top of page

Prototype vs Production: 5 Crucial Differences in Manufacturing

In the industrial design and manufacturing industries, products are developed in 7 stages. The focus of this article is to explore three critical stages: prototyping, batch production, and mass production. Understanding the differences between these stages is essential for inventors and entrepreneurs who are developing their new products.

This article will explain the differences between prototyping, production, and mass production. To speak to one of our Perth product designers or engineers, contact us by email or through our contact form.


In Summary:

Product designers and inventors use prototypes to test whether an idea will work effectively. Alternatively, final products are manufactured at scale to be used and enjoyed by customers.

In addition, the differences between prototyping and final production can include:

  • The total cost

  • The cost per unit

  • The materials used

  • The production method and technology

  • The strength and mechanical properties of the part

The Prototype Stage

One of the primary stages in the product development process is prototyping. The main purposes of this stage are to decide whether the project is feasible, and fix any problems.

What is a Prototype?

A prototype is an early version of a proposed product or part. It is used to test and fix any problems in the design or idea. There are many types of prototypes including:

  • Sketches

  • Homemade Creations

  • Professional Functional Prototypes

  • Display or Form Prototypes

You might use all four methods of prototyping when developing your product. In your spare time, you might sketch out a design for an awesome product. Next, you might create a rough prototype using materials found at home.

After you test out your product, and you want to explore the idea further, you can bring your experiments to a product design and development company. That’s where Idea to Life comes in.

At Idea to Life, we create functional prototypes that test a product’s functionality and user experience. A functional prototype is an excellent way to get proof of concept for a part before manufacturing, and test whether a mechanical function works correctly.

As prototyping is often an interactive process, the stage is tightly interlinked with product design. If you’re in that stage of the process, discover more about Idea to Life's product design process.

Once a final functional prototype has been created and undergone rigorous testing, it guides the rest of the product development process.

The final prototype you may make is a display or dummy prototype. These are focussed on the final fit, finish and form of the product.

In this type of prototype we use various prototyping techniques to replicate mass manufacturing process finishes, therefore making the prototype look exactly like the final product.

Display prototypes can be fantastic marketing tools, critical for garnering attention around your product and driving orders to propel production.

What Makes a Prototype Different From Final Production?

One primary difference between a prototype and a final product is the materials used. Commonly, a working prototype is 3D printed using plastic, while final products are manufactured using many different processes. As 3D printing is relatively quick, this process is often called rapid prototyping.

Another essential factor to consider is that the cost per unit will be higher in the prototyping stage. This is because few prototypes of each design are made, meaning there are minimal economies of scale. It should also be noted that designing a prototype can be labour intensive and therefore entail a relatively high cost per unit.

However, one benefit of the prototyping stage is that the total cost will be lower, as fewer parts will be made.

Another benefit is that a prototype can be used to gauge the interest of investors or your target market. This will help you increase publicity and decide how many products you want to manufacture in the initial batch.

The Batch Production Stage

Once a final working prototype has been created and validated, you are now ready for the batch production stage. Batch production is when 10-100 products are manufactured, and only occurs once initial designs and prototypes are signed off on. It is always best to fix any problems before progressing to the next stage.

How is Production Different From Prototyping?

There are many differences between the prototyping and production stages. Notably, changes during the production stage can increase time and costs for your project.

Another difference is that a final product’s materials often differ from the prototype. In most cases, final products will be manufactured using advanced plastic or metal processes.

Due to decreased labour costs and increased economies of scale, most production processes will reduce the cost per unit of your product.

Another important factor to remember is that the cost of tooling and setting up the production process can be expensive. This means setup and tooling costs for some processes may not be feasible for small batches. This is why most choose to outsource their manufacturing.

3D printing is often a good option if you’re looking to manufacture small amounts of a product. However, CNC machining, casting, or other processes may be used depending on the size of your production batch. Contact us to learn more about the best manufacturing method for your product idea.

During the production stage, Idea to Life works with our sister companies: Adarsh Australia, PG Watson, and Afaridan Plastics. These companies are specialists in various manufacturing processes, and can create high-quality end-use products.

The Mass Production Stage

Manufacturers may use the term “mass production” when manufacturing thousands of standardised products. By this stage, only small details, if any, should have to be changed.

How is Mass Production Different From Batch Production?

The difference in classification between production and mass production is primarily due to the number of products being manufactured. In the mass production stage, economies of scale can be increased, and costs per unit can be reduced further.

Additionally, manufacturing is often completed overseas to reduce labour costs.

Depending on your financial investment and the size of your target market, not every product is best suited for mass production. This is because the total cost required for mass production is significant, especially when compared to creating prototypes.

Prototype vs Production: The Key Difference

The key difference between prototyping and production is that prototyping is used to test the feasibility of a design or product. In contrast, production increases manufacturing batch amounts and reduces the cost per unit.

In other words, prototype development has a small total cost compared to production or mass production. However, the production stages are more cost-effective when manufacturing many high-quality products ready for mass markets.

To learn more, speak to one of our engineers about your product idea.


bottom of page