a "model shop" do it for you. These were often times referred to as "looks like - works like" models, with no real application to production engineering. Can you spell e-x-p-e-n-s-i-v-e?

Fast forward to today; any number of little microcontroller modules are available, with cute names like "Arduino", "Raspberry Pi", "BeagleBone", etc. Cut material? No way, we simply "print" what we like, warts and all. It's the "warts and all" we need to be concerned with...

Given how radically things have changed, "looks like - works like" prototypes should be a thing of the past. Yet I know of very few design houses that will actually state that the work being done on a "prototype" is applicable to real world engineering! Not so at SCARY Design!

Here, everything undertaken on a prototype has a direct correlation and application to the production design. We will guide you through the miasma of available electronics (after all, that is our jobs!) as well as all 3D design files, whether it be plastic injection molded parts, sheet-metal or wood; everything done is for going to production.

For injection molded parts, this often means including all the correct draft angles initially; not thrown in later as an "after-thought". All 3D printed parts should reflect an actual production part. Many "design houses" want to do this type of design later, referring to it as "prototype design", then "production design". Why are you paying twice for what should be the same thing?

When it comes to electronics, we will discuss various approaches. Being "firmware" programmers, we'll suggest an appropriate device to be used for both prototype and production. If you want to use one of the available "modules" we'll work with you on it.

In many cases, we've seen an "Arduino" used were a very simple 8-pin device is better.

We try and and make sure that what we're providing will follow to production. Why try, and not do? Glad you asked, Yoda. Sometimes, there may be a device available that can save substantial amounts of money, but not available through standard distribution channels, mostly by programmers and production manufacturers overseas. In this case, we provide a specification and if needed, algorithms that will be used by the programmers of these devices, ensuring that the same functionality is in the production design as in the prototype. Leave you hanging, working with a company overseas? Not ever! We'll be there every step of the way!

So, the next time you're interviewing prospective design houses, ask them if they're doing "prototype to production" designs, or if it's handled separately. If they start waving hands about, making excuses that "things are always changing" or any other such nonsense, tell them that SCARY Design designs for production; no one get's rich "selling prototypes".


SCARY Design

Boynton Beach, FL 33426

Tel: 561-569-1998


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