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CREATING A PROTOTYPE

Don't limit yourself to any preconceived notions and explore as many options as you can as you begin to bring your product idea to life.

One of the essential early steps in the inventing process is creating a prototype--which, simply defines, the three-dimensional version of product vision. Creating a prototype can also be one of the most fun and rewarding steps,  to see the idea transformed into something tangible and real.

A prototype provides other advantages, as well:

1. It enables you to test and refine the functionality of your design. Sure, your idea works perfectly in theory. It's not until you start physically creating it that you'll encounter flaws in your thinking. That's why another great reason to develop a prototype is to test the functionality of your idea. You'll never know the design issues and challenges until you begin actually taking your idea from theory to reality.

2. It makes it possible to test the performance of various materials. For example, your heart may be set on using metal--until you test it and realize that, say, plastic performs better at a lower cost for your particular application. The prototype stage will help you determine the best materials.

3. It'll help you describe your product more effectively with your team, including your attorney, packaging or marketing expert, engineers and potential business partners.

4. It will encourage others to take you more seriously. When you arrive with a prototype in hand to meet any professional--from your own attorney to a potential licensing company--you separate yourself from the dozens of others who've approached them with only vague ideas in mind. Instead, you'll be viewed as a professional with a purpose, as opposed to just an inventor with a potentially good idea.