It all starts with an electrical pulse. Neurotransmitters are released. They cross the cell membrane into t he synaptic gap and you have an idea. You feverishly work to turn your thoughts into something tangible and you create your first prototype. Great ideas happen all the time… but in the end, they are nothing more than thoughts. Not to try and stifle the imagination or discount the greatness of ideas but there is a long – and sometimes – rocky road to go from “I have a great idea” to “Now shipping”. So let’s clean off the table, lay out the map, and plot a course from prototype to production. Simply put, prototyping is the design verification phase of product development used to demonstrate or prove aspects of a design. This includes taking the design anything from a cocktail napkin drawing, to graph paper doodle, to a virtual model, and moving it into the physical form. After various revisions and iterations, a final prototype that closely resembles a finished product is produced. The first step into production is to methodically document the design. Creating detailed drawings for the individual parts and model construction are all included in this critical step. This means documentation for assembling the product (where appropriate) including bolt torque specs, adhesives application, painting, labeling, assembly order, etc. Another important part, not to be overlooked, is design optimization, with the intent of minimizing costs in manufacturing. It is beneficial to build these cost-saving design factors in early, but keep in mind, various manufacturing facilities will be able to further lean out the production process. Each facility is different, and can help achieve the desired end result while simultaneously minimizing waste and cost. The production processes and costs will differ widely for each product, manufacturing process and for each location. Some items (like plastic injection molds, casting patterns or dies) can take months to make and be very expensive. Some items require special tooling or fixtures that must be designed and validated along the way. In any case, the production process is always involved and is usually time consuming. It can also be quite costly. Depending on the product and manufacturing options, assembly may be an additional service that must be sought out, while some companies offer a full turnkey service. It is important to cast a wide net and to gather multiple quotes. One rule the PDC always follows is “never sole source”. Once your product is rolling off the assembly line, all that is left is… packaging, marketing material, instructions, shipping cost, and distribution networks. We will leave that for another article, but until then, dream big and keep making things!