Prototyping/Manufacturing Parts Differences

Goals

Educate a client on the main differences between the consumer prototyping market and robotics prototyping by identifying quantifiable measures and other differences.

Early Findings

Given the scope of the requested project, and the limited information available about the quantifiable specifics of the robotics prototyping market, we focused on identifying good sources and forums where these details might be made available as well as some relevant trends, data and sources that might add value for this hour of research.

Prototyping

  • FormLabs notes that “producing functional prototypes often required the same processes as final products.”
  • Cornell and MIT are seeking to improve and streamline prototyping by bringing in emerging technologies. The project is called the Robotic Modeling Assistant (RoMA). “With RoMA, users can integrate real-world constraints into a design rapidly, allowing them to create well-proportioned tangible artifacts. Users can even directly design on and around an existing object, and extending the artifact by in-situ fabrication.”
  • ZDNet reports that DIY enthusiasm in robotics is still a trend supported by “falling sensor prices, rapid prototyping, the abundance of cheap microprocessors, and a supportive community of makers. Kickstarter is lousy with robotics and drone projects (some of them lousy, others very cool) from ambitious amateurs.”
  • In an article that goes very in-depth into one project’s prototype, it is noted that prototyping tools for AI robotics must allow designers to use methods that include the following:
    • "Fast, iterative, experimental prototyping of interactions and autonomous behaviors
    • Wizard of Oz (WOZ) design experiments and testing with people
    • Comparing different algorithms, datasets, and training methods
    • Iterative testing of embodied working prototypes
    • Finding a minimum viable product (MVP) and minimum viable data (MVD)
    • Creating new AI technology requirements."

Robotics Forums & Resources

  • Many conversations on Reddit feature very granular but highly individualized conversations about robotic prototyping (here and here).
  • The Robot Report is a fantastic resource that deserves a deeper dive as it features many articles on robotics prototyping and in-depth coverage of robotics markets, research, design/development, and technologies.
  • WTWH Media is a tech juggernaut that focuses on B2B in the electronics, design, engineering, hospitality, life sciences, and robotics markets.
  • The RobotShop Community is a relatively active forum that features a community’s varied discussions, many of which focus on prototyping. A deep dive here may showcase some semblance of the data requested.

Proposed next steps:

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It is clear that the specifics of the required research may not be available. However, the research team is still able to assist with adding value to understanding the key differences between consumer space prototyping and robotics. The research team recommends a competitive landscape focused on key players in the robotics prototyping/manufacturing industry with a specific look to how the players differentiate themselves in the market (e.g., technologies used, innovations, recent media, target audiences/customers, revenue/funding) for any of the subgroup industries—industrial, medical, autonomous, or other. We will first identify 6 key players (3 key players in the industrial or autonomous industries, and 3 in the medical or other industries). Then, we will complete a competitive landscape for each of the selected companies.
Because the requested data is very limited, the research team can continue the research for a deep dive into popular forums for discussions between robotics engineers and developers to suss out any possible quantifiable data points that get at the following (likely through triangulation due to the highly individualized reports on robotic prototyping): (a) Number and diversity of parts per product (and associated compound risk effects) (b) Number of products produced (per stage, per year, or total lifetime) with the number of required precision parts and a quantifiable measure for the complexity of individual parts. (c) Number of design iterations per part.
Alternatively, the research team could conduct SWOT analyses on each industry (consumer prototyping/on-demand manufacturing) and robotics prototyping to strike at each industry's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This type of specified and highly comparable dive into the industries might prove to be a solid way to compare the very niche industries. Here, too, the team could flesh out the “quantity gap” seen in the robotics industry.