DEVELOP3D’s guide to the best prototyping products

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Putting together a functional, flexible prototyping workshop can be a daunting prospect. At DEVELOP3D, we’ve considered some of the most common requirements and identified smart options that should enable you to take back control over prototyping


Requirement: Colour prototypes
Option: Stratasys J55 3D

Want to show off your design in a range of colourways and materials without tasking a modelmaker? The Stratasys J Series of polyjet 3D printers boast the ability to transplant renders into reality.

The J55 is the smallest of the bunch, but a good option, given its compatibility with Luxion Keyshot, quality of output and range of function. It also offers a range of colour materials and the ability to accommodate multiple prototypes on its circular build platform.


Requirement: Metals 3D printing
Option: Ultimaker Metal Expansion Kit

Metals 3D printing is not just for those with deep pockets, plenty of space and an appetite for peripherals. The BASF Ultrafuse filament has been available for desktop FDM 3D printers for a while now, and Ultimaker has seemingly cracked the process.

An add-on kit for its S5 3D printer includes its own Cura software, which tackles challenges like shrinkage. The end-to-end ecosystem includes a service by which ‘green’ parts can be processed, sintered and returned in a timely fashion.


prototyping Requirement: Tough cutting
Option: Wazer

Bringing the power of waterjet cutting to the desktop, Wazer’s small-footprint CNC waterjet will diligently cut through almost anything you throw at it. This includes stainless steel up to 4.5mm thick, 13mm aluminium, 8mm ceramic tiles or carbon fibre.

Its versatility is a huge win, further boosted when you factor in singlephase power and the health and safety bonus of no overheating worries or ventilation requirements.

Requirement: Fast functional testing
Option: Formlabs Fuse

Sintered Nylon prototypes remain a firm favourite, and a popular choice for producing them in-house is the Formlabs Fuse.

A straightforward menu of materials, including PA12, PA11 and glass fibre-filled PA12, typically gives users what they require in terms of functionality, with a powder refresh rate that makes continued use a less costly proposition.

The Fuse Sift depowdering unit helps keep costs and footprint to a minimum, by combining a break-out station, material recovery and powder recycling.




Requirement: Flexible milling
Option: Bantam Tools Explorer

Loss of valuable floor space is a big problem in many workshops, particularly when machines not in use are hogging that space. So how about a CNC mill capable of carving detailed aluminium parts that can be stowed away discreetly or even packed into a pelicase and taken home for the weekend?

That’s precisely what Bantam Tools has managed to pack into the dinky frame of the Explorer, which weighs in at just a smidgen over 23kg and comes with an array of peripherals that ensure any job is completed with ease.

Requirement: Accurate laser cutting
Option: Lotus Blu60

From quickly slicing up cardboard for form models to engraving details and text onto metal parts, a laser cutter can perform a number of time-saving tasks. The Blu60 may be an entry-level model from Lotus, but it has been designed and built to provide maximum bang-for-buck in a compact form.

Capable of passing through a standard door opening (76cm), the 30W CO2 laser can cut or engrave a wide range of materials over a 600x400mm lamella bed, is water-cooled and offers PEV-certified air quality on installation.


Requirement: Clear lenses
Option: 3D Systems Tough Clear Resin

Lenses, light guides and lighting covers can prove tricky to get right, especially if you’re looking to put them through their paces with physical tests. 3D Systems claims it has solved the problem with its Tough Clear resin for the Figure 4 3D printer.

Tested to deliver mechanical performance that lasts eight years indoors and 1.5 years outdoors, parts should stand up well to real-world conditions. The machine itself remains one of the most versatile workshop SLA 3D printers available, supporting some 20 certified resins.

prototyping Requirement: Ceramic parts
Option: Tethon3D Bison 1000

Ceramic parts are of increasing importance in all kinds of products, hence the growing interest in ceramics 3D printers even beyond the world of medical implants.

Tethon3D is primarily a materials developer for this technology and although its desktop Bison 1000 has been developed for testing these resin and powder combos, its build area and detail level make it an excellent, entry-level route into prototype parts and getting technical with potential material options.

Read more about ceramics 3D printing here.

Requirement: Slicker scanning
Option: Aesub transparent spray

While we featured a wide selection of 3D scanner options in the October/November 2022 issue of DEVELOP3D, we should also mention some handy peripherals that can seriously boost ease-of-use in the workshop. Aesub offers some of the best.

Its Target Frame allows smaller objects to be held while the frame itself acts as a positioning guide. Its vanishing spray range is a godsend when trying to capture reflective surfaces. And its transparent spray manages to carry out the task while capturing part colour.


Requirement: Big bed CNC
Option: Laguna Tools SmartShop

Sometimes being able to hack a bit of wood into a precise shape for a frame or a buck can be priceless in terms of the speed involved in turning an idea into tangible form, or for simply delivering quick-and-dirty jigs and fixtures. A big-bed CNC router is a great way for fitting big parts or copious smaller elements.

Laguna Tools offers a broad range of options, with its SmartShop range boasting easy-to-use features. Spending a little extra, meanwhile, adds industrial Fanuc CNC controls to the mix.

Requirement: Printed circuit boards
Option: NanoDimension Dragonfly IV

While 3D-printed circuit boards may be the future in terms of cramming even more circuitry into an organically shaped product, simply having the option to print a prototype board can supercharge prototyping.

NanoDimension’s Dragonfly IV 3D printer allows for design flexibility and novel form factors, as well as miniaturisation by 3D printing in a dielectric ink (photopolymer) and a highly conductive silver nano ink.

Requirement: Workhorse Mill
Option: Tormach 770M

A multi-axis workhorse can lead to all sorts of headaches if your workshop isn’t set up for one. Enter the Tormach 770M, which runs on single-phase power, operates within a neat footprint and boasts a modular design that enables you to start making parts straight away. It also offers the ability to add extra functionality further down the line, when needed or when budget allows.

Requirement: Repeat and multiply
Option: Mayku Multiplier

Sometimes repeatability is key, and one of the quickest means of achieving this is to create a mould. The Mayku Multiplier is a desktop vacuum former that can capture details finer than a human hair, maintaining sharp edges in your design over its 400mm-wide circular forming area with 160mm of height.

Capable of shaping up to 8mm thick sheets in under 10 minutes, you can use as a template an existing part, a 3D print or even a carved potato, with PETG and flexsheet moulds allowing you to make true silicone or resin parts with slick surfaces.