Prototype (technology)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A prototype ( gr. Protos , the first 'and typos , prototype, model') provides in the technology represents a viable for the respective purposes, but often simplified experimental model of a planned product or component. It may only purely external or technically correspond to the end product. A prototype often serves as preparation for series production , but can also be planned as a single piece that is only intended to illustrate a certain concept. The prototype is used to test suitability on the one hand, and acceptance on the other. Accordingly, the prototype is also an essential development step in the context of design and is not only used in technical contexts.

Prototyping refers to various modern methods of prototype production.

Italdesign prototype for a BMW sports car (1991), stylistic features of later series models can be recognized by it
Example of a test locomotive: The prototype 212 001 at the Leipzig spring fair in 1982
The prototype of the world's first real rail - rail car from DUEWAG type U1 in the Transport Museum in Frankfurt - Schwanheim
Example of an airplane prototype: The test copy of the Suchoi Superjet 100


In technical prototype construction, depending on the level of detail, a distinction is made between:

  • Design prototype: concept model for checking aesthetic and ergonomic features
  • Geometric prototype: Dimensionally accurate model for initial assembly and use tests and to specify the (material) requirement profile
  • Functional prototype : Prototype that already has the decisive functional properties of a component that will later be mass-produced
  • Technical prototype: Test model largely identical to the end product

In the case of small series of prototypes (e.g. pre-series vehicles in the automotive industry ) one also speaks of "industrial prototyping".

Prototypes do not necessarily have to consist of material objects - a prototype can, for example, also be a simple implementation of software (see prototype in software development ) or a three-dimensional CAD model. Also services and certain communication activities can be tested in prototype form, eg. B. as part of a service design project.

A prototype in the automotive industry that is used for secret test drives is known as the Erlkönig . This already has all the essential features of the future series vehicle. It is usually changed with covers and panels so that the exact appearance does not become public prematurely.

To differentiate between research and development activities, prototypes are separated from functional models and test vehicles in the scientific environment, particularly with regard to funding measures . A prototype is understood to be a near-series device that already largely resembles the end product in terms of shape, design, operation and manufacture. A functional model is only used to carry out experiments and to test individual partial functions of the planned series device. A test vehicle is still very different from the planned series device. The construction, the structure and the execution of the tests in connection with functional models and test vehicles are often rated as research activity.


Since the rational manufacturing possibilities of a mass production or market launch (with all associated process steps) are not yet available in the manufacture of prototypes , these are often significantly more expensive than the later series models. Modern processes are available for the fast and cost-effective production of physical prototypes, which make the entire product development process efficient:

See also

Web links

Commons : prototypes  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Elvira Moeller (Ed.): Handbuch Konstruktionswerkstoffe. Choice, properties, application. Hanser, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-446-40170-9 , 134 f.