What Does a Prototype Engineer Do?

A prototype engineer is usually in charge of overseeing the design and development of a prototype product. This usually starts with a brainstorming and design stage, during which an engineer either creates a concept or uses someone else’s ideas and design to start developing a realistic approach to it. The prototype is then usually turned into a model, either in physical form or as a computer-generated object that can be tested in a virtual environment. An engineer usually creates the actual prototype for use in demonstrations or as the first step in future development.

The creation of a concept or design that can be used to develop a prototype is often one of the first responsibilities of a prototype engineer. The exact way an engineer does this varies a lot, but it usually starts with brainstorming and a lot of iterations on different ways to develop the product. The engineer may also have to work with someone else’s concept and figure out how to make it work. This can be a rough concept that is described in broad strokes, or it can be a fully realized product that the engineer must further develop to make it practical.

A prototype engineer typically creates a model or non-functional version of a product after the basic design is established. This is frequently done to get a sense of how parts might need to be acquired or manufactured, as well as to test a product’s overall appearance and initial usability. An engineer can create physical models, which are frequently used to ensure that a component can fit into a larger object of which it is only a part. CAD programs are frequently used to create a digital model of a product that can be tested and analyzed in a virtual environment.

A prototype engineer usually creates a functional prototype of an item after these development stages are completed. As different flaws must be found and numerous tests must be performed on the prototype, this can be one of the most difficult and complex stages of the process. However, a functional item is essential because it is frequently used in demonstrations and to demonstrate practical applications to others in the company. Because the first version of a product is rarely used, a prototype engineer may need to create multiple models and iterate on a product many times before it is finished.