Making A Prototype

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Making a prototype can be expensive, but there are ways for an inventor to reduce the costs in the early stages of development.

Years ago when I was working in China, it amazed me how resourceful the Chinese were at making a prototype.

Today, they have all the modern equipment and facilities to manufacture anything - but they didn't have all that stuff when they started manufacturing exports.


What they would do was run around looking for materials, tools or machinery they could use for making a prototype.

There was a great deal of co-operation amongst their businesses. They would assist each other because they all had the same objective - to manufacture products for export.

They also knew that they couldn't get orders unless they could make sample prototypes. If one business helped another to make a prototype, they would receive some sort of exchange in return - a referral, materials, orders , or some other consideration.

The most important thing was a referral or contact with a foreigner, the actual buyer of products.

I'll give you an example of how this works and then explain how you might use this information for making a prototype where you live and work.


I was talking to a Major League Baseball team about a souvenir they could give to their fans attending games. The idea was a small "replica" baseball bat with a player's picture on it.

Everybody thought it was a good idea but I needed some samples.

I went to China with pictures of baseball bats, players and some sketches to make a prototype.

I was told it would take about a week.

The person making it for me told me it wouldn't cost me anything but asked if I would meet some of his friends for lunch sometime. I said, "Sure". So here is what he did.

He went to dozens of places looking for wood, tools, coating laminates etc. He also looked for people with skills that could help make my prototype.

In return for helping him, they would have lunch with me to talk business and exchange business cards.

I received my samples a week later, as promised, and they were really good. They looked like tiny wood baseball bats, and had a player's picture laminated on it with a plastic coating.

I also was given a surprise. A red velvet wood box.

Inside was a replica baseball bat made entirely of aluminum -with grip tape around the handle. I was stunned.

From that moment, and ever since, I came to realize they could make virtually anything.

Unfortunately, the souvenir baseball bat idea didn't work out. Having thousands of fans drinking beer in a stadium, armed with small "billy-club" baseball bats - wasn't something the baseball ownership felt comfortable with.

I eventually had lunch with everyone who helped with the prototypes - all thirty of them.


When you think of what you need in order to make a prototype, you should think in terms of where you could get your material, access to skills or equipment.

For example, trades people such as welders or electricians have types of material and equipment that they use. It is surprising what assets and resources exist among the businesses in your area.

Colleges, universities and technical schools also have skills, equipment and facilities that could be a resource for making a prototype.

To avoid disclosure of your invention, you can have different non-confidential parts of it made at different places. In this way, you can assemble the parts and retain confidentially of your invention.

You can talk about your invention in general terms without disclosing your invention.

For example, my invention is a wireless device that extracts and stores energy from any type of battery. This tells you about the invention rather than how the invention is made or how it works. I could be even more general by saying my invention is about saving energy from batteries.


When asking people for help in making a prototype, without paying them anything or very little - you need to give them a reason for doing so.

You could say you need to make a prototype to show investors and that you're trying to save money to pay your attorneys for a patent.

Most people find this quite understandable.

They all know lawyers are expensive, and most believe that the first thing you do when you have a good idea is to patent it.

You may also offer some other exchange. For example, I will give lectures to schools about inventing or some other topic as an exchange.

This is a good way to start making a prototype, keeping your costs low, until you have a final design that you may decide to have professionally made.