How to Make a Prototype

Making a prototype is one of the most crucial steps in creating and marketing an invention. A prototype allows you to test how an invention works and market it to potential investors. It will also help you work out any glitches in the design.

Make detailed drawings of your invention. They should be as detailed as possible and show all the working parts of your invention. You can use paper and pencil, but you may want to draw it out in a computer-aided design (CAD) program to get a more precise drawing. See the resource below for a list of CAD programs.

Build a simple model using whatever materials you have available. You want to use cheap materials that are easy to work with, such as Styrofoam, balsa wood, cardboard, glue, pins and string. Your model should show the basic shape and major parts of the prototype in approximate scale.

Look at your model. Does it look workable? Are there any obvious problems you need to work out before making it into a working prototype? Jot down some notes.

Research options for building your prototype. The cheapest option is to build it yourself. Uncomplicated models can be built out of wood or other materials. For many inventors, however, rapid prototyping is the best option. Rapid prototyping companies can build any shape out of polymers (a type of plastic) in a matter of hours.

Make or build your prototype. If you opt to to do it yourself, you will want to build it out of durable, inexpensive and easy-to-work-with materials. Wood is an extremely popular choice, because it fulfills all of these requirements.

Make it look nice. You want to sand and paint your prototype and make sure that any joints or gears turn smoothly. You are going to be marketing your prototype to companies, so appearance is as important as functionality.