Not everyone who comes up with an innovative product for the new connected world has a background in electronics. Often it’s just a savvy enthusiast getting frustrated with something that doesn’t work or noticing a gap in the market. But what do you do if you know you have a great product idea and you know you need a prototype to prove your point, but are not sure how to go about making it?
Thankfully, there are a lot of great technologies and tools you can you use to build your first hardware prototype. Here is a list of some of the most popular ones:
- 3D Printing
3D printing facilitates rapid prototyping at a low cost. 3D printing technology makes it possible for hardware startups to quickly and affordably produce a range of different prototypes to test how different materials, sizes and designs look, fit and feel.
The price of desktop 3D printers has come down, but if your startup can’t afford one yet there is bound to be a co-working space or business in your area that will let you use theirs. All you need is CAD (computer aided design) software to create a digital model of your product.
- Arduino, Raspberry Pi and TinyDuino are your prototyping friends
Open-source electronic prototyping platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi and TinyDuino are the go-to resource for hardware startups. These platforms that allow you to create interactive electronic objects are easy to learn, even for people with no previous knowledge of electronics.
Many hardware startups have built their first prototypes with Arduino. It’s an open-source physical computing platform based on a simple microcontroller board and a development environment for writing software for the board. It’s like a little computer you can program to do things, and it interacts with the world through electronic sensors, lights, and motors. Just a cursory search online will have you agog at the amazing things that are possible with Arduino.
There are other options too. For only $6.96 you can get the Adafruit Trinket Mini Microcontroller – 5V. Tiny as it is, the Attiny85 processor has 8K of flash and 5 I/O pins, including analog inputs and PWM ‘analog’ outputs. It can be plugged into any computer and you can reprogram it over a USB port just like an Arduino. Also consider TinyDuino, a miniature open-source electronics platform based on the easy-to-use hardware and software Arduino platform.
Depending on your device and its function, you may need to integrate sensors for a variety of functions, including motion, environmental, air pressure, and humidity. Again Adafruit would be a great source to start off with.
- Join the HWTrek Project Development Hub
Taiwan-based HWTrek connects innovators with experts in manufacturing. The HWTrek Hub helps hardware creators by providing the intelligent tools, connections and industry know-how needed to complete projects. If you have an idea for a new connected device the Hub will create a project-specific workflow that will take you through the process of creating your prototype. Joining the Hub is free.