First, the update:
Yours truly is engrossed in more than one project, and has taken quite a break (I haven't posted in almost 2 months if you haven't noticed). I kept telling myself I will get back to blogging, but I have decided that isn't happening anytime soon. So, I thought I am going to jump in and start blogging again. I am also going to announce the "Summer of Blogging" shortly, but enough with the egotism...
Prototyping Tip - Don't throw away your failures!
Yours sincerely (thought I will try a variation on the previous paragraph, ahem) has recently had a chance to do a lot of prototyping - you know strutting around the lab, hurting yourself with things that look nothing like what your final product is going to be?
Anyway, cynicism aside, prototyping is always so much fun, next only to storming the brain for ideas of course. Part of the pleasure of prototyping is that you are typically breaking new ground, so many mistakes may occur.
20,000 non-bulb materials - the Edison cliche
Edison was arguably the biggest patent troll according to some people, intimidating peers and stifling innovation. However, he left a lot for us to delve in terms of cogitating about persistence, prototyping and such.
Though we may never know exactly what he said about never giving up on the path to inventing the light-bulb, but persistence in innovation is necessary. One has to stare failure in it's face and move on!
However, do we simply record our failures and discard them?
No! From your failures, you can learn a lot:
1. What exactly is the definition of failure in your prototype? Did it not fail to turn out at all? Did it fail to appear unlike what was expected out of it? Did the prototype fail in terms of functionality?
2. If your prototype failed under process/manufacture/putting it together, can you repeat it? Can you identify the flaws in your development process?
3. If your prototype failed functionally, what led to the failure? Is your failure related to how you built the device/application etc., or is it related to how you used it?
Record it anyway!
The very first thing you should be doing is answering those questions and recording those answers. These answers should go in your lab notebook. Two weeks from now, or six months from now, you don't want to be asking yourself what was going on.
Patent it anyway
A couple of years ago, I attended a meeting of the "Bio2Device" group locally and Karen Talmadge, the wizard of Kyphoplasty mentioned something to the following effect: "Don't simply patent your way of doing it, patent all the ways that could cause the same effect". In a simple sense, if you are thinking about using radiofrequency to burn the tumor, don't stop there - think of microwaves, photo therapy, embolization and so on...I hope you get the point. You may not get everything granted, so make sure your claims are constructed properly and you try to reduce things to practice appropriately.
The reason I brought this up, is because your prototype may not work because at the moment, you may not have the right method of building it, or the right set of steps to accomplish the functionality required of your device - and you can fend off someone else who might want to compete with you using one of your discarded ideas!
Lather, Rinse and Repeat
Finally, try to re-work your prototype! Don't take one failure as the final answer. If you made enough effort, maybe you will get it to work, or you will find out why it won't work...very valuable information!