I've experience as a development engineer but in software development, electrical engineering, and science experiments. So, even with a significant amount of experience, I've never been in the stage to realize a concept aka making a sellable product.

So, I have a product idea and also a prototype but this is quite simple and doesn't really mean a lot. Actually, it is so easy to produce you could build it during the evening when you got the materials. So, the product idea is the concept itself but mainly the circumstance that it should be cheap, solid, and good enough, that it wouldn't really make sense to build it on your own. This is where I struggle:

  1. how do I find out which kind of materials is the best, mainly in terms of solid but harmless. Harmless means, in case it would, whyever, fall onto the kid, it shouldn't cause any damage. That's why I favor styrofoam. But it also shouldn't come off so they won't swallow it. The product itself must not be rock solid like a kid would swing it around. In doubt, it shouldn't fall apart immediately but the purpose is not to swing and throw it around. That's why I think, e.g., wood would be overengineering. And it might be painful when it falls to the side, or so.
  2. foldable or interlocking so shipping is cheap and you can store it easily
  3. paper should be glueable on it

The product should be suitable for kids. I think point 2) is the most difficult one as it depends on the manufacturer, which means, I have to scout and find out which geometries make sense and which are cheap, and so on. However, I'm looking forward to receiving some useful input in any way even if it is "only" a good source to look into.

edit: I found something which is close to what I have in mind. The usage itself is quite different but the construction would look (very) similar:


  • $\begingroup$ Very often there is no absolute "best" material for an application, it always "depends on" the end product and objective and a few other considerations. You need to provide more detail in order to narrow down the prospective suggestions. $\endgroup$
    – r13
    Jul 21, 2021 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, I narrowed down 1), is it sufficient, now? $\endgroup$
    – Ben
    Jul 22, 2021 at 6:49
  • $\begingroup$ This looks like a 'Naive design' question. Such questions are excessively broad and are therefore not a good fit for our format. See if you can edit your question to make it specific and answerable. $\endgroup$
    – Wasabi
    Jul 22, 2021 at 23:11
  • $\begingroup$ The answer is it probably does not matter all that much which material you choose. $\endgroup$
    – joojaa
    Jul 24, 2021 at 11:02
  • $\begingroup$ So styrofoam, wood and diamond is the same w.r.t. to sturdiness, costs and folding? $\endgroup$
    – Ben
    Jul 24, 2021 at 13:43

1 Answer 1


Your question is really one that bothers most engineers when they start. My answer is only one of the many available and its probably opinionated.

Before answering the enumerated question points, I will address "cheap, solid, and good enough". Probably, if the first one is the most important (I would prefer the term "cost effective" because cheap might contradict good enough or even solid), then you probably need to find something in the local market at a reasonable price. If you are looking at low numbers I can't stress enough the local market/locally produced, since that would probably shorten delivery times etc (although nowadays that is not so much of a problem).

The solid part is the relatively easy one. The good enough can have many interpretations (e.g. surface finish, durable, etc), but again there can be a lot of good/acceptable compromises.

Regarding point 1 (how do I find out which kind of materials is the best, mainly in terms of solid but harmless): if you have a vague idea you can look at places like matweb, for stiffness and strength properties (solid), and also at material Safety Data Sheets for potential hazards

Regarding point 2: (foldable or interlocking so shipping is cheap and you can store it easily), usually that is part of the design more than the material, so really there its difficult to give a generic information (I can appreciate that you are worried about the IP).

Regarding point 3: (paper should be glueable on it) again the problem is not finding a material that is gluable to paper, the question is the glue that you are using if its adheres adequately on the material.

Apologies in advance for being generic, however, I hope that you can appreciate that what you are asking is very much like asking "I have an idea about a software project, which uses a database. Which programming language should I use (I can't divulge if its an embedded project, a web, an smartphone, or a nuclear facility)?"

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the input! Do you think it makes sense to address (only) the local market? I can guess that the material at local markets is already a good compromise on costs and application purposes but on the other hand, I also think "There is probably this one company anywhere which absolutely fulfills my needs and I don't know where to find it". Sure, this bothers probably everyone. However, I will try to add some more useful information, soon. $\endgroup$
    – Ben
    Jul 22, 2021 at 6:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ My suggestion about the local market, is based on my impression that you are going to have a limited run (so you can't really pressure on prices), the manufacturing is relatively simple, and there is haste to reach the market (although maybe I "read" the software developer in you, that knows that getting first on the market and ironing the details later is the better way - at least when it comes to software). $\endgroup$
    – NMech
    Jul 22, 2021 at 10:13

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