One of the questions we get asked a lot here at Ogle is ‘what’s the difference between a model and a prototype?’.
There is a reasonably straightforward answer in that a model tends to lend itself to the aesthetic side of things, to be able to demonstrate a particular look or feel. A prototype on the other hand is more geared towards testing to see if the final piece will work as intended, whether that is its physical size, geometry or function.
It is often possible to identify an issue at prototyping stage that can save thousands on future production costs.
But, like a lot of things, it isn’t always so black and white. When we are approached about manufacturing anything, it all depends on what the intended use of it is for us to say whether it is going to be classified as a model or a prototype.
Generally, a functional model is classed as a prototype and a more aesthetic-looking part, not functional, is a model – such as a block model or an exhibition model.
However, this isn’t always the case and there can be a crossover. They really come hand in hand and, perhaps, throughout a different stage of the design process, one or the other (or a mix of both) is required.
When we have the early conversations with a client, it’s not about whether they require a model or a prototype. The questions are more about ‘what is it to be used for?’ or ‘what are you aiming to get from this?’.
The important things to consider or questions to ask are relating to purpose, required finish, strength or functional requirements. From those answers we select the best process and materials for it – it could be either a model, prototype or both.
And we can often find that what one industry refers to as a model, another may call a prototype as it is being used for a different purpose.
In many cases, we find we are switching from one to the other. It may start off as a model or a prototype, but as the design progresses and it becomes more complex then there is more crossover in the aims of the model/prototype.
Generally speaking, more engineering-type industries require prototypes and more product design/architecture industries require models – but even then, there is a lot of crossover depending on what they need at each stage.
We understand how confusing it can be, but as long as what we create fulfils the function for which it was designed, the name isn’t important.
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