About prototype companies in America

I am an industrial designer just moved from China, experiencing big difference between China and America, I have some enquiries regard to industrial, I would really appreciate if someone can answer my questions.

When I was in China, there are many independent prototype companies, they can make very fine models within 3-5 business days. The models include electronics, cell phones, and maybe some big items. They looks very similiar to the the real products-- If it’s a cellphone model, some of the keys can be pressed even.

It’s very popular in China to provide such a prototype to client after the 2D design, for presenting and sometimes for market survey. I am wondering if such way is popular in U.S.A. too?

If so, where do industrial design firms to get their propotypes done? Could you give me some links or prototype companies name?

And finally how about the rate?

If anyone knows… Thanks a lot :slight_smile:

We do this quite often as well. Ironically, we use vendors from Asia for this. I know that the larger companies typically have their own model shope. The Teague, Ziba, and IDEOs of the world are who I am referring to.

Feel free to PM me for contacts I have. I would be interested in the companies you used while over in China.

There is a handful of model shops in North America, but I haven’t used them at all.

Everyone I know doing design work does this in one form or another. Sometimes its in house, other times its outsourced. If you are looking for someone local (which is always my preference with model making) what area are you in?

ip_wirelessly and asango, Thankyou for the reply.

Asango, could you give me some local prototype company’s name? I am in Ohio, but would you please give me some company’s in NY and CA as well?

Thanks a lot :smiley:

Also thefirststep2000,what type of product? It will make a difference.


Based out of Cincinatti, Ohio - do great CNC work. They’re our #1 vendor for models. Some of the models cost more then a Porsche, but the quality is there.

We’ve also used Dynacept (www.dynacept.com) who are based out of upstate NY who does more rapid prototype parts with nice results.

We have gotten some work done overseas with surprisingly good results. With overnight shipping the international turnaround isn’t as big of a limitation as it might have been in the past.

Our model shop, about 50% of our business, has extraordinary capabilities and equipment and the best model makers on the east coast. While we have gravitated to more packaging and cosmetic work we still do everything. Detail and finish are essential to the type of models we produce for photography.

Thanks for all the responses.
May I take a analogy on cell phone model made by North American model shops, how much of the price on an appearance model ? and how about its working prototype?

When you say working prototype do you mean a functional unit? Or an appearance model with more detail like clickable buttons?

I wouldn’t want to comment on prices, depending on the method of prototyping used (SLA parts vs CNC’ed parts), the finishes and graphics required, and then any engineering that had to go into the model (buttons with snap domes, etc) can drive up the cost. Custom CNC’ed metal parts are also very expensive. Sometimes the model maker can work with you to “fake” an effect like doing painted parts rather then real metal, etc.

All of these model houses are extremely friendly - if you want info don’t hesitate to call them or send them an email. They can give you a much better explanation of their services then anyone on the outside could. I think a lot of the American model houses charge quite a bit of premium compared to overseas, but the service (like driving the model to you because shipping takes too long) and quality makes up for that price if you’ve got the capital. For designers on a low budget though it becomes a lot harder. I know many of the companies we work with always go the extra mile to turn projects around faster then is humanly possible sometimes because we have a deadline that has to be met.

And if it’s any word on the quality, we took a round of appearance models out into the field for research and people kept complaining that the product was “Frozen” because the screen wouldn’t respond. They were that convinced it was the real thing even with just a paper display! :laughing:

Hi Cyberdemon,

Yes you are right, the working prototype means a functional unit, we also call it Working sample.

I just sent my design, which is a slide phone to Scott models for estimate the price, I wanted some keys clickable, and some chrome parts…
and they gave me a price of $10,000… I am wondering if they are extra highly on price or this is a average level?

btw, what do you mean by “SLA parts”?

Finally, I wish to know what is the resonalable price for making a cell phone model in North America? The Scott Model’s may be very good, but the price is too high to afford for me.

$10k sounds about right. We’ve gotten projects back from them that have gone into the $60-70k range.

As far as building a working prototype - are you providing the electronics that need to be built into a shell? Or are you talking about having the full engineering on the internals done for you?

SLA parts refers to parts that are built on a Stereo Lithography (rapid prototyping) machine. They are 3D printed then hand finished and painted. Scott Models by comparison uses parts that are CNC milled from Renshape (a very high density polyurethane foam) that machines very easily and does a great job of retaining high levels of detail. SLA parts require a substantial amount of hand finishing, so often times very fine details can be sanded away in the prototyping process.

Personally if you’re doing phones I would consider trying to find some overseas vendors. I saw some VERY nice phone models that came from an overseas vendor but I don’t have their name. Since every phone on earth is manufactured in Asia there are more model makers in that area used to prototyping them. The prices will probably be cheaper as well.

The working prototype is with everything inside-- with structure design internal and with electronce units to make it work. but it don’t have appearance finishing requirement.

You mentioned SLA(rapid prototyping) model, I have done this in school, it took very long time to finish it. I am wondering if there are companies will use SLA for sketch models?

SLA parts are used all the time in testing. We tend to use SLA’s more for engineering testing, and use thermojet wax prints to evaluate designs for the ID team. The wax tends to have better fidelity (albiet only on the side facing up) and is much cheaper and quicker to produce - also requires less post processing. We can print a wax model in house and have a finished print back in a few hours.

Regarding working prototypes - I don’t have enough knowledge in that area to tell you where to look. All of our prototypes are built by the manufacturer who will be building the final product.