Making a prototype or model of your invention is an invaluable tool for patenting and licensing, raising capital for manufacture, and for discovering design problems that are not evident on paper or in your head. You can have a prototype made several different ways, depending on your budget and your invention's physical properties and complexity. Inventors may spend from as little as $10 on a homemade mock-up to more than $10,000 for a working prototype made by an industrial designer.
Make a detailed drawing of your invention with a clear explanation of your concept. Include a sketch with labeled parts and approximate dimensions. Describe the uses and features of your invention. If your invention is mechanical, technical or complex, take your drawing to an engineer or designer for a set of professional 2D drawings which the prototype maker can use to create a prototype.
Determine your goal for creating a prototype, and then determine your budget. If you are looking for potential design problems, you may want to use a lower-budget option for your first prototype. If you are looking to license your invention or attract investors, you may want to opt for a larger budget to create a prototype that will clearly demonstrate the function and value of your invention.
Decide what type of model you want based on your budget and goals for the prototype. A virtual prototype is a computer-generated, animated model that will showcase how your invention works. A conceptual prototype, or mock-up, details how your invention will look, but its functioning will be limited. A form, fit, function (F3) prototype is a fully functioning replica of your design.
Find potential builders and get estimates. Full-service prototyping companies can create any type of prototype. If you are looking to build an F3 prototype on a smaller budget, determine which industries have expertise in your invention's materials and technologies, and contact those businesses directly about making your prototype.
Select a builder based on the estimates and your assessment of which builder will best meet your needs.
Always sign a confidentiality agreement with everyone you approach for help with your invention idea.