Proto Labs Teams with SOLIDWORKS on New Initiative

If you’re not currently joining us at SOLIDWORKS WORLD (Feb. 8-11) in Phoenix, Arizona, you may not have heard about our exciting new partnership with the MySolidWorks Manufacturing Network. Created to connect SOLIDWORKS users with reliable manufacturers in the 3D printing, sheet metal, CNC machining and injection molding industry, the network provides users with quick access to manufacturing resources like Proto Labs that, in turn, have a direct link to more than 2.5 million SOLIDWORKS users. Once connected to Proto Labs, designers can upload a 3D CAD model and receive an interactive quote with manufacturability analysis within hours.

Proto Labs is handing out nickel-plated 3D-printed rings at SOLIDWORKS Works 2015, which were built using an advanced stereolithography process.

To celebrate the partnership, Proto Labs has manufactured a limited-edition 3D-printed ring that SOLIDWORKS WORLD attendees who visit either the Proto Labs or SOLIDWORKS booth have the opportunity to receive. The ring was manufactured using Proto Labs’ SLArmor process, which takes stereolithography — an additive technology that uses an ultraviolet laser to cure thousands of thin layers together to build complex objects — to the next level by plating it with a nickel coating. This provides the look, feel and strength of metal, but without the weight.

As we move into 2015, watch our blog feed for more information on new ventures that Proto Labs will be launching.

14 Reasons Why Optical LSR is Good for Lighting Applications

As LEDs increasingly supplant metal filaments in light bulbs, optical LSR — in addition to plastics like polycarbonate and acrylic resins — is replacing glass in many optical applications including lens covers and light pipes.

Optical LSR is a transparent, flexible thermoset material that is replacing glass in many optical applications.

The flexible, transparent material is second in clarity only to glass; it can withstand heat in proximity to high-output LEDs and operate in a range of ambient temperatures. Optical LSR is flexible enough for rough duty, outdoor and automotive use. It also allows for very flexible design including accurate replication of fine features. It can support minor undercuts and negative draft without the need for side-actions, and both thick and thin walls. Designs in this material can often integrate multiple parts into a single unit, combining for example a lens, a clear lens cover and a sealing gasket, reducing the bill of materials for a final assembly.

Proto Labs stocks Dow Corning MS-1002 LSR, a material that has been engineered for molding finely detailed parts for LED applications. Read our full Design Tip to see how optical LSR might help on your next lighting project.

2015 Manufacturing Trends

Last year was pretty big for the American manufacturing industry. Milestones both big and small made headlines: the White House hosted a Maker Faire; scientists achieved firsts in 3D printing technology by printing living human tissue and printing in zero gravity; President Obama announced his commitment to supporting American manufacturing through the creation of research hubs in key U.S. cities; a resurgent labor market has continued to fuel an “onshoring” trend with manufacturing jobs returning stateside; we figured out how to 3D print pizza, chocolate and sugary treats.

3D-printed chocolate confections are a real thing. Photo by Choc Edge.

As important as all of the strides made in the U.S. manufacturing space were in 2014, we’re most excited about what might be around the corner. We’re confident this is only the beginning of an exciting new era in our industry. Here are a few trends we’re keeping an eye out for this year: Continue reading

Proto Labs Launches New Website

Protolabs website screen captureWe’re excited to close out 2013 with the launch of our completely redesigned website. Like many of the parts we manufacture, we built with a blend of style and substance. One could say it’s a tough, stable, wear-resistant site with good optical properties that is used by many different industries. Within the makeover lies a strong visual presence yet it retains all of the reliable content we’ve always had. Continue reading

There’s a Right Time to “Lay Down” on the Job


Imagine that you’re molding a simple straight-sided cup. The traditional approach is to make it in a two-part mold, with the A-side forming the outside of the cup and the B-side forming the inside. As long as both sides are suitably drafted to facilitate ejection, it’s all very simple. But add a C-handle, and it gets a little more complicated. Because the handle acts as an undercut, you’ll lay the cup on its side, form the outside with A- and B-side mold halves meeting at the handle, and use a side-action to form the inside. Continue reading