Prototyping vs. Production in Manufacturing

When looking to manufacture any kinds of parts, it’s important to know the differences between prototyping and production. Knowing their main distinctions has the potential to help lower production costs. Elastomer Technologies, Inc. (ETI) specializes in a variety of manufacturing methods to suit various industrial needs, including liquid injection molding, compression molding, transfer molding, and die-cutting.

What Is Prototyping?

In the manufacturing industry, a prototype is a model used to further develop details and functions of the final product. This early model provides proof that a product’s intended aesthetics and functionality are viable. Continually honing the prototype before officially moving into the production phase helps to ensure efficiency, functionality, problem-solving, material feasibility, and quality assurance.

Here are the advantages of a thorough prototyping process:

  • Early identification and repair of design issues
  • Provides a preview and estimates of the ensuing timeline, production costs, and material requirements
  • Determines manufacturing equipment that will be required for production
  • Enables fit and durability testing with end users
  • Fine-tunes final design and function
  • Helps raise funding from investors
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What Is Production/Mass Production in Manufacturing?

Production is any process used to convert raw materials or separate components into finished products or services. Production processes are typically performed with specialized types of machinery.

Mass production is the process of creating large quantities of standard products or components. Mass-produced goods are put together with automation technology or assembly lines. This process is an efficient method of producing a large number of identical products.

Benefits of mass production in manufacturing include:

  • Improved productivity
  • Enhanced uniformity
  • Reduced costs
  • High quality
  • Longer product life
  • Quick production 
  • Minimal risk of human error
  • Better employee safety

Key Differences Between Prototyping and Production in Manufacturing

See this table for a comprehensive breakdown of the main differences between prototyping and production.

PrototypingProduction 
Materials Prototypes are often made from less expensive materials. For instance, if an end product is supposed to be made of titanium, the prototype may just be made from white metal, steel, or plastic.  It is important to note that more often it is best to try to duplicate materials used in production.Material is usually very specific. Material waste becomes an important consideration as does material availability. While material costs can go up, they may be recouped by volume purchasing. 

Specific tests for batches of materials may be required to qualify parts.

Processes While a manufacturer will produce the end product, it’s often more cost-effective to outsource the prototype to a prototype specialist, who can save you labor, time, and money.

ETI offers prototyping using compression molding of products.  While this can be an expensive process it can answer a lot of questions regarding material behavior in a molded state that you cannot get from fast turn prototypes.

During the production process, the cost per unit is much lower than with prototyping. However, quality control becomes more critical.  Production quickly becomes less efficient and more expensive if an error is detected after items have already been produced in high quantities.

Production process qualification can become very complex, requiring multiple runs of parts, experiments, IQ, OQ, PQ (installation qualification, operational qualification and performance qualification).

VolumePrototyping is also known as a “dry run,” which is a short production run of experimental products.  Production quantities can be in batches of 50 to hundreds or thousands of products at a time. The total cost per part will vary based on minimum purchases of materials and the cost of material generally, set up costs and cycle time.

 

Why Work with Elastomer Technologies, Inc.?

For almost 50 years, Elastomer Technologies has been providing customers with high-quality engineered components. We are ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 13485 certified, which means that we are committed to delivering quality products and services to our clients across every industry. Our team of specialists will maximize your project’s efficiency and cost-effectiveness, providing guidance for every stage of the manufacturing process and even more importantly they are adept at following customer requirements.  For more information about prototyping vs. production or our other capabilities, contact us today.

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