Creating a working prototype can be one of the most daunting steps in the entire invention and patent process. For some of my inventions — particularly mechanical ones — the first thing I do is roam hardware stores in search of components that I can cobble together to make a crude, but functional, device. I have also learned that if you can make a working prototype simply from parts at a hardware store, chances are the actual resulting product will be easy (and low cost) for a company to manufacture.

If it is a complex device that I can’t make myself, I’ll try to find someone (or a small company) in the field of the device that might want to take on a small project to build a prototype. Sometimes I’ll have to “cut a deal” regarding any potential downstream business. Small companies are more flexible in this sort of creative approach. To find a list of possible companies in your area, just Google the industry / resource you need with entries like “plastic molding” or “metal stamping” or “electronics design and fabrication”. You might be surprised at the resources you’ll find very close (or in) your home town.

Another approach is to Google the term “prototyping” or “prototype services”. There are many companies that exist purely to create “one-off” prototypes. Many of these companies are comfortable working with inventors and / or small companies with a product idea. The reputable ones will also be forthright with their confidentiality practices. Speaking of confidentiality…

WARNING: Be very careful who you talk to about your invention — and when. The “safest” time to discuss your invention is after you’ve filed your patent application. However, in many cases, the prototype is the speed-bump in the patent application process. I rarely approach a production company prior to filing a patent application — as the risks are huge otherwise. But if it becomes absolutely necessary, it is critical to check out the production company thoroughly - to evaluate their reputation. If you’re looking for an confident inventor service firm to work with your idea, InventHelp has free information to help you get started.For more info visit website www.sites.duke.edu/perspective/2018/11/12/bringing-ideas-to-the-world-with-inventhelp .