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A Manufacturing Grant for Great Ideas


Brilliant ideas for new products emerge every day, but far too many promising napkin sketches end up in waste baskets because product development resources are scarce. The Protolabs Cool Idea! Award was created to help turn those inspiring concepts into real-life products.

Each year, the program awards an aggregate of up to $250,000 in Protolabs manufacturing services to innovative thinkers who can use their grant towards building prototypes or even an initial production run.




SafKan has created a pair of headphones that can professionally clean a patient’s ear in just 35 seconds. The Tucson-based startup recently developed the first and only automated ear-wax removing headphones for clinical use called OtoSet, in response to a growing market demand. Every year, 12 million people in the U.S. suffer from impacted earwax that can cause pain, hearing loss, and other ear problems. The Cool Idea! Award has helped SafKan to meet various customization requirements during OtoSet’s pivotal clinical trials stage.

Recent Cool Idea! Award Winners

How to Apply

The application process is easy:

  1. Fill out an initial application—it’s three short questions. Apply here.
  2. Judges will select finalists based on the initial application.
  3. Finalists will submit more product details, including a 3D CAD model of their part.
  4. Judges will review the finalists and select a winner.

There are four application periods throughout the year:

  • January 1 – February 28
  • April 1 – May 31
  • July 1 – August 31
  • October 1 – November 30

If selected for a Cool Idea! Award, you must use the services within 90 days and should be at a stage in your project that allows you to begin executing immediately.

Rules & Regulations

The Cool Idea! Award is intended to help early-stage companies and entrepreneurs. Read through our guidelines for additional requirements, and if you’re ready to take your idea to the next level, we’d love to see what you’re working on.

General guidelines for the submission process:

  • A 3D CAD model(s) must accompany Round 2 application form. CAD Files will not be requested in Round 1 submission.
  • If you are granted an award, Protolabs will ask you to let us actively promote your project in print, press releases, case studies, etc.
  • Cool Idea! Award recipients have 90 days to use their award.
  • If your project is related to a government contract or grant, it is ineligible for an award.
  • Protolabs employees and families are ineligible for an award.

If you have additional questions about the award, please check out our FAQs page and read through our terms and conditions.

Alumni & Judges

Stay Informed

Thank you!
cool idea contestant on phone at desk