There are many different factors that determine the length of time it takes to develop and prototype your product. Every project has its own challenges.

The three main phases of product design – engineering and creation of manufacturing files, prototyping and product testing determine how long it takes for your new idea to be ready for production.

Product design development

Projects that require multiple subject areas will take longer. A smart home system requires, for example, know-how in app development, structural engineering, electrical engineering, software engineering and mechanical engineering. There are very few, if any, companies that can meet all of these requirements. Such a project can take years to develop.

A simple project like a unique pair of pliers can take as little as a week to create first generation manufacturing drawings. Once the drawings are ready, a prototype should be made to test the product.

It is important to note that the first generation drawings and a prototype do not end the product development process. Often times after testing the prototype of the product, changes need to be made to the final design to improve its usability or even the appearance. Most small changes can be implemented into a design in a week or two. Large bugs can take much longer to fix.

Complexity & prototyping

Complexity determines how long it takes to prototype a product. Something that can be machined or 3D printed can be prototyped in days or weeks. A multi-component product takes longer, especially when each component has to be custom-made and there are no off-the-shelf replacement products. The more different technical requirements your product has, the longer a prototype will take. 3D printers or CNC machining are often used when prototyping parts.

Product test

Often forgotten and yet a very important part of product development is product testing. Many products require special certification to comply with EU or UK regulations. Certification provides effective evidence that a product meets all relevant safety and quality requirements and has the required product features. If so, you’ll need to send a sample or prototype to a laboratory certified by the right agency to test your product. For example, in the United States, a new air nozzle used in factories and machine shops would need to be tested by an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) approved facility. There are many products in the EU that require CE or TÜV SÜD certification.

Various tests may need to be performed on your product during this phase. There are many different stress tests that laboratories perform, which can range from pressure tests, vibration tests, weather simulations, acid and heat resistance, electrical current tests, and more.

The length of time it takes to test a product depends on how many tests there are and how busy the product testing facility is, but we’ve seen tests take from less than a week to a month or two.

Product development from start to finish

A simple product with few components can take anywhere from 1 to 8 weeks to develop and design manufacturing files. The prototyping can then take 2 weeks to a month. If changes are required, expect a week or two to implement the changes and the same amount of time for an initial prototype.

Complex projects can take anywhere from 6 months to a year. Prototypes can also take a few months due to tooling requirements. If a mold is needed for your prototype, it usually takes a few months to manufacture.

An additional month should be calculated for projects in which a prototype is to be sent to a laboratory for testing.