About Angelo Gentile

A marketing communications writer for Proto Labs, Angelo puts together our monthly Eye on Innovation post among other regular blog features. He has previously worked as an automotive editor, business journalist, magazine editor and corporate communications professional.

EYE ON INNOVATION: Five Tech Trends of 2015

As 2015’s Q4 nears, a brief look at the year’s technology trends is in order. This list includes innovations or trends that have recently arrived or will soon, and is an amalgam sourced from Forbes, MIT Technology Review, CNET and others. In various ways, Proto Labs touches each of these trends.

Computing Everywhere
Most computing these days is in your pocket or purse — that is, in your smartphone. As Forbes reports, “smartphones will be used in new contexts and environments. Along with wearables, smartphones will offer connected screens in the workplace and in public. User experience will be key.”

Smartphones also play a prime role in the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT). Along these lines, Proto Labs produces parts for companies serving this connectivity market. For example, Garageio, which is an app for smartphones that allows users to control and monitor their garage doors with their phones, is a past winner of our Cool Idea! Award.

A final note on smartphone use. Several news sources report that the majority of digital media consumption now takes place on mobile devices rather than desktop. Mobile usage as a whole — app and mobile web — totals more than 60 percent, versus less than 40 percent for desktop usage.

Smart Machines
This year, major brands such as Whirlpool, LG, GE and Samsung introduced their latest versions of smart home devices such as washing machines and refrigerators. Plus, we already have cars that help us park, navigate and stay in our lanes.

Proto Labs’ digitally connected manufacturing equipment is, in essence, a network of smart machines communicating with one another. This approach has helped us transform traditional manufacturing into an automated, digital enterprise.

CNET reports that smart machines will continue to evolve, and Forbes predicts that “the smart-machine era will be the most disruptive in the history of IT.”

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Proto Labs Volunteers Hammer, Saw, Build for Habitat

Nearly 100 employees at Minnesota-based Proto Labs were swinging hammers, pounding nails, sawing, painting, installing floors and more at a new Habitat for Humanity house in the Jordan neighborhood of Minneapolis this week.

Different volunteer crews from various Proto Labs departments each day worked hard and had fun supporting the efforts of Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization that helps local families become homeowners for the first time.

Proto Labs volunteers paused for a photo on Thursday before getting back to work installing flooring at a new Habitat for Humanity house in Minneapolis.

EYE ON INNOVATION: Smart Glasses For Cyclists, Runners Sprint Beyond Funding Goal

A consumer version of innovative eyewear for cyclists and runners, originally created for U.S. Special Forces, is setting a breakaway funding pace on Indiegogo, the global crowdfunding site.

Ctrl, a Dutch-subsidiary of Kent, Ohio-based AlphaMicron, has been seeking funding via Indiegogo to develop Ctrl One, a pair of sleek cycling and running “smart glasses” that can change tint from dark to transparent in a fraction of a second, automatically adapting to surrounding lighting conditions.

And just how popular are these glasses on Indiegogo? As of the end of August, $389,982 in pre-sales funding had been raised. That surpasses an initial modest funding goal of $20,000. Continue reading

Proto Labs Named to Fortune’s 100 Fastest-Growing Companies List

Proto Labs has been named to Fortune Magazine’s 2015 100 Fastest-Growing Companies List, the magazine’s annual compilation of public companies with the best three-year profit, revenue and stock growth.

Our company ranks 75th on Fortune’s list, and is the only Minnesota firm to make the cut.

We join Facebook as first-timers to the rankings. This was the first year Proto Labs was eligible to make the list, given that Fortune only reviews public companies that have been trading continuously since June 20, 2012. Proto Labs went public in February of 2012. Other familiar brands on Fortune’s list this year include Skechers (No. 21), Netflix (No. 46) and Under Armour (No. 62). Lannett, a Philadelphia-based pharmaceuticals company, was named No. 1.

Read our full press release here.

EYE ON INNOVATION: Coffee Cup Made From Coffee Percolates With Investors

Nearly everyone loves coffee, right? But a coffee cup made from coffee? Really?

As it turns out, this cup is more about being green than any homage to coffee.

Fargo, North Dakota-based c2renew is seeking funds on Kickstarter for its c2cup: a travel coffee mug that’s made from a coffee biocomposite, using 30 percent recycled coffee grounds.

As of this week, the developers, who work out of a business and technology incubator at North Dakota State University, have garnered nearly $8,000 of a modest $20,000 goal, with a little more than a month remaining in the Kickstarter campaign.

We found this project intriguing because c2renew engineers are putting a twist on manufacturing processes like 3D printing and injection molding — and because we love coffee.

To develop the cup, the folks at c2renew created a biocomposite formula that is a hybrid of a bio-based resin and coffee waste. Developers claim that “this coffee biomass not only results in a greener plastic, it also cuts down on cost while maintaining the desired mechanical properties.”

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