Wearable Thermoelectric Bracelet Wins Cool Idea! Award

The latest Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award winner is literally cool … and hot, too, for that matter.

This exploded view shows how Wristify comes together, including parts that were manufactured by Proto Labs.

Wristify is a thermoelectric wearable device that actively cools or heats one’s skin for comfort by sending hot or cold pulses to a patch of skin on the wrist dozens of times per minute.

Wristify’s developers, Cambridge, Mass.-based Embr Labs, call the product a “stylish bracelet” that helps keep you cool or warm, similar to what happens when you dip your toes in a cold lake on a hot, sunny day, or when you wrap your hands around a hot cup of tea on a cold night.

Sam Shames, one of the co-founders of Embr Labs, says developers are using the Cool Idea! Award manufacturing grant for various custom prototype parts from Proto Labs such as CNC-machined aluminum enclosures and Santoprene (rubber) bottom components.

This is how the finished product may look.

“The prototypes we have built out from Proto Labs’ manufactured parts have been the best prototypes used to date,” Shames says. “The parts have been greatly beneficial in the prototype phase and we’ve been really pleased with the general aesthetic and design, which have a sleek look and feel to them. Plus, the functionality of these parts has been great.” Read our recent press release here.

EYE ON INNOVATION: Converse, Nike Prove It’s Never Too Late to Innovate

Changing an icon can be risky business. Yet that’s just what Converse Inc., and its parent company Nike, are doing.

Boston-based Converse plans to release a new version of the classic Chuck Taylor shoe, or Chucks, which have been around since 1917. The new version will have more support and be lighter, using technology from design engineers at Nike.

The Chuck II, which arrives in stores next week, incorporates Lunarlon cushioning, which features a soft, yet resilient foam core that’s encased within a supportive foam carrier for lightweight, ultra-plush cushioning. Lunarlon foam, invented by Nike, is 30 percent lighter than traditional Phylon, which is normally Nike’s go-to midsole material. Lunarlon allows the force of impact to be more evenly distributed, which helps reduce painful pressure points on feet.

Simply stated, the Chuck II will be more comfortable, which may be a nod to aging baby boomers who love the counter-culture fashion statement of Converse shoes but are now seeking more comfort.

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DipJar Puts New Twist on Cashless Tipping

DipJar, a startup with offices in New York City and Boston, digitizes the all too familiar tip jar found at many coffee shops and restaurants. It allows credit and debit card users to leave a tip with a simple swipe of their card, providing service employees with yet another opportunity to collect that well-deserved gratuity.

DipJar lets coffee shop patrons leave quick and easy tips in a single swipe.

At a business where a DipJar is present, customers simply “dip” or insert their card into the device to leave a tip in an amount set by the establishment. The DipJar, which houses a card reader, circuitry and software to complete the cloud-based transaction, displays the amount tipped and makes a “change clinking” sound to notify employees of the payment. DipJar also is positioning the device as a way for charitable organizations to collect donations.

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Proto Labs Expands Its Additive Manufacturing Footprint

Proto Labs has acquired a new facility to expand its 3D printing service into a larger and more efficient additive manufacturing space. The 77,000 sq. ft. facility will allow us to house all of our stereolithography (SL), selective laser sintering (SLS) and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) technology under one roof. The new plant is scheduled to become fully operational in the first half of 2016, and will remain in the North Carolina area where Proto Labs’ current additive facilities are located.

Large format SLS machines that will eventually move to Proto Labs’ new additive manufacturing facility.

“Since the launch of 3D printing at Proto Labs, we’ve increased our material selection and improved our turnaround time to days. We have also introduced additive services in Europe,” explains Rob Connelly, Proto Labs’ VP of Additive Manufacturing. “Our state-of-the-art facility will be a critical driver in advancing 3D printing for many years to come.”

Read the full press release on our new additive manufacturing space here.

1 Million Machining Quotes

Sound the noisemakers and release the confetti! We’ve just quoted our 1 millionth machining order in North America. While legal won’t let us give out an oversized check or free parts for life to whoever put us over a million, it’s another great reminder that designers and engineers are using quick-turn CNC machining more than ever for prototypes and production parts. We launched our machining service in 2007 and have continued to enhance our capabilities with new plastic and metal materials and processes like lathe.

So, how do these numbers relate to our other services? We’ve quoted more than 700,000 injection molding orders and 525,000 3D printing orders, putting Proto Labs well over the 2 million mark in North America.

And for that, we sincerely thank our customers.

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