Published 11th June 2020 by   |  Latest News, Product Design

How to take your new product from concept to prototype PART 2

In our last article we looked in detail at the different stages involved in taking a new product concept from the drawing board through to a CAD design ready for prototyping.

In this next piece, we’ll continue with our look under the lid of product design with a particular focus on what happens during the prototyping phase.

To get the low down, we sent product designer Jack Lowe to visit Prototype Projects to uncover what happens after they receive the design files.

What stage of the process is a prototype needed?

At this stage in the process of designing the new asthma metered dose inhaler (MDI), we have already:

  • Received and understood the product design brief, discussing it in depth with the client to ensure we understand exactly what is required
  • Created a mood board and initial concept drawings
  • Developed the concept into 3D sketches
  • Rendered the concept into photorealistic drawings
  • Agreed all of the above and created our STL file ready to send to the prototyping company.Triangulated product drawing

Why do we need a prototype?

Knowing the nature and purpose of the prototype is key in briefing the prototyping firm, because it will determine the material and finish.

The stage we’re at right now requires us to provide a scale model for the client to assess the look, size and feel of the inhaler.

Importantly, it’s not yet a model which will be used to assess the process of inhalation, but how the user interacts with it, how it feels etc.

The model is not going to be stressed or loaded, so we have already decided that what we need is an unfinished stereolithography (SLA) model.

What happens to the STL file?

Having received the STL file from us, the Prototype Projects team starts importing the file.  Once this is complete, the SLA machine is set up to literally print the various component parts that will be run in this build.

The prototyping engineer ensures that all the parts to be printed are arranged onto the build platform with positions and orientations optimised for the most efficient build.

product renderingOnce set up is finished, the build configuration is sent to the SLA machine, which in this case is in an industrial size 3D Systems Viper ST.

The next stage of the process is a waiting game where the 3D printer builds the model layer by layer, curing each one in turn with a UV laser.

Resin vat

The results

SLA parts are commonly built in batches overnight, so next day Jack returned to Prototype Projects to see the results.

3D printed products

Once the build is complete, a prototyping engineer takes the parts off the machine so the support material (scaffolding) can be removed by hand.

product finishingThe parts are washed in an alcohol tank to wash away any excess resin and then cured once more in a UV light cabinet to ensure that the resin is fully hardened. Having been washed and cured, each part undergoes a final inspection and clean up before it is bagged ready for despatch.

Presentation of the results so far

The parts which come back to Cambridge Design Technology are ready for assembly and checking in order to verify that the design exhibits the features that were intended at the outset.

The key job is to ensure that the action and form of the models meet the requirements of the design brief. At this point we are not testing the behaviour of the model as an inhaler device. 

Disk inhaler product designTwist inhaler renderingWe now have a tangible representation of the concept design in the shape of a physical model made to scale, along with the photorealistic renderings from an earlier stage of the process.

This model can be presented to the client in order to gain approval to proceed to the next step of the process, which may be the development of functional prototypes.

How to turn your ideas into reality

If you have a new product concept, Cambridge Design Technology can take your ideas and very quickly turn them into reality. Models for demonstration or testing can be created with supporting imagery for use in presentational media for exhibitions, marketing literature, websites, newsletters etc.

For more information about Cambridge Design Technology and how we can work with you on your next product design project, please call Jon Plumb now on 01223 662300 or email  

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