Everything you need to know about validation for prototyping
How do you take your wearable product from idea to mass production? The very first stages involve having a prototype designed to show your stakeholders that your idea works, while later on you will need to get ready for mass production, ensuring that not just one works, but thousands do. There are lots of steps throughout this process to make sure everything is streamlined, cost-effective and efficient. Thrive can guide your team through all the stages of bringing a product to market – the types of validation, mitigating risk and ensuring your successful journey to launching your product.
There is an approach called the ‘moonshot’, which involves going straight for a final product design. It can be tempting, but is never effective in practice. There are too many factors to get right. The proposition needs to work on many fronts: for users, commercially and technically. We can help your team break development down into well understood stages, with validation at each step. This approach is the key to making fast and effective progress. After the vision is realised in a fully working, form factor Concept Prototype, we’re ready to prepare for mass production. The stages here address the final three steps of validation on the road to high yield and efficient production.
Engineering Validation Testing
Before we design a full Engineering Validation prototype, we separately build and test components such as waterproof seals around buttons and adhesive joints. Once the individual elements have been fully tested and finalised, the first complete units can be built for testing. We start by using soft tooling, a cost-effective solution at this stage of the process, and create the prototypes as closely as possible to the final design intent. They are designed to be tested against a specific set of listed requirements. This is known as Engineering Validation Testing (EVT), trialling things such as:
- Adhesive durability over time (Accelerated ageing tests)
- Waterproofing levels
- Mechanical function over time
- Drop testing and general durability
- Digital performance and power consumption
Between 100-300 EVT prototype units are usually made at a time, and we have usually selected and engaged the manufacturers at this stage. We use the parameters above to measure whether the prototype works, and if it reaches the standards that we set out with your team. We will draw up a Product Requirements Document with you specifying these. If any testing fails, we move fast to carry out a detailed analysis to determine if further iterations are needed. Once the prototype passes all EV Tests we can commission the full tooling and move into the next stage.
Creating a System Prototype gives us the opportunity to create a fully functional prototype of the system without needing to miniaturise everything.
Design Validation Testing
Design Validation represents the last opportunity to adjust the design, perhaps changing colours, textures and refining user interfaces before tooling is finalised and production starts. After these final refinements, we begin Design Validation Testing (DVT). For these tests, we typically make 500-1000 units of the product using full tooling on the manufacturer’s production line.
DVT units represent the final product. The firmware is finalised at this stage, although connected devices will be updatable over the air. We can now send a selection of the units for regulatory compliance testing; the design will be certified for CE marking and any relevant EMI standards. Once the regulatory compliance is confirmed, we can send some of the design-validated products to testers and reviewers.
Production Validation Testing
Typical PVT runs produce 1000-5000 units, with the increase in production designed to establish an efficient manufacturing process: we use our Quality Assurance system to identify issues, carry out assessments for cosmetic or functional defects in test units, and work with the manufacturer to tweak the quality control processes to create an effective system able to produce large quantities with very low failure rates (e.g. less than 1 in 1000).
Once the design has been validated, we are able to move into the mass production stage. We can work with manufacturers to produce units across a range of global locations, and by this stage you’ll have built a strong, trusting working relationship with the chosen manufacturers, who will by now have a full understanding of your product and how to build it. The release of your final product will allow your team to focus attention on user feedback to improve software, inform new product development, or serve new markets, maintaining a business and monetisation model around a great connected product.
Thrive are a team of designers, developers and engineers with a mission to solve global health challenges with the power of technology innovation, connected devices and data processing. We are the leading wearable technology design and development consultancy and we work with global companies, academic partners, charities and individuals to turn great ideas into world changing wearables. Read more about Thrive.