What is the process called when you upscale your proof of concept to a full size prototype?

For example a traffic light circuit using LEDs to fill size lights and power supply?

That is if the term exists or if it is still prototyping as mentioned in the comments.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "building a prototype" ? $\endgroup$
    – PlasmaHH
    Mar 1 '16 at 12:37
  • $\begingroup$ @PlasmaHH One could viably shorten that to "prototyping", as in "I'm prototyping this finglyfoober" $\endgroup$
    – Asmyldof
    Mar 1 '16 at 12:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Full size prototype? Production prototype? $\endgroup$
    – CHendrix
    Mar 1 '16 at 12:48
  • $\begingroup$ I'd call the end result a full-scale prototype in the above case, or maybe just "upscaling the prototype" to describe the process itself. But isn't this really just an English language usage question that applies to many things? $\endgroup$
    – PeterJ
    Mar 1 '16 at 12:55

In my experience (your mileage may vary) these are the sorts of processes and terms used in product development:

  • The breadboard is your proof-of-concept work; can be messy, often by taking something that's existing and adding/subtracting/hacking/cutting/jumpering/bludgeoning it into something to validate your idea

  • Prototypes are your pre-production products - hardware specifically built to achieve your idea, often with copious amounts of rework and abuse layered on. Sometimes you have more than one prototype build depending on the complexity of the product

  • Pre-production or pilot units come after the prototypes are cleaned up and validated against spec - generally they are functionally complete and (almost) ready for mass production

  • Mass production units are fully validated, accepted and ready to crank out en masse (until the factory fires a 'stop ship' at you).

The road from breadboard to prototype to finished product in the context of product is called NPI or New Product Introduction - this encompasses the entire development path from idea to release.

  • The initial phase is referred to as the design phase - the design is thought up, calculations are done, the breadboard is built, debugged and abused to give you enough information to try and build what you really need.

  • The prototype phase is referred to EVT or engineering validation testing - protos are built and the design team validates the functionality of the prototype(s) against specification, and releases changes as required to achieve compliance.

So, to try and answer your question, in my experience the process that gets you from breadboard to prototype is a mix of debugging and preliminary EVT - you take your 'something', test it against whatever requirements you have (and whatever requirements your breadboard is capable of withstanding), adjust your hardware/design/requirements accordingly, generate and release your product documentation (BOM, schematic, mechanical drawings, firmware, etc.) and built prototypes.

  • $\begingroup$ I didn't realize there was a pure engineering SE site. Neato. $\endgroup$ Mar 1 '16 at 20:20
  • $\begingroup$ Indeed there is, welcome aboard. $\endgroup$
    – Air
    Mar 1 '16 at 21:43

It's still a prototype, but its a prototype for a different purpose. People use different languages to refer to this. Personally, I call it "iterative prototyping". Others might call it moving from a "works like" prototype to a "looks like/works like" prototype, e.g., http://umaine.edu/amc/2013/08/07/what-is-a-prototype

Regardless of what you call it, you should at all times remain aware of where that prototype lies in your process. My favorite question for students during a design process involving prototyping is "why are you building this prototype?". Obviously, you're building a prototype because you're asking it a question. If you knew the answer to the question you're trying to address with the prototype, then there wouldn't be a need to build it.

If I may wax a bit philosophical, going from small size to large size sometimes shows an idea may not scale well. My absolute favorite example comes from the story of Diognetus in Vitruvius' Ten Books on Architecture. Diognetus was fired from his retainer for the city of Rhodes, because an upstart proposed a scale model for the purpose of defense against siege engines, nabbing them by crane. When attacked by the Helepolis, the siege engine to end all siege engines, the "breaker of cities", he couldn't build it, because it didn't scale well.

They managed to rehire Diognetus, at his own price! (http://lexundria.com/vitr/10.16/gw)

He at first refused to listen to their entreaties; but when afterwards the comely virgins and youths, accompanied by the priests, came to solicit his aid, he consented, on condition that if he succeeded in taking the machine, it should be his own property. This being agreed to, he ordered a hole to be made in that part of the wall opposite to the machine, and gave general as well as particular notices to the inhabitants, to throw on the other side of the hole, through channels made for the purpose, all the water, filth, and mud, that could be procured. These being, during the night, discharged through the hole in great abundance, on the following day, when the helepolis was advanced towards the wall, it sunk in the quagmire thus created: and Demetrius, finding himself overreached by the sagacity of Diognetus, drew off his army.

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The moral of the story is hold out for your price!


Assuming you're not satisfied with using the generalized "Prototyping" term, you could use "Full Scale Prototyping," "Full Sized Prototyping," or "Prototype Up-Scaling"/"Prototype Up-Sizing."


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