The Importance of Hardware Prototyping

David Craig is the founder of the Dublin Design Studio and recently wrote a great article about his own experience in developing a hardware prototype for his new product – Scriba, a radical new stylus design for mobile devices – which went into great detail about the importance of hardware prototyping.

The Beginnings

David’s idea was born out of his frustration with the existing tools available for his work projects – an architect by trade, David worked with digital styli and never felt they were “living up to their potential”.

Prototyping is vital to getting a new product off-the-ground, especially for connected devices, like Scriba, and David realised this. His original sketches were rough and went through “radical” changes, but his architectural and industry experience taught him that utility and feel were “crucial. I wanted to design the most comfortable and efficient stylus”.

3D Hardware Prototyping

The recent advent of accessible 3D printing has also changed how developers approach new physical products. David embraced this technology for his Scriba prototyping – “[it] enables us to make, test, and refine prototypes on a level that was never-before-possible”. David’s previous exposure to 3D modelling through his career meant he brought a unique and helpful strength to the table, so much so that “it didn’t take long” for a 3D model to be developed.

Once a hardware prototype has been developed, David recommends carrying with you everywhere and showing it to as many people as you can. In his case, he “harvested feedback” which led to a better and more efficient model.

Overcoming Limitations

Despite being crucial, the stages thus far completed were only early ones. David “had an understanding of design principles” but his “experience with micro-electronics was non-existent”. He recommends attending events like hackathons if you’re lacking in these skills, as you can find people who can give advice, or maybe even become “essential to the realisation” of the product. David was even lucky enough to receive help from Enterprise Ireland with R&D, but this did not come to the same fruitition that he had hoped. David eventually came to conclusion that while “structured research is great for big companies” when you’re starting out “sometimes a crude proof of concept is all that is needed.”

David’s attendance at hackathons, like the DCU-PCH Hackathon, did help. He got a development board for product designers there and, when he began to feel dejected, started to play around on it. He tells us that every little success he had with the board gave him “new-found confidence” and encouraged him to do more with it.

Eventually, David ended up with  crude but working proof-of-concept of Scriba. The experience showed him how important hardware prototyping was for a hardware startup, but also discovered that “tools are readily available so progress can be made quickly using scrappy prototypes”. All-in-all, though the process was time-consuming, David could show people how his product worked, and all the R&D cost him in the end was €50.

Setting up a new tech company can rarely be described as easy, but it is exciting, educational, and, at times anyway, emotional! We love a great success story, and we love it even more when developers and tech founders share how they did it all. David’s story should encourage all budding start-ups and hardware developers to persevere.

You can read David’s full article here.