Two Main Prototype Categories And The Types In Each

by Stephen Ellison

Prototyping is a complex process that involves the creation of a mock-up of a design. It can be done using a wide range of techniques, including CNC prototyping. The type of technique used depends on the type of prototype you wish to create. This post will focus on the various types of prototypes.

Types of prototypes

There are numerous types of prototypes in the market. However, these types can be broken down into various categories. Below are some of these categories and the types of prototypes in each;

Types of prototypes based on what they represent

Prototypes can be categorized based on what they represent. They can be a representation of a miniature, digital, or partial component. Below are types of prototypes in this category;

  • Functional prototypes: these prototypes are designed to imitate the functioning of an actual product. The aim of creating the prototype is to ensure that they work as the design requires. In most cases, the manufacturers do not aim at creating a replica of the concept. Manufacturers may have to implement during the production process until it functions as expected. Therefore, no matter how different the product looks from the idea, the important thing is that it works as it should.
  • Display prototypes: these are designed with the look and feel of the product in mind. This means that they ignore the functionality of the product. The aim is to ensure that they are a representation of the visuals of the product. Display prototypes are commonly used in industries where looks are important, like the display industry. They are also widely used in the advertisement industry.
  • Miniature prototypes: these are smaller versions of a product. They are usually designed with functionality, look, and feel in mind. However, they may lack many of the actual qualities of the final product.

Types of prototypes based on how they are used

In addition to how they function, prototypes can also be categorized based on how they are applied. In this case, below are the types of prototypes;

  • Throwaway prototypes: these prototypes are usually discarded after they are tested. They are only used to represent the product during the testing stage, after which they are thrown away. This means that they are not used as part of the final product.
  • Evolutionary prototypes: these prototypes are used as the basis of a final product. This means that they are intended to be built upon to form an actual product. Therefore, evolutionary prototypes are usually part of the final product. They are typically improved over and over until a perfect product is created. In the process, a few materials may be added, designs changed, and some parts subtracted. They are more popular than the former because they prevent the wastage of resources.


Note that the type of prototype you choose is highly dependent on the product design. It also depends on the type of material you are using. For instance, for paper products, it is hard to create an evolutionary prototype. This is because the paper may get damaged before the final product is achieved. Regardless, it is wise to understand each of the types mentioned above.

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