How To Rapidly Prototype a Hardware Device?

What is it?
Rapid prototyping is a method used to create a working concept/prototype within a considerably short time frame.
 
Why do we do it?
The process of rapid prototyping helps us to create a working prototype quickly with minimal cost and resources. We should be able to determine whether to carry on or ditch the project after gathering feedback with the prototype product.
 
How to do it?
  1.  Idea This is a stage where everything in mind is put on the table. This will include the concept, building materials, etc. Visualize the idea on paper whether in a form of sketches, diagram etc. Set a time frame or milestone of when you want this prototype to be done as will keep you focus and on track while not taking too long and going off the timeline.
  1. Pre-Prototype Review is a cautionary step before investing time and material towards the prototype. Gather the team for a design review and ask them to weigh in and give their feedback towards the prototype, such as the viability of the prototype, materials needed, time to be invested, the cost, etc. Feedback from client is also imperative to keep you on track and coincide with the client’s demand and vision.
  2. Prototype After you have everything you need from the team and client; it is time to create the prototype!
  3. Post-Prototype Review When the prototype is near finish, it is highly recommended for the team to revisit the prototype and have a final review session. Ask yourself and the team whether you have met the specifications required and are you still on track. At this point, the team should try to finalize the design as close as planned. Get in touch and gain feedback from client is just as important during this post-review.
  4. Refine/ditch When the prototype has been reviewed and the design has been revised by the team, it is time refine the prototype. This prototype will be the version closest to the final product. Or, if you have realized this product might not be as worth or as how you would have hoped it to be, you can ditch it with minimal time, cost investment and to an extent, minimal regret!
 
What tools are used?
We use these items every time we create a prototype:
 
  1. A computer for programming and PCB layout
  2. A breadboard
  3. A soldering iron
  4. A good multimeter
 
However, if you have funds to invest in more equipment, we suggest these items:
 
  1. Logic analyser
  2. Oscilloscope
  3. 3D printer
  4. Rotary tools
 
What to avoid?
You should not dwell so much when doing rapid prototyping as it will defeat its purpose. Remember, it is called rapid prototyping for a reason. If you feel like you have spent a long time developing the prototype, you might want to step back and re-evaluate the project.