by Nancy Stockton
I’ve heard that some companies offering to build prototypes for inventors are charlatans. At this point in my process, I hadn’t yet come across these folks on the web. Plus, I had already invested $50 in an elastomer, and was determined to make my own first prototype. Elastomers are a whole class of plastics, and are generally stretchy, or elastic. I still needed to decide on a material for making the mold.
Many YouTube videos later, I decided to use plaster-of-paris and drywall tape to make a mold. The materials are inexpensive and I knew I could work with them. Without much planning, I just started getting my hands gooey. For the base form, I decided on a diaper with two Solo brand plastic cups stuffed into the leg holes. Even if it didn’t work, I was laughing at myself.
I admit, I got a little too involved in making the mold, adding layer upon layer trying to get it just the right size and shape.
I sanded and smoothed but it never looked quite right. Finally, I was going out of town and wanted to take a prototype with me, so the day before my flight I spontaneously opened my bottles of elastomer, ready to create my first swim diaper prototype.
I had seen on the internet that an elastomer could be brushed onto the mold. This was great news as I struggled with how I was going to line up an inner mold and an outer mold evenly so the elastomer could be poured into a cavity of the shape I desired. Brush on sounded so much easier. Unfortunately, I missed learning that I needed to add thickener to my elastomer. I ended up with go all over my arms and ruined a sweat shirt. I turned the model manually to contain as many drips as I could and prevailed in having something that provided my audience with a full concept of the idea. Victory!
When I showed my first prototype to the patent attorney, he immediately understood the concept. When I showed it to my manufacturer\chemical engineer, he picked it up and was able to be hands-on. When I showed it to my CAD designer at our first meeting, he told me he often tells inventors to make their first prototype as inexpensively as possible. I was perhaps ahead of the game?
Gem of Wisdom: Whenever possible, make your first prototype yourself, even if it is messy and the results are seriously flawed.