How to shorten your prototype lead times

It’s no surprise that lead times are getting longer.

But in a world where 2-day shipping is the expectation, thanks Amazon, it can be frustrating to deal with the longer manufacturing lead times. The annoyances are reflected not only during the production phase of your retail display project but now we’re seeing it affect the prototyping stage as well. Dealing with these changes can be frustrating, that’s why we’re laying out 3 ways to shorten your lead times.

Over the years, we’ve had similar and wildly unique projects come through our doors, and no 2 projects are exactly the same. That’s why understanding the parameters around your project is essential to deciding which option is best. For example, your in-store date, material choices, and deciding factors at each stage (specifically your prototyping phase) can make a huge difference.

We strongly recommend prototyping before moving into the full production run, which will be the bulk of your retail display investment costs. It may seem unnecessary or a frustratingly long process, but it could make or break your overall program. Especially now when 3 – 5 years ago it would be a 4-week turnaround, and today we’re seeing 6+ weeks to receive preproduction or prototyping parts. But don’t be deterred, there are options.

  1. Foamcore Mockups: Foamcore is a lightweight, constructable material that can imitate the structure of other materials such as wood, metal and plastic. It can be used to make either scaled down or full scale models of your retail display programs in a fraction of the time, typically 2 weeks or less. It’s a great way to evaluate the overall the design and aesthetic of your display structure. Unfortunately, it has it’s limitation due to the temporary nature of the material. It lacks the strength and durability of the other materials so will serve as a purely aesthetic evaluation and determining shopper interaction with different components of the display design.Foamcore mockup
  2. Finish Decals: The lead times for finishes can range drastically, from on-demand to 16+ weeks. 16+ weeks seem ridiculous, but it does happen. If your chosen finish falls into the longer lead times, know there are options, such as selecting your second of third finish. But that can feel like a consolation prize in comparison when you have a specific vision in mind. An alternative is using a printed decal instead and preordering the material for production. This method can be used during the prototyping as well as the production phases as materials such as sintra can be printed directly on. Ultimately saving time as well as cost.
  3. 3D Printed Parts: What about prototypes that require specific parts, such as injection molded or vacuum formed parts? These types of parts need exacting measurements and often a higher investment cost with longer initial set up times. A great solution for these are 3D printed parts that can act as substitutes for the final production parts. They can be sanded and painted to replicate the finished pieces as well. And at times, they can also be used for in production displays depending on the 3D printer’s quality/capabilities.

Sometimes the hardest part of running a retail display program is waiting.

Instead of preparing to miss an in-store date, we provide 3 options to help shortening your prototyping lead times. Although not ideal, evaluating a mockup may serve similar purposes as a production-ready prototype. So keep your mind open to a scaled down or full-scale foam core mockup. Decals can also be a faster and cheaper alternative to the real thing. It may even be a solution for full production as well. When functionality is more of a concern, look into 3D printed parts. It can provide precision accuracy at a fraction of the time without the high upfront investment costs of injection molded parts.


Reach out to us if you’re interested in learning more about refreshing your display program at:


For the latest in material, design and technology trends in retail

follow us on social


find us on

linkedin, instagram, facebook and pinterest

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »