Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Mechanical Engineering


Connecting Design Problem Characteristics to Prototyping Choices to Form a Prototyping Strategy Abstract Prototyping is a critical part of the product design process with the potential to play a significant role in determining the success or failure of the product. A variety of decisions are made by the design team when determining the manner in which they will develop prototypes. Example decisions include: choosing to develop either multiple prototypes or only a single prototype; and choosing to develop either a scaled or fully functional prototype. We define a prototyping strategy as the compilation of all the decisions that need to be made in order to develop a prototype. Thorough review of the literature on prototyping reveals that there are no comprehensive strategies to guide designers in the development of such a prototyping strategy. In our previous research, we identified what we believe is a comprehensive list of the variables that constitute a prototyping strategy. In addition, we developed some data collection tactics that were intended to provide insight for the designer when creating their prototype strategy. However, the opportunity to provide specific methods for optimizing the suite of variables in the prototyping strategy remained open. In the current research we provide a set of heuristics that can be used directly to create the prototyping strategy. These heuristics are tested using a set of 15 design teams working on their senior undergraduate capstone design. These teams were all provided with the heuristics and training on how to use them. However, teams were allowed to violate the “suggestions” provided by the heuristics. For example, a heuristic might be that if significant resources (time and money) can be saved by development of a dimensionally scaled prototype and if a scaled prototype can be used to verify all the critical design requirements, then a dimensionally scaled prototype should be developed as opposed to a full scale prototype. Assessment involves correlating the specific decisions teams made to either follow or violate each heuristic with a set of measures of the effectiveness of their prototypes. Key metrics for effectiveness of the prototyping strategy are whether teams stayed on schedule, were within budget and if they met key design requirements. Initial assessment data suggests that the prototyping heuristics significantly improve the effectiveness of the prototyping process.


This article originally appeared in the Conference Proceedings of ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, 2013 and can be found online at this link.