How to Reduce Your Cost of Product Development

Whether a product is physical or digital, anyone who creates a product must consider the costs of Proof of Concept, Prototype, and Minimum Viable Product. Understanding each stage’s value contributes to the product development cycle in today’s marketplace is important. Tropic 3D focuses on 3D printing as one of the best ways to iterate and create hardware models and reduce costs.

Proof of Concept (PoC)

Proof of concept is the first form of experimentation that one does when designing or improving hardware. PoC models are usually basic form studies, which teams use to communicate a product’s general feel and look to their internal teams. These models don’t have to be beautiful or functional so that they can be made quickly and inexpensively. A desktop 3D printer and someone with intermediate to beginner-level skills in 3D modeling can produce an informative PoC. It’s a good time to move quickly and break things!


Prototyping is the stage where hardware product development starts to “get real.” Prototypes must have a certain level of aesthetics and functionality to be shown to external stakeholders such as investors, engineers, and manufacturers. Functional prototypes may include working hinges, threading, and interlocking components. The prototypes should also look professional, with smooth surfaces and specific colors.

It’s best to consult with engineers and/or product designers who have experience with 3D modeling for 3D printing. You could end up with files that aren’t compatible with additive manufacturing. Professionals in 3D printing will help you select the best material for your design to avoid creating parts that aren’t functional or spending too much on a material that isn’t necessary.

Be prepared to make multiple prototypes. You can reduce the number of iterations by:

  1. Iterating often (and inexpensively) during the PoC phase.
  2. Before and during prototyping, seek feedback on your sketches, digital designs, and PoCs.
  3. Product designers and engineers who are experienced in bringing products to market can be a great resource.
  4. Work with 3D printers that are experienced in designing products for printing.

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

The word “minimum,” which is in the name, can lead people to confuse it with a PoC or prototype. An MVP is simply a version of the product you feel comfortable letting users interact with. Although it’s not the final product, you can test it in real life. Product developers often use MVPs to gather user feedback before finalizing the concept and beginning full-scale production. It could be when they discover that their product isn’t marketable and decide to move on.

3D printing is not always the best solution to produce certain components in a design at this stage. If the team is confident with how their prototypes turned out, they can choose to produce a small batch of their MVP using traditional manufacturing. They can continue using 3D-printed components if they are not ready to start the complicated manufacturing process or expect further iterations. By 3D printing, inventors can have more control over the production process and increase sustainability.

Similar to prototyping, an MVP should also be created by professionals familiar with designing and producing parts suitable for real-world applications. Designers and engineers should also consider at this stage how digital models can easily be translated from 3D printed to traditional manufacturing methods such as injection molding, CNC milling, laser bending, etc. It will save you time and money to create digital models that are specific to the process.

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