How Long Does Product Design & Prototyping Take?
The length of time it takes to design and prototype your product depends on many different factors. Every engineering project has its own challenges.
The 3 different stages of the product design – engineering and creating manufacturing files, prototyping, and product testing all contribute to how long it will take your new idea to get ready for manufacturing.
We’ll go through how each stage of product development can affect the complete timeline.
Product Design Development
Projects that require more than one area of expertise will take a lot longer to design. For example, a smart home system will require expertise in structural engineering, electrical engineering, software engineering, app development, and mechanical engineering. There are extremely few, if any, companies that can handle all of those requirements. A project like that would have to be passed around multiple engineering companies and would take years to develop.
Something simple like a unique pair of scissors could take as little as a week to get first generation manufacturing drawings made. After the drawings are completed, prototypes should be made to test the product.
Note: just because you have first generation drawings and a prototype, doesn’t mean the development process of the product is finished. Sometimes changes have to be made to the final design after the prototype of the product has been tested. Most small changes can be implemented in a design in a week or two. If there is a large flaw, it could potentially take a much longer to fix, since it may cause larger parts of the product to be redesigned.
The length of time it takes to prototype a product largely depends on its complexity. Something that can be machined or 3D printed can be prototyped in a matter of days or weeks.
A product that has multiple components will take longer, especially if each component has to be custom made and there are no off the shelf substitutes.
The more different engineering requirements your product has, the longer a prototype will take. Many parts can be prototyped using a 3D printer or CNC machining.
One often forgotten yet crucial part of product development is product testing. Many products require a certain certification to be compliant with U.S. regulations. You’ll generally need to send a sample or prototype to a laboratory that is certified with the right agency to test your product. For example, a new air nozzle used in factories and machine shops would have to be tested by an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) approved facility.
Sometimes, several different tests need to be ran on your product. There are a wide variety of stress tests laboratories perform that can range from pressure tests, vibration tests, weather simulations, acid and heat resistance, tests of electrical currents, and more. The range of tests that need to be performed will be determined by the type of product being tested.
The length of time it takes to test a product varies based on how many tests need to be performed and how busy the product testing facility is, but we’ve seen the tests go as quickly as under a week to as long as a month or two.
How Long Does Product Development Take from Start to Finish?
As every project is unique in its own requirements and challenges, the exact time it will take to produce your project can be provided with a quote, but the following is a rough baseline to understand what you can expect:
For a simple product with few components, a rough timeline for engineering can range anywhere from 1-8 weeks for engineering and designing manufacturing files, and then 2 weeks to a month for prototyping. If changes need to be made, then you should expect a week or two for the changes to be implemented and the same amount of time for a first prototype.
For complex projects, the designing can take as much as 6 months to a year. The prototypes can also take a few months due to tooling requirements. If a mold is required for your prototype, those generally require a couple months to be produced.
Intermediately complex projects would fall somewhere in the middle of that timeline.
If you need to send a prototype to a laboratory for testing, you should expect it to take additional time, somewhere around a month.