A Prototype is a physical or virtual model used to evaluate the technical or manufacturing feasibility or military utility of a particular technology or process, concept, end item, or system. Prototyping is used in an acquisition program as a tool for:
- Risk Reduction
- Technology maturation
- Identifying and resolving integration risks
- Controlling manufacturing and sustainability risks
- Requirements Development
- Minimizing risks of cost growth due to unknowns in design, assembly and integration
Early prototypes may be built and evaluated during the Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction (TMRR) Phase, or later in the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) Phase, or is the result of a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) or Advanced Technology Demonstration (ATD), and tested prior to Milestone C decision. Selected prototyping may continue after Milestone C, as required, to identify and resolve specific design or manufacturing risks, or in support of Evolutionary Acquisition (EA).
The Technology Development Strategy (TDS) should include a description of the prototyping purpose and the prototyping strategy at the system and subsystem levels. The TDS should include the number of prototype units that may be produced and employed during the TD Phase. The description should also include a discussion of:
- How prototype units will be supported
- Specific performance goals and Exit Criteria that should be met by the employment of the prototypes
Prototypes usually fall into five (5) basic categories:
- Proof-of-Principle Prototype: is used to test some aspect of the intended design without attempting to exactly simulate the visual appearance, choice of materials or intended manufacturing process.
- Form Study Prototype: type of prototype will allow designers to explore the basic size, look and feel of a product without simulating the actual function or exact visual appearance of the product.
- User Experience Prototype: invites active human interaction and is primarily used to support user focused research
- Visual Prototype: will capture the intended design aesthetic and simulate the appearance, color and surface textures of the intended product but will not actually embody the function(s) of the final product.
- Functional Prototype: attempts to simulate the final design, aesthetics, materials and functionality of the intended design. The functional prototype may be reduced in size (scaled down) in order to reduce costs.
Data Production Prototype
A data prototype is a form of functional or working prototype. The justification for its creation is usually a data migration, data integration or application implementation project and the raw materials used as input are an instance of all the relevant data which exists at the start of the project.
The objectives of data prototyping are to produce:
- A set of data cleansing and transformation rules which have been seen to produce data which is all fit for purpose.
- A dataset which is the result of those rules being applied to an instance of the relevant raw (source) data.
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