Oct 11, 2010

Every once in a while a new customer will come to us with a new product. It hasn’t been completely prototyped or engineered, and they want to know if a factory in China can finish the engineering and prototyping for them.

Here’s what usually happens: if the Chinese production factory agrees to give it a try, they make one, possibly two sample rounds (if that). If the customer hasn’t signed off on the final design and given approval for production by the second round, the factory does the Chinese poof! act and disappears.

Engineering and prototyping is an evolving process that often requires many changes. It also requires that the engineering company has a basic understanding of what the customer is after. Chinese production factories aren’t geared for engineering and prototyping. They take engineer’s drawings and a final working prototype, make one set of molds and/or production tooling, and then make a volume run of parts. They aren’t set up to make one or two parts and continually change it. Once they’ve made a steel mold they’re limited on any changes they can make, which means you might ended up paying for a new mold.

Prototype companies have special machinery (i.e. rapid prototype machines or 3D printers) that allows them to make a few parts without having an expensive production mold made. They can change their program and create a new sample on demand. Most companies that specialize in prototyping aren’t set up for production. Their speciality is engineering, product design and prototyping.

If you have a product that still needs finishing touches put on the engineering, or you still need a finished prototype made, we have several US companies we work with who we would refer you to. We always recommend that engineering and prototyping are done in the US as it will be faster, and US companies have a better handle on what works for products sold in the US market.