There are lots of factors people should consider when choosing the right prototyping company or partner that they don’t know about. Imagine yourself as a product, engineering, or technology designer, and you have a product to finalize and a deadline to meet. All of a sudden, your prototyping company or partner lets you down. How would you feel? You’d agree that it’s time to get a new prototype company. But it’s not just enough to want to do it. There are lots of prototype manufacturing companies globally, so making a good choice can be hectic especially if you’re relatively new in the industry.
It doesn’t matter your circumstances or the kind of manufacturing process you need. Selecting the right prototyping company for your needs can be a straightforward process if you know what you’re looking for and how to get it.
Now, you may be wondering, “what other factor is necessary than the primary factors?”. The primary factors include cost, quality, and speed. But there are lots of additional decisions you must take as the product designer to ensure that the chosen prototyping company gives you the best and unrivaled result possible.
There are some basic choices you need to consider. First, what kind of organization do you work for? Is it a design consultancy or manufacturer? If you’re working for a design consultancy, you may have the prototype machines under the same roof, so you should be looking for a prototyping partner instead.
But if you’re working for a manufacturer, there is a huge chance that you’d outsource the design. That is when you should choose the right prototyping company.
Furthermore, how much are you willing to put in? How often do you (or your company) require prototyping services?
By the time you’re done answering these questions, you’d be better equipped to choose the right prototyping company.
How to choose the best prototyping company
1. The prototyping company should understand the entire process
The best prototyping companies understand the end-to-end development processes, from conceiving the design, creating the prototype, developing, testing, then manufacturing the final product.
This gives them an idea of the kind of design you want and the right materials that will be suitable for the application. They must know the different phases of product development and have people that specialize in technical disciplines like engineering and CAD.
Furthermore, if you’re going for services like CNC, vacuum casting, vat polymerization, etc., there should be model makers, prototyping engineers, and tool makers on standby. The company shouldn’t outsource these major components.
2. Focus on specialties
You need a prototyping company that focuses on specialties. Years and wealth of experience have a hand to play here, because only such companies can offer wide range of services under the same roof with different people handling various divisions.
They must have specialists that focus on additive manufacturing, model making, and prototyping singly. All these specialties will affect the turnaround time, timeliness of response, and determine how accurately your job turns out.
Any company that is short staffed or have a handful of people handling every operation is a bad sign.
Quality service delivery is of the utmost importance.
3. Wide range of offered services
Just as explained earlier, you should get a company that has a wide range of prototyping services under the same roof. As a product designer, your needs and wants vary, depending on the kind of application you need.
You may need a 3D print today, but you may need a fully functional model prototype to exhibit at a presentation or trade show tomorrow. How are you going to deal with both events if the prototype company is a master in only one field?
First, ask how many prototype services they offer, and how many types of 3D printing services are available. Look out for their finishing options as well, whether they use laser cutting, smoothing, or painting.
How flexible is the company?
There are some times you may leave your prototype to the last minute and need it urgently for a meeting the next day. Even though cases like this aren’t always ideal, life is never predictable and you’d better appreciate the benefits of a great prototyping company that has all hands-on deck.
Value builds over time, and you need a prototyping company that is willing to go the extra mile to serve you.
5. Years and depth of experience
Nothing beats a company with years of experience, and one that has continuously evolved. Even though it has invested lots of money in industrial prototyping machinery and other cash investments, it must have stood the test of time and continuously upgraded its processes (not just the machinery) to fit global standards.
If you’re going with a relatively new company, you should get good recommendations from colleagues that may have used them in the past. Online reviews and statements from authority bodies could also be helpful.
Yes, the capacity of the prototyping company is important, especially if you’re running large-scale prototyping operations.
The right company should take conscious steps into investing in technologies and new machines. Imagine having a presentation the next day and the prototyping company has only 2 machines. You would either miss your presentation or outsource it to a 3rd party.
Outsourcing isn’t a problem, but over time, your production chain will be weakened, you may end up spending more than budgeted, your delivery schedule may be disrupted, or your parts may even become faulty.
All of these can be managed and controlled if the prototyping company has all functional equipment running under the same roof.
7. Innovative suggestions
This is why you need a company with years of experience. Even though you may have spent some time in the industry, you may be unsure of what prototype process to use that will create the needed geometric properties.
A good prototyping company with specialists should be able to make innovative suggestions based on your budget, the kind of application you want, and the desired finished product.