Developing a new electronic hardware product needs multiple prototyping before the actual mass manufacturing. Each stage of bringing your electronic product to market will have different prototype requirements. This article includes basic information about prototyping at various stages.
Proof of Concept (POC) Prototype
This kind of prototyping is common in the early stages of product development and provides the basic concept of the product. Naturally, the POC prototype significantly differs from the final product. Instead, it aims to confirm or refute the practicality of a new product idea. POC prototype of an electronic hardware product is usually built with the use of electronics development platforms such as an Arduino or Raspberry Pi.
In contrast to POC, the looks-like prototype does not concern the functionality of your product. Instead, it focuses on its appearance, namely the look, feel, form, and aesthetics of the product. In order to create such a prototype, you can use different techniques, for example, foam, clay, 3D printing, CNC machining, etc. Professionals recommend creating the looks-like prototype using the cheapest methods in order to save costs. Indeed, the more complicated methods are more expensive. So, keep this kind of prototype simple.
Similar to the POC prototype, the works-like one also focuses on the functionality of your product. However, it is not created at the early stage of product development and is not as simple as the POC. Instead of using development kits like Arduino, the works-like prototype is based on the development of a custom Printed Circuit Board (PCB) that includes all electronic components of the product. So, for the creation of this kind of prototype you need more technical skills. In the case when you lack experience and skills in electronic hardware development, you can hire professionals that will take care of the works-like prototype as well as all other stages of product development.
This kind of prototype includes both functionality and appearance of your product. So, the engineering prototype is close to your actual product, but it lacks proper testing for being mass-produced.
Further, the pre-production prototype can be considered an optimized version of the engineering prototype. However, it also usually includes the retail package and is more manufacturable. In other words, at this stage, the product is prepared for mass manufacturing. Indeed, it is more efficient to make a few prototypes and select the one that is better (cheaper and faster) in manufacturing at a large scale.
Engineering Validation Test (EVT) and Design Validation Test (DVT)
Finally, the last two stages of prototyping include testing your product. While EVT tests the functionality, performance and reliability of your product, during DVT, cosmetic and environmental specifications are tested. DVT is a rather more complex process than engineering validation. This process lies in such aggressive actions as drop, fire, and waterproof testing that are used to confirm or refute the validity of a large number of units (typically 50-200). In other words, DVT aims to test the durability of the product in daily use.
So, as you can see, there are various stages of prototyping, each of which should not be underestimated in order to create a high-quality product in terms of functionality and appearance.