Different types of hardware prototypes and what are they for...

When searching the web for prototypes you must have stumbled upon different terms of them like mock-up, proof-of-concept and so on. So how are they made and what purpose do they serve?
I put them in order in which they are most likely to be used in the development cycle of a new hardware product:

Virtual Prototype

  • A 3d model of the product made in CAD software
  • Used to make fancy renderings to test the market
  • Also used to make 2d drawings for manufacturing of prototypes
  • It changes and evolves until it’s ready for mass-production

Visual Prototype or Looks-Like Prototype

  • A physical model or an industrial design drawing
  • No functionalities are included
  • To explore the basic size, look and feel
  • To test ergonomics

Proof of Concept Prototype or Works-Like Prototype

  • A prototype made from basic material that is by the hand or from previous similar products
  • Made only to test new functionalities that need to be proven
  • Must not be the whole product, only the part that needs to be tested
  • Usually we don’t pay attention to the manufacturability
  • Doesn’t look like the final product
  • For different functionalities of the same product multiple prototypes with different solutions can be made to choose the best combination
  • Used to test functionality and also for showing it to the investors


  • A prototype to test the functionality and feel within the expected shape and look of the final product
  • Usually very-low cost to turn attention away from details and graphic design

Presentation Prototype or Looks-Like Works-Like Prototype

  • It combines the functionality and the appearance of the product
  • Made from the same material or very similar materials as the final product but with different manufacturing processes
  • Used to test the product customer interaction

Pre-Production Prototype

  • The first version of the mass-produced product
  • Used to check for errors that might have not been yet discovered

But at the end, it’s not important how you call it as long as it gives you the option to test what you need to and to test it as fast as possible.

A prototype a day, corrects mistakes by the way :).

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