What is needed to build prototypes, and problems we have encountered.

question-mark-funny-faceDuring the course of a year, there are always many inventors and companies that contact us for prototype creation.

Some have paper napkin sketches and want a new product engineered and prototyped, or a 3D version printed. Others may have products that are already engineered and they want us to build a prototype. Let’s go over the latest scenario, since many have questions about what is needed to build a prototype. Also, we will cover some of the difficulties that a prototype builder can be faced with.

The major things we encounter are the following:

  1. No 3D CAD files available. Today, most manufacturing methods need 3D CAD files. These are 3 dimensional representations of the product design, and are used for 3D printing. 3D CAD files are also used for machining and mold making. Remember that before you engage a consultant for your product design, make sure you own all the designs generated including 3D CAD files. We have, on occasion, come across inventors that do not have the 3D files, and come to find out that they didn’t pay the designer. That is also a sure way to not get the files you need.
  2. The parts cannot be manufactured as designed. Yes, when you design products, you need to know what manufacturing method to use for mass production, and that is long before you even start designing. For example, a machined parts in aluminum would have a completely different design than if it would have been injection molded in plastic. Also, some parts might be too thin and flimsy, whereas other may be too thick for a particular manufacturing method.
  3. The product looks beautiful… on the outside… even in product development, beauty is only skin deep. We have encountered some really beautiful designs that cannot be assembled since they did not have screw holes and no mounting features on the inside for internal components. Therefore, essentially, only half of the product was designed, the outside. In this case, we asked the engineer, who actually had many years of experience, how he intended to assemble the product for production. The response was that it was up to a prototyping company to figure out… Although we have no problems fixing designs, we felt bad for the inventor who believed that his product was finished and ready for production. Make sure that you hire an engineer that designs products that can be made.
  4. Parts do not fit together. Every time you make a product, the dimensions will not be exact due to manufacturing tolerances, so the design needs to account for those variations. Sometimes, we see simple mistakes like trying to put a 0.5″ pin into a 0.5″ hole, which will not work even it if was made exactly to specifications. In this case, the pin needs to be pressed in to the hole with force, or you change the tolerance so that the hole is larger and the pin is smaller and it will slip in just fine.
  5. The use of non-standard parts. We have recently seen frames that are supposed to be telescopic with very tight bend radius (read impossible) in non-standard sizes. To be able to prototype to specifications, extrusion tools have to be purchased (expensive if you just want to make one), or the parts have to be redesigned for manufacturing. It is also common to use non-standard screws and uncommon thread. When you design products, make sure you can find a company that sell the parts and check if they have the particular part in stock. If you can’t find the parts during the design process, you will probably not find them when you go into production either.
  6. Almost anything can be 3D printed, even though it cannot be made with any other process. Again, it common for us to have a client that says that the prototype works fine, but they cannot get any quotes from a manufacturer because the design is not manufacturable. We can typically change those parts using the principles of design for manufacturability.

If you have any questions, please contact at us and we would be happy to assist you.

Contact us to learn more: or +1.904.646.5666



Photo renderings of your ideas

You know what your thing should look like, and what it should do.  It is probably something you have come to know like a good friend.  You have probably spent hours of creative time working on it, thinking about it, and revising it over and over again.  “Obsession” is a word that usually describes it.  That is okay.  We understand. 🙂

Most folks need to sell their thing or idea someday.  The people who need to visualize that thing are usually investors or users who would very much like to see and understand your thing before investing their resources in it.  Sometimes it is not financially practical to have a complete prototype ready to show to investors, especially when those investors are not located where you are.  Consider too that to see a photo and to have an actual prototype in hand present different risks for having your idea copied by others.

Concept drawings of the Adrenaline Mount

One of the strengths of designing parts or complete assemblies in 3D CAD software is that we can generate photo-realistic images of what the part will look like when it is made.  We can place logos, add photo-realistic lighting, backgrounds, or whatever is needed to depict the device.  Sometimes those images lead to aesthetic changes that can mean all the difference in the final product.  Sometimes those images get used for promotional materials that would be difficult to generate by using a physical model.  Sometimes those images go no further than a portfolio.

Sometimes a photo is indeed worth a thousand words.

New device saves money for truckers and fleets

Rapid prototyping helped us develop a better tool for Slack Dog Tools.  Sometimes we find ourselves developing products to solve problems that we did not know existed.

Trailers have electrical connectors that connect the lights on the trailer to the truck hauling it. Commercial trucks use a universal 7-pin socket connector for this purpose.  The spring-loaded door that covers this connector on the truck also has a retaining tab built into it that holds the electrical plug in place.  It is a simple design, and it works well most of the time.

The rhythmic movements, excess dirt, and vibrations of normal use eventually cause the electrical plug to become loose. Eventually it becomes difficult to reconnect the electrical plug for the trailer.  Truck drivers usually resort to sticking a screw driver into the socket to straighten the pins, and the rest is a nightmare for fleet managers.  Broken pins, severely bent pins, and blown fuses are the results of this traditional method of on-the-spot repair.  What is a common and inexpensive repair at a maintenance shop now can lead to an expensive ticket, late delivery, or worse, a serious safety issue that leads to an accident.  None of these scenarios is good for a trucking company.

In comes Slack Dog Tools and their new tool, the Pin Separator Tool.  Using this newly developed tool, the truck driver can press the tool into the connector and straighten all of the pins at once without any damage to the pins or connector.  The process is easy and fast- which also means it is also more likely to get done.

Pin Separator Tool

Image of the pin separator tool website.

Early prototypes were printed on our Objet printer in VeroGray and readied for testing.  When the client had sufficiently tested the tool, we set up the manufacturing for full production.  The finished tool is made from high-impact ABS plastic.   For more information about the tool, please visit our client’s website.

Contact us to learn more: or +1.904.646.5666

Keep your new products simple

We like developing simple products, not just because it is simple.  Simple products are easier for our clients to quickly get out on the market. (Don’t get me wrong, we really love challenging projects too…) Since speed to market is important, not only to be first one out there, but also get your invested money back as sales are starting to trickle in. If you had chance to meet the owner of Polyhistor International, Inc., Peter Schönning, you have most likely heard him say, “sales is when the rubber meets the road.”  One great example is Shaving Slip, a product we assisted our client with from concept to finished product.


The Shaving Slip prevents those pesky rust stains from shaving cream cans. I am personally really glad that I do not have to deal with rust stains anymore (the wife is even happier and we all like a happy wife).  To learn more, go on to Facebook and like them and if you want one, you can get it here

See.. it doesn’t have to be that complicated to make a new product.

Contact us to learn more: or +1.904.646.5666