About Will Martin

Will is the communications manager at Proto Labs. He writes about rapid manufacturing. A lot. Will enjoys baseball on the radio, pretentious French cinema and Tom Waits.

How Digital Manufacturing is Changing the Industry Forever

Our current issue of the Proto Labs Journal looks at the convergence of complex software and automated hardware bringing rise to the digital age of manufacturing. Follow the thread of a 3D CAD model from upload to digital analysis to final part, and the massive compute cluster that’s powering it all.

Along with our cover story, read about leveraging low-volume injection molding, the latest in innovative technology we’ve mined from the Internet  and new service offerings at Proto Labs.

Read the full Journal now.

Why Stereolithography is Built for Prototyping

Stereolithography (SL) is an established additive manufacturing process that can quickly and accurately create complex prototypes. Parts are built by curing paper-thin layers of liquid thermoset resin with an ultraviolet (UV) laser that draws on the surface of a resin to turn it from a liquid to solid layer. As each layer is completed, fresh, uncured resin is swept over the preceding layer and the process repeated until the part is finished.

SL offers a range of plastic-like materials to choose from with several types of polypropylene, ABS and glass-filled polycarbonate available. Normal, high and micro resolutions are achievable at Proto Labs, meaning very fine details and cosmetic surfaces are possible. As a result, minimal “stair stepping” is seen compared to printed parts such as fused deposition modeling (FDM).

SL parts can also be built to a max size of 29 in. by 25 in. by 21 in., giving it the edge over other additive processes like selective laser sintering (SLS).

Our latest design tip looks at these and other manufacturing considerations for the stereolithography process.

DipJar Puts New Twist on Cashless Tipping

DipJar, a startup with offices in New York City and Boston, digitizes the all too familiar tip jar found at many coffee shops and restaurants. It allows credit and debit card users to leave a tip with a simple swipe of their card, providing service employees with yet another opportunity to collect that well-deserved gratuity.

DipJar lets coffee shop patrons leave quick and easy tips in a single swipe.

At a business where a DipJar is present, customers simply “dip” or insert their card into the device to leave a tip in an amount set by the establishment. The DipJar, which houses a card reader, circuitry and software to complete the cloud-based transaction, displays the amount tipped and makes a “change clinking” sound to notify employees of the payment. DipJar also is positioning the device as a way for charitable organizations to collect donations.

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Proto Labs Expands Its Additive Manufacturing Footprint

Proto Labs has acquired a new facility to expand its 3D printing service into a larger and more efficient additive manufacturing space. The 77,000 sq. ft. facility will allow us to house all of our stereolithography (SL), selective laser sintering (SLS) and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) technology under one roof. The new plant is scheduled to become fully operational in the first half of 2016, and will remain in the North Carolina area where Proto Labs’ current additive facilities are located.

Large format SLS machines that will eventually move to Proto Labs’ new additive manufacturing facility.

“Since the launch of 3D printing at Proto Labs, we’ve increased our material selection and improved our turnaround time to days. We have also introduced additive services in Europe,” explains Rob Connelly, Proto Labs’ VP of Additive Manufacturing. “Our state-of-the-art facility will be a critical driver in advancing 3D printing for many years to come.”

Read the full press release on our new additive manufacturing space here.

1 Million Machining Quotes

Sound the noisemakers and release the confetti! We’ve just quoted our 1 millionth machining order in North America. While legal won’t let us give out an oversized check or free parts for life to whoever put us over a million, it’s another great reminder that designers and engineers are using quick-turn CNC machining more than ever for prototypes and production parts. We launched our machining service in 2007 and have continued to enhance our capabilities with new plastic and metal materials and processes like lathe.

So, how do these numbers relate to our other services? We’ve quoted more than 700,000 injection molding orders and 525,000 3D printing orders, putting Proto Labs well over the 2 million mark in North America.

And for that, we sincerely thank our customers.

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