Prototype vs Sample: What’s the Difference?

Getting started with your first product idea can be very exciting! Most likely you will start with sketches, and may even venture into hand-making your product in order to have a better idea of what it will look like in its final stage. But, are you ready to start production once you have your first product handmade? There are many stages to get your prototype to a finished sample ready for production. These distinctions between prototypes and samples may vary across industries, but here’s a lesson that will help you along the pre-production process.

By Purpose

Prototypes serve as a way to try a new product design. Samples in general serve a wide range of functions depending on where you are in your pre-production process: product testing, for fittings, for QC inspections, sales samples, etc

By Process

Prototypes are usually considered the first sample. It is a one-off design that is subject to change as your product design is developing. Prototypes allow designers to “figure out” their design.  Samples, on the other hand are made during the production development process and vary in types. Apparel samples actually refer to a series of different items produced for different purposes during the development process.

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By Person

Some manufacturers treat prototypes as something an inventor makes (while they are figuring out their design) and samples as something a factory makes when they are formally sampling for quality, price etc.

Ready to start refining your prototype and working on samples?  You can user Maker’s Row to search for a technical designer who specializes in your product category, or you can search for a factory that offers in-house development services. These all-in-one production houses usually include a list of design services (like patternmaking and sample-making) clearly in their profile.


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