Why did I learn nothing from my ONLY prototype?

by Jon M Quigley and Wally Stegall

This post is a flashback to the earlier series about prototypes (https://www.valuetransform.com/planning-prototype-parts). A recent event reminded me of one other area we did not cover in this series. Such is the way of the blog.

Consider the organization that decides to limit the number of prototype parts to be used for the assorted verification activities as a cost saving measure. This is not a bad idea, however, there is merit in the saying “penny wise and pound foolish” and hence this blog post. If you take the above approach, it is prudent to address the risks associated.

An organization is working a development project with limited attention and control to the prototype handling and testing. They start the prototype test with a harsh Bulk Current Injection stimulus. Upon conclusion of one of the test, we find the product is no longer functional. Thus the start of the testing of the prototype ends further learning from the product. We have learned something important (the failure) however, we now have to wait for another prototype to be generated and delivered (delays and money). We did not learn anything from non-destructive tests. For example we could have executed performance tests on that prototype part first, for example the basic functions of the product. In that way we would have learned other things before we turned our prototype part into a nonfunctioning brick. We see similar problems when we put early prototype parts (parts unable to meet durability requirements) pressed into durability testing. As an example, a stereo lithography part on a durability vehicle. The part is unable to stand up to the vibration and mechanical shock of this test and is destroyed.

Solution is again people as in earlier post. The prototype part purchase and testing must consider the objective of the part as well as the prioritized steps to achieve that objective. There is nothing wrong with destroying the prototype in testing. This also teaches us something about the potential product. However, the best solution is to not destroy the product right from the start – thereby eliminating the ability to learn anything else the part has to tell us. You do not need more risk in your project!

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One Response to Why did I learn nothing from my ONLY prototype?

  1. David White

    When is test to destruction appropriate? Certainly not at the start of testing, like when prototype assets are limited. But some customers want to know how long the product will last beyond the design requirements (yes, beyond the DESIGN requirements) in order to demonstrate some confidence it will last up TO the design requirements.