A functional prototype is a tangible, physical aid used as a proof-of-concept for core design features. Functional prototypes are used to demonstrate and analyze a design before moving into production stages. Very similar to the end product, a functional prototype can be used to assess things such as consumer reaction to the appearance of a design, the ergonomics and experience of a design, and the general usability and durability of the design. Functional prototypes are used to test and demonstrate parts in a clear and compelling way.
Developed in the early stages of a project, a conceptual prototype is used to test ideas at the initial stages of product development. Often presented to key stakeholders as a method of evaluating a design, conceptual prototyping offers an affordable way to visualize, experience, alter, and customize a concept model. Rather than relying upon technical documentation and descriptions of a product, designers can instead reveal a highly-detailed, 3D print that is very close in look and feel to the end product. This allows for designers, developers, and investors to get a better feeling for the product before the project moves forward, and allows them to test new ideas on-the-fly.
Conceptual vs. Functional
Conceptual prototyping is completed at the early stages of a project, while functional prototyping is completed towards the end. During the process of developing and prototyping a product, the project may transition between conceptual prototypes and functional prototypes almost seamlessly.
Both functional prototyping and conceptual prototyping are types of rapid prototyping, with the advantage of being able to create iterative changes rapidly, and testing new adaptations as desired. Rapid, 3D prototyping is a fast, cost-effective method of generating prototypes, with high detail, strength, and durability.
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