Finding the Right Tools for Prototyping on a Budget

Finding the Right Tools for Prototyping on a Budget

Finding the Right Tools for Prototyping on a Budget

Need to get your prototype off the ground, but funds are tight? Here are some tools and tips to get going.

Market prices have come down as technology has matured, and rapid prototyping and manufacturing prices are competitive. Instant quotes reduce the wait time for feedback on your project. Your prototyping or production orders, therefore, can be completed sooner and within budget.


But what if cash reserves are stretched thin? Can you still make a prototype that accurately represents the product you intend to ultimately sell? Yes, it is possible even if you use a product prototyping tool, but even that’s not necessary if you are in the early stages of design. A paper prototype will do just fine and doesn’t require specialized software (unless you’re producing a fancy layered paper model with a 3D-printing system). Some good ol’ fashioned paper, geometry skills, cutting, and assembly can be a great way to test your concept over numerous iterations.

Start with Basic Software

Wireframing is another affordable way to develop your prototype. There are free tools, and even tools that run in the cloud, so you can use them directly from a Web browser. Several different software tools are out there for design and prototyping that allow for users to create click-through prototypes. There are a variety of free tools for creating hand-drawn wireframes. You can even turn these into interactive prototypes if you don’t need high fidelity for your current operation.

SOLIDWORKS add-ins are available for designing and making prototype parts, and you can order them from the interface as well. Instant quoting is provided, and designs can be priced within the CAD workspace too. The application is one more example in the software space that offers options for prototyping on a budget.


A design can conceivably be used at no cost, so long as you don’t sell it. Designers have options to post their creations under a Creative Commons license. If you find an appropriate design, you can change some variables and obtain the dimensions and tolerances you need.


Perhaps the best product prototyping tool for affordability is a process that is accurate and guarantees quality. The quicker you can get your product to market and the fewer errors in the development process, generally the less you’ll spend. Rapid prototyping software contributes to this capability. Like many other available technologies, it enables designers and engineers to obtain feasability feedback quickly, produce high-accuracy results at low prices, and take advantage of fast lead times, keeping the prototyping process efficient and within budget.