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How to Make a Prototype on a Budget

Building a prototype can be tricky

Whether you build gadgets for fun, came up with a great idea that will change the world, make you a fortune, or anything else, building a prototype is usually the first step to making your dream a reality. Unfortunately, building a prototype seems like a daunting task. Money will always be a factor, and sometimes it’s simply too expensive to have parts 3D printed, CNC machined, or professionally designed. Not only that, it usually takes a lot of technical expertise to get off the ground. This challenging first step can be a barrier that squashes what would have been an amazing innovation.

How to build a prototype - the frugal way

In the early days of New Manhattan, we were faced with the same challenge of creating a prototype. We had a great idea, but we lacked expensive tools and financial backing. We had to get creative, so we used what we had available to us.

The answer for us was wood.
Left: Jonathan Sotoodeh (founder, CEO), Right: Chris Sotoodeh (founder COO)

Wood is an amazingly versatile material that can serve as the foundation of your innovation. It’s lightweight, strong, inexpensive, and easily manipulated, so you can build your invention without significant funding or expensive tools.

Wood prototypes have changed the world

Of course, we are not the only innovators who have relied on wood to create a revolutionary machine. According to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, in 1903 the Wright Brothers relied on spruce wood to create the first lighter-than-air glider called the Wright Flyer. Not only that, their amazing invention kicked off what is known as the Aerial Age. It’s been widely known as the first airplane and was the predecessor to every commercial aircraft flying today.

The Wright Brothers, with very little funding, did what others couldn’t. And they did it with wood.
Photo taken by Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Final thoughts

New Manhattan heavily relied on wood while building our first prototypes. It allowed us to iterate on a budget and fabricate what we needed, when we needed it. We build our first prototype automated tailoring machine in a garage out of wood, and much of our parts today continue to be made out of wood because of its many advantages.

For us, the Wright Brothers, or anyone else trying to bring their inventions to life, wood gives you the ability to do so. You don’t need a million-dollar budget and fancy machinery to build a prototype. All you need is some wood, basic tools, and a great idea.

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