Finding good suppliers for prototyping can be hard, even harder considering the difficulty to balance the trifecta of cost, quality and speed. Below we’ve collected some of the best suppliers for rapid prototyping. Some put the rapid back in rapid prototyping, while others excel in quality and finish. Depending on which itch you need scratched, we’re certain you’ll find your match! And got any other questions? Don’t hesitate to contact us

ZiggZagg

Production Hall ZiggzaggEver since HP launched their Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) technology, they’ve been making waves in the additive manufacturing scene. Printing polyamide (nylon) has never been so fast and easy, requiring much less cooldown than classic SLS printing, which greatly increases printing speed. So far we haven’t encountered a company that has bended these properties to their advantage as well as ZiggZagg. You’ll be hard pressed to find printed PA pieces of good quality at such high speed and such low cost. Currently unrivalled with delivery within 3 days and clocking in with prices almost half of that of the competition. Coupled with an easy uploading interface on the website, they leave the big printing guys (they know who they are) in the dust.

Protech

Ever struggled with prototyping the impossible? Then we would strongly advise checking out Protech. This company isn’t the cheapest around (considering it’s in China), but they excel at problem solving. We’ve mostly used them thus far for producing very tiny parts in correct materials that couldn’t be achieved with 3D Printing. You need a 0.8 diameter, curved, lightguide in PMMA and a reflective coating for the best possible performance results? Leave it to Protech to have it machined (!) and deliver tiny pieces with big performance. You need a microscopic mechanism in plastic with living hinges of 0.3 mm thick to imitate a microinjection molded part? Sure thing, they’ll have it vacuum casted for you. Beyond that they’re also a pretty good model shop, but we haven’t dipped our toes in those waters with them yet. So let us know if you have!

Protolabs

One of the more well-known participants on this list, but with good reason. Where Protolabs shines is in creating a frictionless experience for bringing together different prototyping techniques. Most notable of which their injection molding and machining service. After uploading your models, you’re presented with an interactive model highlighting possible problem areas of your design. They can have injection molded parts delivered in the span of 15 days or less (!) and machined parts within three. All this speed comes with some caveats, of course. For the molding you’re limited to certain finishes, complexity and most important: limited precision. While their mold cost is quite fair, the part cost of their molded parts are relatively high, but this makes sense as you can order quantities as low as 25 units. For the machined parts you’re limited to thread sizes, fittings and tolerances, hardly any post-processing, as you have no option to upload 2D-files. The part cost only starts to get competitive from a couple of units.

Rapidprototyping.nl

From their name it’s quite obvious that they don’t mess around at Rapidprototyping.nl. If you’re looking for machined plastic parts and want to add some more detail as say, Protolabs, these are your go-to guys. Speed is their thing, with quick quoting and quick delivery (usually 5-10 days) at very fair prices. And that’s just the beginning. One of their hidden superpowers is that they can mimic injection molded parts using nothing but machined plastics, as they did with the casing for our Kobi project, glueing them seamlessly together and creating impressive results. A good choice if you want to test out enclosures (even transparent ones) in the actual material rather than a 3D-printed variant. Besides that, they are the best priced vacuum casters we’ve worked with so far, and one of the few who can mold actual silicon parts using this technique, even though their flexible PUR casts are very impressive as well!

Youniq

Remember when we said you couldn’t upload 2D files up to Protolabs? It seems the folks at Youniq noticed. Currently only offering machined parts in aluminium but giving you a certain range of options in regards to fittings and threading. If you stay in their bounding box with your parts, you can have them ready in as soon as 3 days! Extra bonus points for being much better priced as the formerly mentioned Protolabs when it comes to one-off pieces and even fairly priced compared to classic suppliers. Currently only offering basic post processing such as sandblasting, they do have possibilities to forward your parts to painters or anodizers. Being a small company, they’re also much more accessible than the big guys, just pick up the phone and they’ll help you right along. Keep your eye on these guys, we feel like they have big plans for the future!

Tenco DDM

Prototyping example Tenco

Saving best for last with Tenco DDM. Being long term partners with us, we can only praise them for their extremely customer-centered approach, going to the limits to making your parts the way you want it and speeding to your doorstep should anything go awry. Their main strength is building beautifully finished models and in recent years they are making great progress in using additive manufacturing as a competitive small-scale production method. We’ve also called upon them many times for the use of their DLP printing technology to create the smallest and finest 3D-printed parts you’ll ever see. So if you’re in need of fantastic looking models or microprecision printed parts that no one else can offer, look no further and say “Hi” to Tom & Sofie from us!

 

Sander Van Den DriesSander Van Den Dries, Director of Comate Engineering & Design

 

Want to join us?

Are you also excited to develop prototypes? To turn ideas into real products? We are always on the lookout for gifted engineers to join our team! Send us an email via jobs@comate.be or drop by (we’re happy to show you our ‘garage’!)