There is a long held joke among software programmers called the “ninety-ninety rule.” The joke goes that you spend ninety percent of your time writing ninety percent of your code and then another ninety percent of your time finishing the last ten percent. The joke of course is making light of just how much work there is in finalizing code and how often that gets underestimated. Creating physical products can be the same way, there’s a long walk from having a single prototype in the R&D lab to shipping a finished product. Creating a prototype can be like the first ninety percent of code and that last ten percent is turning the prototype into a product.
When you are building a prototype (in this case, a robot), it gets taken apart and put back together a dozen or more times and each part evolves as you go. Things like cables, brackets, and sensor mounts are cobbled together from spare parts around the workshop and the design continually changes as you hone in on a working prototype. After you have a proof of concept actually working and the team decides that it should become a product you now face manufacturing, which becomes a whole new challenge with very different obstacles to overcome. (more…)