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Building the first prototypes is an important part of the product development cycle and marks the start the production process.
The terminology means different things to different people, but we use the terms Alpha Prototype(s), Beta Prototype(s), and Pilot Production to describe the different phases of prototype development.
An Alpha Prototype is sometimes called a proof-of-concept model. It is designed to test, early in the design process, the fundamental technologies upon which the product is based. The need for one or more Alpha prototypes flows from evaluating the risk of proceeding with the design without demonstrating the riskiest parts of the product first. An alpha prototype is typically developed ad hoc by the engineering team from 3D printed parts and evaluation electronics, typically mounted on a wood base and hand wired.
A Beta Prototype is the first prototype which is representative of the entire product. It may be lacking packaging or maybe the color is not final, but it should be able to be used to test the design to the design specifications and the PRD. Ideally, the design and materials are close enough to the final product design that any regulatory testing can be done on the product with little risk that there will be changes when the product is released to manufacturing.
Pilot Production is used to verify the production process. The design has been finalized and the pilot units are used to show that the production processes are adequate and in control.
For the purposes of this Stage, we want to consider the Beta Prototype.
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Here’s what we’ll cover in Stage 3 – Prototype: