Building a prototype of your innovation is a crucial link between conceiving the idea and commercializing it. A physical prototype helps you get immediate feedback from customers, designers, and financial backers as to the commercial viability of the project. It is a necessary step in the patent process. It is a pivotal point in the “GO vs. NO GO” decision, and it can save an inventor money and time as even Abraham Lincoln found out when he prototyped his patented invention.
Prototyping can be difficult especially for a small company or independent inventor. Here is help. Imagine a 15,000 square-foot workshop with tools, equipment, and instruction to build and prototype your inventions. It is called TechShop, now with three locations in the United States. From their website:
“You can think of TechShop as a health club but with tools and equipment instead of exercise equipment. It is sort of like a Kinko’s for makers, or a Xerox PARC for the rest of us. TechShop is designed for everyone, regardless of their skill level. TechShop is perfect for inventors, “makers”, hackers, tinkerers, artists, roboteers, families, entrepreneurs, youth groups, FIRST robotic teams, arts and crafts enthusiasts, and anyone else who wants to be able to make things that they dream up but don’t have the tools, space or skills.
TechShop has milling machines and lathes, welding stations and a CNC plasma cutter, sheet metal working equipment, drill presses and band saws, industrial sewing machines, hand tools, plastic and wood working equipment including a 4′ x 8′ ShopBot CNC router, electronics design and fabrication facilities, Epilog laser cutters, tubing and metal bending machines, a Dimension SST 3-D printer, electrical supplies and tools and pretty much everything you’d ever need to make just about anything.”
There are many resources for getting a prototype, but most of these are the “Do-It-For-You” type. TechShop is one of the few that lets you, the innovator, come in and use the machines to “Do-It-Yourself.” They offer a wide range of training courses as well as individual consultations when needed. It is truly a “healthclub” for innovators.
Perhaps the only thing I would add is a training course on How to Innovate!
Drew Boyd is Director of Marketing Mastery for Johnson & Johnson (Ethicon Endo-Surgery division). He is also Visiting Assistant Professor of Marketing and Innovation at the University of Cincinnati and Executive Director of the MS-Marketing program. Follow him at www.innovationinpractice.com and at http://twitter.com/drewboyd