Frequently Asked Questions

What do you do?

We are experts at answering and executing the solution to the question: “I have a product idea, now what?” The UWM Prototyping Center is a product development and fabrication “job shop” operating within UW-Milwaukee. On a contract basis, we perform industrial design, engineering design, prototyping, and short production runs to fabricate parts. We specialize in mechanical component design and fabrication, and can deliver electromechanical systems as well.

We are sometimes asked to be the lead engineers to develop a project, or to supplement a companies’ engineering team needs with our skillsets. We can also be counted on as overflow engineering and fabrication needs for companies who experience cyclical surges and just need more support from time to time.

What is your mission?

Our mission is to commercialize ideas and be a catalyst to launch startup companies in the Southeast Wisconsin region. We do this by providing efficient development services to local individuals and companies in need of engineering, prototyping, and small production runs.

It is our goal to perform the development, but then hand off your project to local manufacturers in the area and congratulate you on your journey to growing your company and idea.

Most job shops and product development companies have minimum project volumes and costs, leaving a lot of smaller jobs unfulfilled. While we execute a fair number of large projects, we also accommodate those in need of projects that often go unquoted in the region.

What can you make?

We have the luxury of being able to fabricate just about anything you can think up. Just steps apart from each other, we have a variety of state-of-the-art machining centers, 3D printer, 3D scanner, and welding stations. Because of these powerful tools, we are able to create highly functional components from the designs we generate using our Computer-aided Design (CAD) software.

From plastic to stainless steel, to foams, woods, and composites, we can make pretty much anything. Also, thanks to CNC precision and automation, we can make repeatable parts by loading stock and pushing a button. We typically operate in the 1-100 types of volumes and beyond that will connect you with local shops who will be happy to take it from volumes above 100 pieces.

Who do you work with?

We work with everyone! From individual entrepreneurs just starting out to powerhouse Fortune 500 companies, as well as a number of local universities as well. In a few years since opening, we have collaborated with companies across all 4 USA time zones and 4 continents.

Depending on how the system will be manufactured and assembled, we work with a variety of “go-to” production shops with core competencies that we trust and can collaborate with to then produce your device.

How do I get a quote?

It typically starts with a conversation to discuss what you’re seeking.  (You can start that conversation here!) Usually folks either know what they need or they don’t, and that’s normal.

If you know what you need and have a CAD model ready to go, we can quote based on time and materials to execute a job upon reviewing the part. If your project request is open ended, we can start a dialogue, find out what you want, and then quote a project to deliver what you need.

How do we get started?

Typically we will get a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) in place, then discuss detailed information about the project, and then estimate how long a project will take to execute in time and money for specific milestones and deliverables to be achieved. Once we agree on a budget, we will schedule the project and get underway!

Can you work for equity?

Unfortunately, no, we cannot work for equity. We would love to offer something like this to bootstrapped startups, but as we are a government entity we cannot take a risk on the promise of future earnings for services rendered now as there is no guarantee of such a return.

How are my ideas protected?

If you don’t have a patent that’s okay, as we will establish a mutual Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) to protect your ideas. We have no interest to receive royalties and our work is considered work-for-hire. We just want to be a part of your team, provide you with value to achieve your goals, and ultimately wish you well and continue to support your growth!

How are projects funded?

Our clients pay for projects on a time and materials basis. We want the project we execute to deliver a return on your investment, and we often flag ideas and plans before we get started to ensure confidence that this can occur. In the event that what our clients are seeking exceeds their funding availability, we break projects into milestones to be achieved in incremental “chunks.”

We can point you in the direction of state or federal grants, investment partners, and loans. For example, if you need to demonstrate capability to an investor, we wouldn’t complete an idea through to a fully functional design – we’d first create something cost-effectively to “communicate the design intent” to allow you to demonstrate one way of functioning, at first.

What industries do you serve?

With a diverse background amongst our team and technical experts a phone call away, we can cater to nearly every industry. A limited summary of our portfolio includes medical device developments, surgical tools and implants, industrial technologies, complex scientific instrumentation, consumer products, gym equipment, assembly fixtures, automotive, research projects, and beyond!