Inventor Advice: Prototype or Drawing?

Trying to decide whether you need a prototype of your invention?

Our Guest Blogger, Frank Morosky, is an "Entrepreneur Consultant". He assists people with business ideas or inventions to help them get their business started quickly and on a tight budget. His website is at He wanted to share his experiences with prototyping with the readers of

Here's his article:

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So you have an invention in mind and you want to show the idea to people or companies that might license the invention from you.

The big question at this point is “do you get a prototype made or just show people your drawings and product description. Most decision makers want to see an actual physical item and not just a drawing of it. They can be sold on an idea if it is in a physical form better than just a drawing.

I suggest you ask your potential customer if they need to see a prototype or if a drawing will do. It could save you a lot of time and money. You will find it is important to ask a potential client if he just needs to see a drawing of the invention or does he have to have a functional prototype. It opens up a dialog and relationship with the party. The prototype may cost many hundreds of dollars and take several weeks to complete. The client may not need all that done to make their evaluation. They may have the manufacturing capability to do it themselves more cheaply and quickly.

With all that put aside, you must start with a drawing. A conceptual sketch
is a good place to start. It helps get to get the idea of the concept onto paper.
But a detailed drawing with clear dimensions and specs is better. It can be done as simply as on paper with a pencil. The best drawings to help show your inventions would be a CAD drawing of the item as it is more professional looking. With a CAD drawing, any prototype manufacturer could take that CAD drawing and make your invention pretty easily.

One of my pet peeves is that almost every prototype company making a product feels that they have to design and build the components for a product from scratch. It's important to realize that there are thousands of standard commercially made products that can be utilized to make your product. You wouldn't normally design a battery to be used for your product. So look to use what is out there, research all the available options andit can save you a lot of time and money.

I recently assisted an inventor with his automotive accessory. He was stuck with his invention for a year trying to find a way to get a prototype made. Every manufacturer wanted to make some custom tooling for him. After breaking down the product concept into parts, we were able to determine the components he would need to create a prototype. We found that standard components were readily available at Radio Shack and the local home store. He is now finalizing his prototype and he will be able to show a working model of his invention to his prospects.

Not every invention needs a prototype to be marketable. Ask your prospects if they need one. If they do, researching your options carefully will save you time and money.

Frank Morosky
Guest Blogger

Oct 17, 2008
by Anonymous

Developing your product

Well, this topic is very near and dear to me because I own a product development / design company. Here is my take: If you absolutely do not have the money than you can consider building the prototype yourself or enlisting the help of a single engineer or designer.

BUT and this is the big but, development/design firms will do what they do best: Design and Develop! That means taking everything into account such as human factors analysis (i.e. does this product feel right in an average person's palm), refining designs (colors, surface material), marketability (how do we get this product to SELL well in the market. Does it have a stunning design, yet function as intended?), legality (Does this product need FCC approval), sale requirements (i.e. If selling to big box retailers such as WalMart and Target electronic products will require a UL listing), product packaging, to cost optimization for mass production manufacturing (how can we design this product to decrease manufacturing costs and boost quality?). All these factors play a big role in the success of your product and ultimately your brand. These firms can help you develop something out of a simple sketch on a napkin, all the way to full 3D models, rapid prototypes, and ultimately helping you source a reliable manufacturer either domestic or overseas.

Also, for those short on money, many design/development firms including our own can work out a mutually beneficial arrangement such as designing your product for free but taking 2% - 3% royalty for every sale. That way you don't take a hit up front and only pay a small royalty if your product sells, so it is in the best interest of both the inventor / company and the design / development firm to make the most attractive, marketable, and successful product for you and your company.

Don't be afraid to contact product design / development firms. If your idea is good, I'm sure you can work something out with the firm that does not always require upfront payment for design and development services.

Don't forget to sign a non-disclosure agreement with anybody you work with! Protect your ideas.

Good Luck!

Sanyo Tzeng
Synthesis Labs, Inc. - Product Development, Engineering, Brand Cohesion