CASE STUDY: A Sea Change for Sailboat Winches

The story of how Proto Labs helped a French company with a revolutionary sailboat winch design started with a daring adventure at sea.

Pontos, the Saint Malo, France firm that’s reinventing sailboat winches, was co-founded by Michel Chenon and Darryl Spurling in 2010 after, as they describe it, a “hair-raising” close call that brought their sailboat dangerously close to the rocky outcrops of the narrow straits off the island of Brehat, France.

On the high seas, Pontos’ winch models have proven their worth in a variety of yacht races and regattas worldwide. Photo Courtesy: Pontos

The boat was equipped with a winch for the hoisting and furling of the sails that proved to be too physically challenging for the inexperienced crew to use.

This adventure led the two, along with a research and development team, to spend an intense three years creating and perfecting — with the help of Proto Labs’ rapid manufacturing services — the design of what would become a game-changing new line of sailboat winches. These now award-winning winches would also eventually be used on sailboats that would win or be competitive in several notable yacht races and regattas worldwide.


IoT-Enabled Water-Management System Wins Cool Idea! Award

The developers of AgPulse, a water-management system that uses wireless technology and the internet of things to optimize watering and irrigation for farms, have been presented with the latest Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award, a service grant given to innovative companies.

This AgPulse sprinkler control system is set up in a vineyard. Photo Courtesy: Mist Labs/AgPulse

AgPulse, developed by California-based Mist Labs, Inc., uses a set of wireless soil sensors to continuously monitor and optimize farm, vineyard or orchard irrigation, though it can also be used for backyards and gardens.

Mist Labs used the Cool Idea! Award grant from Proto Labs to manufacture its custom-designed components that were injection molded using high-strength polycarbonate in order to withstand the conditions of an agricultural environment.

“Water is a valuable commodity,” says Proto Labs founder Larry Lukis. “This product will help conserve this important natural resource and help all of us, whether we’re large-scale farmers or backyard gardeners, to use water more efficiently.”




On-Demand Webinar: Designing for Stereolithography

Last week we kicked off our webinar series on designing for 3D printing. The first session focused on stereolithography (SL) and it’s available on-demand here.

Key Takeaways

  • Properties of commonly used stereolithography materials
  • The unique benefits of stereolithography such as feature resolution and recommended applications
  • General design tips for overhangs, support structures, finishes and more

Top Questions

Can you describe the resolution of SL parts in terms of microns?
There are 25 microns per 0.001 in. Normal resolution builds in 100 micron layers, high-resolution builds in 50 micron layers and micro-resolution builds in 25 micron layers.

The minimum X/Y resolution would be 250 microns in normal resolution, 100 microns in high-resolution and 50 microns in micro-resolution.

What’s the cost difference between normal- and high-resolution SL parts?
There’s no set number since it depends on the part’s geometry. But for parts under 1 in., customers will see a relatively low cost difference between normal- and high-resolutions.

Height is a primary driver of cost so once you start approaching 2 to 3 in. build heights it can start to differentiate more dramatically. But, with our instant quoting process it’s easy to compare these costs simply by clicking back and forth and comparing resolutions.

What’s the rule of thumb for wall thickness in hollow structures?
We try to stay above 0.03 in. and a general rule is 0.01 in. wall thickness per inch of the part. For example, a part that’s 8 in., you’ll want to shoot for 0.08 in. wall thickness for a well-supported hollow part.

More 3D printing webinars on the way…
The next webinar on our calendar will be on accelerating medical device development with rapid prototyping, which you can sign up for here. And, in the coming months we’ll have more 3D printing webinars that will focus on designing for selective laser sintering as well as direct metal laser sintering.

3D-Printed Parts Help Shape Future of Health Care

Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) is an industrial 3D printing process that creates intricate, high-quality, fully dense metal parts. Materials that are regularly seen in medical and health care devices — like stainless steel 17-4PH and 316L as well as titanium Ti 6-4 — are available through DMLS.

Small medical components built with DMLS.

This additive manufacturing process has a unique advantage over many other 3D printing processes since it produces functional, end-use metal parts. And it has advantages over traditional machining processes since surgical device development often involves very small, highly detailed components that may be impossible to manufacture by traditional means.

This includes, but not limited to, combining multiple extremely small and detailed parts into one part, which reduces the excess bulk required for assembly. A single complex part will often produce better results than an assembly of simpler components that need to work together.

Imagine the end of an arm gripper for a robotic device that stiches up a patient. These components may be smaller than 0.250 inches but are still required to possess the strength and precision required to tie knots for sutures.

Material selection and manufacturability aside, the health care industry continually strives to improve the patient experience. Keeping each procedure as minimally invasive as possible is a key element with this approach. Using DMLS technology lets surgeons minimize incisions, which, in turn, accelerates patient recovery. This not only improves the patient experience, it reduces the cost to hospitals and insurance companies.

And one of the most important attributes of DMLS? Metal parts can be prototyped within days so you can develop devices much faster and get to submissions, trials and production much quicker.

DMLS is enabling the next generation of medical devices. Don’t miss out.


CASE STUDY: Robots Do Battle on ABC with Help from Proto Labs

Network television may seem an unlikely source for manufacturing innovation, but don’t say that to the designers of the robots competing in season two of ABC-TV’s BattleBots (a 10-episode run starts Thursday, June 23).

The Ringmaster (left) in action on ABC-TV’s BattleBots.
Photo Courtesy: ABC-TV

Two competitors in the show turned to Proto Labs recently for prototyping and end-use parts for their warrior robots.

California-based freelance product designer Hal Rucker created The Ringmaster robot, using Proto Labs’ 3D printing for plastic prototypes and production parts, and CNC machining for magnesium end-use parts.

Independent product developer Christian Carlberg, also of California, and his 13-year-old daughter Carissa, designed The Overdrive robot using Proto Labs’ CNC machining to fabricate two sets of parts for Overdrive’s weapon pulley system.

Overdrive’s designers looked to Proto Labs for help with parts for the weapon pulley system.
Photo Courtesy: Christian Carlberg

And who ultimately claimed victory in this clash of the robot titans? BattleBot designers were sworn to secrecy, so we’ll just have to tune in to see who won.