Where to manufacture product prototype of an idea

When you have an idea and want to bring the idea to life, the most important thing is to manufacture a product prototype of your idea. There are two options.

rapid prototype

Option one, you can try to buy some machines, such as 3d printer, CNC machine, mini machines, and then make a product prototype/mock-up by yourself. You need some professional knowledge to do that. But you can try to make more product prototypes as you need, and more versions.

Option two, you can try to look for some suppliers and ask them to help you. In this way, you can focus on the improvement of the design, and the suppliers will ship product prototypes to you. But if you need many versions to improve your design, there will be a long time. Before you hire them, it is best to get a non-disclosure agreement to protect your design.

For the first product prototype, you should not worry too much about the kind of materials used. And usually the cost is not the key. Your objective is to get a working prototype.

Unfortunately, many people don’t know how to get their product manufactured, or even where to look for a manufacturer. In this article, we will recommend some online suppliers that can help you realize your idea or invention.

Before that, let’s say a little more about the phrase “manufacturing on-demand” (MOD) which is also known as on-demand manufacturing.

In a traditional manufacturing process, an assembly line works to produce large quantities of products. Then these mass-manufactured products will be kept in storage facilities until they are ready for shipping.

In an on-demand manufacturing process, adjustable assembly and manufacturing processes work to complete customized products from a client. Usually a manufacturer that can provide on-demand manufacturing service has 3d printer, laser cutting machine, and some other highly technical equipment.  And the client’s order can be small. So if you just want to manufacture 1 or 2 pcs of products, you should look for on-demand manufacturing services.

Sculpteo

Sculpteo is a French company. Their factories are in Europe and the United States. Sculpteo offers online 3D printing and laser cutting services for individuals and professionals. They offer fast turnaround and worldwide delivery.

Their 3d printing service gives you access to many 3d printing technologies, such as SLS, CLIP, Polyjet, ExOne, DMLS…  And they can print your product with a wide range of materials, including Nylon, PEBA 2301, Flexible Plastic, Alumide, CarbonMide, Resin, Composite materials, Aluminum, Titanium, Stainless Steel, Brass, Silver, Bronze, and so on. You can even create an online shop and sell your 3d models.

They can offer laser cutting and laser engraving service too. They support many materials: Plywood, MDF (wood fiber), Acrylic(PMMA), Cardboard, POM, Aluminum, Steel, Stainless Steel, etc.

Shapeways

Shapeways is a 3d printing marketplace and service company. You can design and upload 3d models, then Shapeways prints the objects and ships to you.  You can open a store and sell your 3d printable models too.

They have over 55 materials for you to choose, including plastics, steel, TPU, Platinum, gold, silver, bronze, brass, aluminum, nylon, sandstone, and so on.

The process is simple: you upload your 3D model-choose the material you want-Shapeways prints the object-Shapeways ship object to you. Many designers have uploaded 3d models, so you can try to look for your favorite models and put an order too.

If you are first to use Shapeways’ service, you can use the code (LNU8RA) to save 15% of your first order.


Xometry

Xometry is one of the largest on-demand manufacturing services with 2500 manufacturing partners all over the US. It provides access to a wide range of manufacturing tools, such as industrial 3d printing (DMLS, FDM, PolyJet, HP Multi Jet Fusion, SLA, SLA), CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, die casting, injection molding, extrusion, Urethane casting, and so on. It offers many paths to realize your prototypes and products. You can upload 3d models and get the price using Xometry’s Instant Quoting Engine.

Protolabs

Protolabs is a company located in Maple Plain, Minnesota, USA.   And they have manufacturing facilities in four countries now (USA, United Kingdom, German, Japan). They can provide injection molding, sheet metal fabrication, CNC machining and 3d printing services. It is a fast manufacturer of on-demand production parts and custom prototypes.

3D Hubs

Before 3dhubs is a community-based 3d printing service. Anyone with a 3d printer, including hobbyists, can take part in 3dhubs and sell their prints online. But now they have expanded their business.

With many manufacturing partner facilities, 3dhubs offers on-demand manufacturing services worldwide.
3d printing service: you can upload your 3d models and they will print them and ship to you. You can choose many materials: resin, PLA, Nylon, stainless steel, aluminum, titanium

CNC machining: CNC milling, CNC turning, 5-axis CNC machining. And the suppliers can apply surface finishes too, including bead-blasted, anodized clear or color, anodized hard coat, powder coating, brushing, black oxide, electropolishing. etc.

Injection molding: you can make injection molding parts for low volume runs, from 500 to 10000 units.

PCBWay

PCBWay is a PCB manufacturer located in China. It has offices in Hangzhou, Shenzhen, and France. They offer a full range of Printed Circuit Board capabilities to fit your needs. Their service covers more than 2oo countries and regions worldwide. They offer shipping through third parties such as DHL, EMS, FedEx, UPS, HongKong Post, and the United States Postal Service.

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