Prototypes with Purpose

Get the most out of prototypes by choosing the right types for your project


Hillside Product Design have many years’ experience producing prototypes. They generally fall into five types and cover many applications.

Cosmetic Prototype – ‘looks like’

Used for evaluating product form, feel, ergonomics and styling, we use this prototyping level for marketing, photography, video, and focus groups. This kind of prototype will feature accurate likenesses of product forms, materials, finishes and surface textures but only from one or two elevations. The level of detail and the ‘wholeness’ of the prototype are often dependent on the application and the client’s budgetary constraints.

Proof of concept Prototype – ‘works like’

A test-rig. This kind of prototype functions electromechanically in the same way as the final product. This type of prototype is very useful as a proof-of-concept, demonstrating novelty for Intellectual Property, or to communicate core functionality. What it doesn’t do is look exactly like the finished product – some or all of the external form may be cut away or missing, and the prototype is more ‘functional’ than cosmetic.

Presentation Prototype

The prototype is functionally and visually identical to the final product - sufficient to take the design to a meeting with potential buyers or investors. Materials may not be the same as in production, and some manufacturing details such as draft angles will be missing but that would not be apparent. High definition 3D printed parts are common for this kind of prototype.

Pre-production Facsimile Prototype

Launching a product is a big leap, so it is crucial that our clients are confident that the designs we produce for them are right. To enable our clients to proceed with confidence, we use prototypes which mimic, as close as possible, the product’s intended mechanical and aesthetic characteristics and manufacturing details. As well as for final sign-off this kind of prototype is often used for achieving certification. While specific production-grade injection moulding polymers or casting alloys are not always available for prototyping, parts will typically be prepared from the closest possible material.

Prototype tooling

Where a product requires a very large tooling investment or will be produced in very high quantities, it is often recommended to produce a prototype tool to enable verification of the product before final commitment. These tools are usually single cavity, and made from softer steels or aluminium and can be used to produce small runs (up to 5000 typically) of finished parts. There have even been recent advancements in 3D printed tooling which can save thousands of pounds and cut weeks from the development schedule. Hillside have experience of helping companies prove and deliver high-stakes tooling and can help your company make the leap with confidence.

Product Design Prototype - deadline looming

As well as a large catalogue of external suppliers for all manner of prototyping services, Hillside has an in-house prototyping capability, enabling our expert model-makers to produce high-quality prototypes with fast turnarounds. Our facilities include:

• 4-axis CNC milling machine
3D printer
• Model-making workshop with extensive tools and materials
• Low volume resin, silicone and low-melt alloy casting
• Foam modelling
• Basic PCB manufacturing

The Power of Protoyping

Why should you be using prototypes in your new product development? A further article can be read here

Let’s Create Something Great Together
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If you’ve got an idea you want to take to market, we will assist you through your journey. Even the most accomplished will require assistance which is where Hillside Product Design’s expertise is invaluable.  We work closely with all our clients to ensure they have all the support they need throughout the product development process.    

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