What Is a Mockup?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Also known as a mock-up, a mockup is a model of an object or device that is created to follow a specific design. This type of resource may be built to a specific scale, or constructed as a full-size example of a newly developed product or device. Typically, a mockup is constructed to convey the general idea of the actual product and is not a working model. When the mockup is functional, it is usually referred to as a prototype.

Mockups are often used as props around which training for extreme missions can be conducted, as was the case when NASA astronauts used a lunar lander mockup to prepare for the Apollo landings.
Mockups are often used as props around which training for extreme missions can be conducted, as was the case when NASA astronauts used a lunar lander mockup to prepare for the Apollo landings.

The use of a mockup is common in many different business and instructional settings. One of the more common examples is the automobile industry. When designing new models of vehicles, the creation of a physical object from a set of plans makes it possible to evaluate the design in ways that would be difficult to accomplish otherwise. As a result, it is possible to refine the automobile design, making small changes in the plans and in the physical mockup until the design is perfected. This approach to the production and manufacturing process helps to eliminate the waste of a great deal of time and money, since the potential for errors with the design to occur during assembly are kept to a minimum.

A scale model of a building is a type of mockup.
A scale model of a building is a type of mockup.

Many other types of manufacturing environments also make use of a mockup as part of the creative process. Companies that produce aircraft will use prototypes that help to identify design flaw and allow for the addition of enhancements as part of a pilot experiment. This fully functional model can be subjected to a number of tests to determine if the design meets safety and quality standards, as well as given an indication of the level of performance that the design is capable of providing. As with the design and construction of automobiles, using a model design saves a great deal of time and money, allowing the manufacturer to produce quality aircraft at reasonable costs.

Using a 3D printer, developers can quickly tweak the physical design of their prototype.
Using a 3D printer, developers can quickly tweak the physical design of their prototype.

The mockup can also be helpful in settings other than manufacturing. Education is a prime example. It is possible to create models or designs that serve as visual or practical aids for instructors in just about every level of an educational system. Depending on the nature of the design, instructors may use the models to help illustrate facts regarding math, history, the arts, or just about any branch of science. The use of this type of visual aids can sometimes connect with students in ways that other methods are unable to accomplish.

Along with physical designs, today’s technology also allows for the creation of what is known as a virtual or digital mockup. Created using specialized software, this type of design makes it possible to create three-dimensional images that are used to assess the potential of a new design or product. This approach helps to make the fabricated model even more cost-effective, since the nature of the virtual model can often provide just as much information as building a scale model. As a bonus, the virtual model can easily be modified, saving time and money on making enhancements or changes to the basic design.

Mock-ups are often used to show the interiors of aircraft and automobiles at trade shows.
Mock-ups are often used to show the interiors of aircraft and automobiles at trade shows.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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