Rapid Proof of Concept Prototyping

Below is an edited transcript:

Mark Brinkerhoff, President of Fusion Design:

Imagine that you have an idea and you really want to try it out. I call this “Creation of a Rapid Proof of Concept”. I call it “rapid” because you should be able to it do very quickly and it’s really about educating yourself, and/or others, about the capabilities of your idea.

First look in the marketplace. Is there something already out there doing the same thing that I've dreamed up? If there is, maybe I should buy it. I also look in the patent database, on Amazon, in stores, and if it's not anywhere, maybe it would be worth building a proof of concept model.

Perhaps the marketplace already has something similar to my idea? For example, a ladder escalator, something that can carry you up a ladder instead of going up those rungs, banging your knees or tripping as you try to climb up. Suppose you're carrying a paint can and a paintbrush and a whole bunch of other things on the way up? Imagine doing a proof of concept for that. What would you do?

To build a proof of concept, I like to use household items as much as I can. Next, I look in Home Depot or other sources for parts for this kind of mechanism. The goal is to prove a concept. Perhaps you have access to a building that's at least two storeys high, maybe it’s your own home. To reach up into the eaves, the highest point might be the second floor. If this is 16 foot level, maybe you want to have a 12 foot travel for the prototype.

You want to control it, so how would you do that? It would  be nice to have remote control so I can just press a button and the thing kicks me up, press another button and it takes me back down. How fast do you want it to go? You have to think about all these things. So, how would you do a Proof of Concept to do these things.?

First you might start with a ladder and then figure out a way to drive it. Ladders have rungs or steps, so you might create something that has a wheel that hooks from one to the next, with a little support for your feet to stand on. Considering that it has two sides, maybe just that crawler togo up and a roller here and a hook feature there. Does it have a step on it? Maybe you need a drill motor because they have batteries rather than cords. You might hook that up with a sprocket from a bicycle shop. Put this part in there, maybe there's a axle with your motor mounted beneath it. Then a little squeeze device that'll pull the trigger and give you remote control. A hand grip or something from a bicycle shop that squeezes the handle.

This is mounted here, with a handle with a squeeze arrangement to put in your hand. Now you've got your first prototype. You try it for different speeds. If you squeeze it more, you go faster. It's not easy to reverse, so you might have to play with that. The idea is to use things that are in your home or easy to get, quick to build, and  will give you knowledge, which is useful in many ways. You can figure out your marketplace better, your requirements, your challenges, and maybe you find out that it's not feasible. You haven't wasted a lot of money and you've proved the mechanism.

You can do this as many as 20 times, at least I've seen it done that many times, and the refinements you can make this way are amazing. It makes your product development cycle quicker because it gives you an insight into where you will be headed when you do the final product development.