There are several key stages in the long product design journey from the formation of an idea through to manufacturing and distribution. Much of the work, at the early stage of concept development, is undertaken in order to establish whether or not an idea has commercial potential. It’s important to carry out this research with an appreciation for cost, time, and resources.

Sometimes, we find that it’s possible to reach the crucial Proof of Concept checkpoint using pre-existing parts. This saves a huge amount of time and significantly reduces project costs.

Our 4D team recently undertook a project that did just that and, today, we’re going to explore some of the benefits of developing a new product using off-the-shelf parts.

Innovative Patient Monitoring Equipment

Since the summer of 2020, we’ve been working on a fantastic medical device design project to develop an innovative piece of patient monitoring equipment, with a UK-based medical start-up group. The costs involved in developing the complete product would be significant and, along with the client, we realised that fully developing the design without Proof of Concept was a significant risk.

Reaching Proof of Concept would be vital: it would ensure customer buy-in; it would prove that the product had the potential to succeed commercially. It would also allow the design team to continue developing the product with improved confidence and a significant reduction in business risk. 

Rather than developing the product completely and realising that it was doomed to fail, was there a way to design a prototype using existing parts? It turns out there was.

That being the case, we explored our options and identified some unique new ways to use existing parts and develop the preliminary design. Whether or not these same parts would be used in a later stage is irrelevant – their main objective was to help the product reach Proof of Concept.

The Proof of Concept development and the prototype design was funded by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency that supports businesses and provides grants that help realise the potential of new ideas.

Raspberry Pi

Our client wanted to explore the possibility of using a Raspberry Pi in conjunction with industrial sensors, and various other off-the-shelf electronic components. The Pi is a versatile piece of computing equipment that can be used for coding, and demonstrates incredible value-for-money.

The Sensor

The Pi would work in conjunction with industrial sensors already on the market. That performance sensor, available for £700, is extremely accurate and suited the product design.

How Can This Work?

Designing and developing a new product is an expensive process, one that’s filled with business risk. Thankfully, this project is the perfect example of the various opportunities that exist to join an array of components together and demonstrate new functionality.

For instance, with the patient monitoring equipment, existing parts and components could be used in a way they had never been used before. The industrial sensors and electronic components are likely to have been used in many hundreds of different projects, such is their versatility.

But the real advantage comes in using the computer, or the Raspberry Pi. With simple programming and basic software design, several different electronics parts will communicate, display results, and demonstrate a product’s ability to perform.

In this case, our prototype patient monitoring device was able to confirm Proof of Concept and will now be developed further for regulatory approval. 

This shows that it’s possible to create high-tech and advanced products using technology that already exists.

Why is this Important?

Utilising off the shelf components for early stage prototypes should always be considered in the product design process.

Successful product design relies on innovation and ingenuity. But it also relies on carrying out these tasks in a business-friendly way.

As has already been mentioned, this approach significantly reduces project costs. On top of that, it makes better use of existing resources, and mitigates business risk. It’s a sustainable way to approach product design and doesn’t involve needlessly manufacturing new materials.

There are almost limitless ways that off the shelf electronic components can be used. Helping you to create a proof of concept prototype of your new product.