From alpha to beta – mechanical CAD for prototype engineering

When a mechanical engineering design is patented, it exists in theory only. The engineer must prove that the product functions as described in the provisional patent in order to get a full design patent, which means building a prototype. Today, this is generally done using specialised CAD drafting software and 3D modelling tools.

There are two stages involved in producing a mechanical design prototype. Initially an alpha prototype (or ‘Proof of Concept’) design is produced. This is a simple conceptual model to demonstrate that the design functions as described in the patent literature and performs a useful purpose. It is stripped of all aesthetic embellishments and, in very basic designs, may not need CAD design tools.

Following this is the Beta, or ‘Functional Prototype’ Design. This is where the 3D modelling tools and CAD visualisation software can really begin to come into their own. Generally, a proprietary 3D mechanical CAD software system will be used – there are a number on the market. 3D CAD allows you to design a solid model of your eventual product which is a scaled-down 3D representation of the real thing.

There are a number of things to consider during the final stage of mechanical engineering design:

  • Fit and function of individual components within the assembly
  • Materials
  • Ergonomics
  • Aesthetic appeal
  • Component engineering methods – each individual part of the design must be manufactured to reflect materials, complexity of shape etc.
  • Costs of production and assembly.
  • Product lifespan

We at Enventure Technologies offer a wide range of mechanical engineering services, including CAD drawing, component engineering and enterprise data management solutions.

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