What is Prototyping?

Emily Suzuki Emily Suzuki January 18, 2024

3 min read

Prototyping is one of the most important aspects of the product design lifecycle, allowing for early design validation. See how Autodesk Fusion is a leading software that makes digital and functional prototyping easy and accessible.

what is prototyping?

In the world of engineering and design, prototyping is one of the most crucial aspects of any product life cycle. By providing a tangible representation of an idea, it allows engineers to find flaws, improve their work, and ultimately save time and money. In this article, we’ll learn more about the various aspects of prototyping, including its importance, types, and how Autodesk Fusion makes it easier than ever before. 

What is prototyping?

On a high level, prototyping can best be defined as creating a preliminary model or a sample of a product or a system before the completed version. In most cases, its purpose is to provide designers with a tangible, real-world representation of their design, which otherwise would only exist in computer software. 

Since prototypes are not meant to be sellable, completed versions of a product, they are often manufactured in small quantities with non-production materials. For example, one extremely popular form of functional prototyping is 3D printing, where a preliminary model of a product can be created from printed polymers. While this material may not be the final production material used for the product, it serves the purposes of the prototype.

What are the different types of prototyping?

There are various types of prototypes that one could create, including digital prototyping, which involves 3D modeling tools such as Autodesk Fusion, and functional prototyping, which involves creating a physical, functional model of the product or system that is used to test its functionality and performance. 

Rapid prototyping is another common term, which refers to an accelerated prototyping stage, typically involving CAD software like Autodesk Fusion and 3D printing in tandem to speed up the iteration process.

Why is it important?

Today, prototyping has become one of the most important parts of the product design lifecycle for a number of reasons. Its purpose is to allow engineers to test and validate the design, functionality, and usability of their product at an early stage in the design lifecycle. By having a tangible version of their design either as a 3D or physical model, engineers can test their product in real-world conditions, looking for things like functionality, mechanical fit, and aesthetics. Ultimately, having a prototype helps engineers identify any flaws or errors in the design, giving them valuable feedback that they can use to refine their designs and make necessary modifications. 

By the same token, prototyping is important because it can reduce the cost of development by identifying and fixing any issues early in the process. Cutting tools for production is often a very expensive endeavor, meaning that designers want to ensure their design is complete before this happens. Prototyping minimizes the risk of costly mistakes during the production stage by allowing for these flaws to be identified early on, well before tools get cut.

Using Autodesk Fusion for prototyping software

When prototyping, one of the most important tools you could have at your disposal is strong prototyping software. Autodesk Fusion has separated itself as one of the most valuable prototyping software available on the market today.

“You can do everything you need to do in Fusion. Maybe we need to buy a manufacturing extension or design extension from time to time. But Fusion 360 allows our engineers to maintain focus on the end goal, which is just to make parts. Prototype, prototype, prototype as much as you can; figure out what you can do with testing, and then a constant push for fast iteration.” 

—Steve Milanoski, Head of Advanced Manufacturing, Romar Engineering

Fusion enables teams to easily turn their digital prototypes into physical ones. It’s compatible with many 3D printers and also has a long list of partners for those who prefer using specific tools and machines. Whether you’re prototyping digitally or physically, Fusion can help you throughout the process and beyond.

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