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.

Sportech Uses Quick-Turn Machining for Design Validation

From frozen trails to rugged desert valleys and muddy creeks, power-sports vehicle drivers put their machines to the test. Producing custom parts for many of those snowmobiles, utility vehicles and motorcycles — on short production cycles and with manufacturers gearing up for large-scale production — is another sort of test for Minnesota-based Sportech, Inc.

Sportech prototyped durable nylon clips and hooks with CNC machining.

Sportech is a product development partner to seven of the eight largest power-sports vehicle makers. The company specializes in full-service design, development and production of custom parts and accessories, going from concept or rough sketches to 3D CAD modeling and rapid prototyping. Its services include thermoforming, drape forming, CNC routing and integrated assembly. Products include windshields, body panels and screen-printed parts for motorcycles, snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and utility vehicles (UTVs).

While Sportech has grown into a leading product developer for original equipment manufacturers, what hasn’t changed since the company’s early days is the challenge of meeting tight product development deadlines.

In our latest case study, read how Sportech used quick-turn CNC machining at Proto Labs to validate the design of components before shifting to large-scale production.

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.

Continue reading

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.