Building a prototype is a necessary step in product design. Prototypes are essential to fine-tune your product to perfection and successfully acquire funding to move your project forward. But building a prototype doesn’t come cheap. There’s the cost of hiring a 3D CAD designer to create a digital prototype for you. You’ll need to work with a plastic injection molding manufacturer to develop the physical sample, and you have to think about the cost of materials.
On average, a professionally designed prototype can set you back anywhere from $200 to almost $250,000 depending on the nature of your product and the labor and materials consumed. The costs will vary based on the following factors that are associated with creating a prototype.
The cost of materials depends on what stage of the design process you’re on. These are just three of the main types of prototypes to choose from, each with their corresponding purpose and increasing level of labor involved:
- Research prototypes are used primarily for sales activities, early concept presentations, and market research. These are the cheapest type to produce because they’re composed of materials that the design & engineering company already has, such as 3D-printed parts, glue, tape, or module electronics. The pricing for these models can start at around $1,000.
- Production alpha prototypes are fully-operational scale models that serve as a benchmark for functionality. The usual starting price point for these prototypes is $5,000, including materials, labor, and testing.
- Manufacture-ready prototypes are entirely manufactured models that are already likely to enter the market. Depending on the required volume of units needed and the complexity of your product, you should expect to pay upwards of $20,000 or more for these kinds of prototypes.
You’ll need to hire a designer who will develop and fully render a 3D model of your product and a manufacturer who can manifest these plans into a physical prototype. You should refer to the list of prototypes and materials above, which contains a rough estimate of how much you can expect to spend on manufacturing labor costs.
On the other hand, 3D product design services can cost anywhere between $30 and $60 per hour, depending on the level of skill and expertise of your designer. Rendering a 3D model of the product is a separate service from 3D design modeling, although you use the same designer. Rendering projects are slightly more expensive, and you can typically expect to pay upwards of $100 per hour for these kinds of projects.
You’re not required to file for a patent, but it’s wise to have a contingency plan so that you can protect your intellectual property. Below is a rough estimate of what you can expect to pay for one:
- Non-provisional patent
- Micro-business: $240
- Small business: $480
- Large business: $960
- Provisional patents
- Micro-business: $70
- Small business: $140
- Large business: $280
To further protect your product and determine which patent is the most suitable for your business, you should hire a patent attorney, which will cost you between $4000 and $20,000 or even more.
Prototypes aren’t the cheapest things to make, but they’re a necessary component of product development.