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Make: Asks is a weekly column where we ask you, our readers, for responses to maker-related questions. We hope the column sparks interesting conversation and is a way for us to get to know more about each other.

When putting a project together for the first time, I usually do a quick and dirty prototype just to provide proof of concept. Once finished, I’ll rebuild the piece and make it more polished and finished.

This week’s question: What is your prototyping process like? Are you meticulous from the get-go, do you go through many different iterations, or somewhere in between?

Post your responses in the comments section.

Michael Colombo

In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens’ educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.


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Comments

  1. NeXT-Generation says:

    I prefer to get it done the first time, but I usually do some prototypes of certain concepts. For example, when building a Arduino controlled LEGO air-pressure regulator, I built and tested all the individual parts, like how to control the motor, reading the air-pressure, feedback system, etc. Other times, it can take anywhere from 2-10 iterations to get it right.

  2. Sully says:

    I like to start concepts on breadboards…. Run them through a shakeout and then move it to vector board. Depending on enviroment I’ll do the vector board in wire wrap or point2point. I still.have some wire wrap board the are still functioning after 15 years…

  3. Will says:

    I’m somewhere in between. It all depends on the project. For my last computer case mod it had lots of integrated electronics. So I started by prototyping each system and then working on integrating it all together for the finished product. It worked out nice actually. Check it out here: http://www.thebestcasescenario.com/forum/showthread.php?p=332236

  4. For me the point of the prototype is to fail fast. If it works the first time then I shouldn’t have been prototyping. (Or more likely there’s something flawed with the prototype.)

    I use them to test what I don’t know yet, to keep from making expensive mistakes later. If I know everything about a robot chassis but how the arm is going to attach and articulate I don’t need to prototype the whole chassis, just the attachment point.

    It’s also good to pay attention to process, not just the arrangement of parts. When I do this again what’s the best order of steps. How can I make this part or assembly easier, faster, more precise. Will part A get in the way of putting in screw Z.

    Otherwise prototype with the cheapest, easiest, fastest materials that will work. Foam core, hot glue, paper, tape, coat hangers. Whatever will do the job, but get me to find the limits fastest.

    Take notes, take photos.

  5. Kirsten says:

    Depends on the project! For building Quadrokopters and Hexakopters (and similarly complex and expensive projects) I typically will put it together as much as I can without locktite or soldering to ensure the online German instructions match the current production version (they never do) and that it fits together correctly (it usually does). For ad-hoc fixes to household items, I usually just go for it with abandon (and sometimes iterations happen as part of the creative process…).

  6. Sofia Lenard says:

    w/ the projects that I usually do there are so many things going on that I have to prototype each component one @ a time so I can then start integrating them all together so by the time I have everything working my first prototype is usually almost the perfect size.

  7. jamesbx says:

    Like many others have said, it depends. I lean towards soldering on a pre-drilled board, and sometimes run jumper wires over to a proto-board for quick swapping of components to get a functional area working.

  8. Blake Lowe says:

    I’m working on one prototype of a mechanical piece right now, which is being designed for a consumer market. Because the people who hired me wanted design to come first, as that is an important sales feature in the $10-$15 tchotchke market, I designed the thing first, then began work on the mechanics. This has helped a lot because I could spend years designing a flawless mechanism, and it still wouldn’t be a marketable design. Once I decided on a basic design, the mechanisms inside seemed intuitive to me. It also helped knowing how the manufacturing of the final piece would probably end up happening, because it’s a silicone piece, I know it will save a lot on cost to have it cast in one piece, with no need for adhesives. It would cut down on dies, adhesives, and manufacturing time in general, and keeping all of those things in mind have led me more or less to the simplest design, that looks the best, and will be the most cost effective.

  9. Nice job………Thanks for sharing