Case Study: Daniel Sutherland Design
Shell LiveWIRE Grand Ideas Award winner Daniel Sutherland tell us of his experience of prototyping in this case study.
The milkistar Baby Bottle is indeed a revolution in terms of product design for baby bottle feeding, however, proving that a revolution could be on the cards is something altogether different from simply making that statement to begin with. In order to prove that my design worked properly and did indeed perform in the way that I thought it would, I needed to test it.
Prototyping is the first step in this process and as a designer I was fortunate to be able to build my own CAD 3D models in order to do early testing within a software environment. This is fantastic for working out the options for possible 3D forms or surfaces but it does not provide for real ergonomic testing or the tactile and 'real world' testing that can be done on a physical prototype.
However, milkistar was unlike any product I had ever designed before. It has a detailed and intricate surface and I found that the prototyping companies I had used in the past were simply unable to produce a prototype that was of a high enough standard for my needs at that time. My prototype had to be tested for two main areas in the beginning; ergonomics and of course, heating and cooling efficiency.
I turned to the contacts I had built up through Shell LiveWIRE and the Starter for Six program to find a new supplier for prototypes. I was able to make contact and visit what I now consider to be one of the most advanced and forward thinking prototyping producers around. CA Models are based in Stirlingshire and were instrumental in providing me with prototypes that were suitable for clinical laboratory testing, which in the end proved that the milkistar bottle can heat and cool over 70% faster than conventional bottle forms, along with sales level prototypes that I could take to trade shows and use for pitching to investors.
The key elements in the prototyping phase for me was not only getting the CAD right in the outset, this is of course the basis for all good product development, but it was finding a prototype supplier that was suitable to my needs. This means finding a company with suitable technology and a proven track record in the areas you are working in. Although the term 'networking' seems to be thrown around in every business development seminar you are ever likely to find yourself in, I have surprisingly found networking and building good contacts to be one of the most important aspects of product development.
Without good contacts it takes so much longer to make progress on specific issues with the commercialisation of a product, and going from being a designer to an entrepreneur, this is possibly the most valuable lesson I have learned to date.