THE SHORT LIST: 5 Reasons to Use Digital Manufacturing

Companies in automotive, aerospace, med tech, lighting and a range of other industries are using digital manufacturers for their prototyping and low-volume production supply partners.

Here are five reasons why:

Speed to Market
Depending on the supplier you use, you should be able to get short turnaround times that support multiple design iterations, which is crucial in those early, prototyping stages of a product’s development.

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Automated Quoting Systems
Partner with a manufacturer that offers a helpful quoting system. Our interactive quoting system at Proto Labs provides free, automated design for manufacturability (DFM) analysis, typically in an hour or two. Miguel Perez, a designer with Lockheed Martin, recently commented on our DFM feedback: “The auto-quoting system is amazing. Within a day, you get an answer as to whether you can make the part, whether you need to make changes, etc.” Continue reading

Prototyping Engineered for an Aging Population

The growth of our country’s aging population is perhaps the most powerful force shaping today’s economy and the outlook for medical device companies in particular. For instance, the bulk of baby boomers now are 70 or older, while the U.S. Census Bureau projects the 65-and-over U.S. population to double to nearly 84 million by 2050.

The ways that rapid manufacturing companies such as Proto Labs can help med tech companies serve this aging population is the focus of a column by Rob Bodor, Proto Labs’ VP and GM of the Americas, in Med Device Online. Bodor’s column is the first in a four-part series, “Building Better Prototypes,” for the med tech website.

Bodor’s current column covers factors that drive rapid manufacturing’s viability in the med tech space, and explores the various processes and materials that med-device companies should consider.

You can read the entire column here.

NEW JOURNAL: Trends, Drones and High Heels

The new issue of Proto Labs Journal is out. In our cover story, we look at industry macrotrends in manufacturing for 2016, from automotive lightweighting to human-factors engineering in health care.

The story reports on factors that are driving automotive innovation, trends keeping the aerospace industry aloft and forces such as an aging population that are influencing medical applications. And speaking of med tech, the Journal also includes an informative infographic on rapid manufacturing for medical device development.

Elsewhere in the new Journal, look for stories on high-tech high heels, smart luggage and a new drone we worked on for Lockheed Martin.

Read the entire Journal here.

We’re always on the hunt for thought-provoking content, so send your cool project or article idea to our editor at angelo.gentile@protolabs.com.

Thanks and enjoy the issue!

3D Printing Methods for Medtech Prototypes

Being able to quickly produce prototype parts is critical to creating an environment of innovation that can lead to medical device market success. By removing inefficiencies, manufacturers should expect to have prototype parts in a few days, not months. The prototype method must be fast enough to allow multiple iterations in a condensed time frame, and possess the scale to allow for multiple iterations at the same time.

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Rapid manufacturing methods like 3D printing are leveraged to help drastically reduce development time for medical devices.

Additive manufacturing (AM), also called 3D printing, enables quick evaluation of new medical product designs without making compromises due to complex part geometries. Using AM offers easier design changes and at a low cost. When prototyping via 3D printing, designers should not expect a finished part, although it should be noted 3D printing processes can yield finalized products. Stereolithography, for example, has a number of post-secondary finishing processes and direct metal laser sintering produces fully dense end-use metal parts.

There may be limits to color and texture choices, and in certain instances, thermoplastic-like materials will differ from the final production material used in process like molding and machining. If the surface finish, texture, color and coefficient of friction vary from the end material, it is difficult to accurately assess the subtle needs and benefits of these properties.

The main advantage of 3D printing is that it provides accurate form and fit testing. The build process of additive technology can accurately produce the form and size of the desired part, making it very useful for early evaluation of new medical parts. It is best used to identify design flaws, make changes, and then make second-generation machined parts or invest in tooling to create injection-molded parts. This article reviews that various AM printing methods commonly used in prototyping.

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Happy Holidays from Proto Labs

As 2015 comes to an end, here’s to beautiful holiday gatherings and ugly holiday sweaters: Happy Holidays!

From all of us at Proto Labs in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Finland and Japan, we wish you a productive and profitable 2016!

A group of employees at Proto Labs’ headquarters in Maple Plain, Minnesota recently gathered to show off a variety of ugly sweaters to ring in the holiday season.