No company goes out and starts mass production of a new product before creating first an example of this product. This example is called a prototype.
Prototypes are a working example of a new design. And before moving towards creating multiple copies of this prototype, the company will generally use the prototype to test its viability and quality.
For example, before a new car is built, it must be designed, researched, and developed into a working product. Researchers consumer surveys, analyze market trends, and buying patterns to determine what consumers want, and then suggest what kinds of cars to make.
Designers work to turn these new ideas into tangible products. Engineers then adapt what existing parts they have and implement them into the new model. They then proceed to produce the prototype. Manufacturers usually start by building a few prototypes before they set up a factory to build the new car.
Prototypes can also be referred to as test machines. They are usually developed to demonstrate the qualities of a new product to stakeholders and clients. The prototype, of course, is understood by these people to be yet an incomplete model of the final product. Its purpose is to show the potential attributes of the final product.
Prototypes are also used for test purposes. By subjecting these prototypes to numerous tests, the designers of the product get to see the strengths, weaknesses, limitations, and mistakes in a project. From the information they glean, the designers may proceed to reworking the design until the product reaches the objectives of the designers.
Prototypes can even be used as the 'Adam' version of a particular product. By 'Adam' we mean the basis of design for all products that will follow the line of the prototype. Engineers and designers refer to this 'Adam' model for reference as to how to develop, and evolve certain product lines.
In some circles, all the participating cars in a race are called prototypes. This is because these machines are not mass produced.
The cars produced for racing are specialized machines that are supposed to showcase new innovations and designs a car manufacturer carry. Therefore, these cars can be considered models. These cars also function as models for future mass produced cars the car manufacturer will create.
Food Industry/Clothing Industry
Designers in this field of industry do not make decisions on what products make it to the production line. They must pitch their designs to their bosses to see which ones make the cut.
They must then show them what their pet projects may look like. These designers proceed to create prototypes of their work to present their bosses with something tangible to decide on.
Often researchers and designers of computers build powerful supercomputers to perform the myriad of complex computations needed for applications such as mathematical computations, artificial intelligence research, and military applications. The power these machines pack is something everyday users salivate over.
These prototypes however, are just that - prototypes. And as models, they find their way into being mass produced for the masses.
That is the reason why today's desktop computers are so powerful: a few years ago the power of your computer was used for critical, complex math intensive applications.
Use It Now
The use of prototypes has become a industry-accepted means of product development. It allows the designer to tinker around with a given design to further evolve its quality and to show others a model of the product. Such practice truly makes the evolution of everyday products efficient.