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.

Combing Through 3D CAD Programs

Look around. Nearly everything that you interact with was likely a creation of three-dimensional computer-aided design (3D CAD) — homes, furniture, automobiles, lighting, smartphones, computers. At its most basic level, a CAD program takes a designer’s two-dimensional sketch and extrudes, or solidifies, that drawing into a three-dimensional model. Depending the industrial focus of the CAD program, and the modular extensions used to support and enhance its software, product developers and engineers are able to design extremely intricate products that can be built or manufactured. At Proto Labs, every single part submitted for manufacturing arrives as a 3D CAD model in one of several different file formats derived from different CAD programs. Continue reading

Started From the Bottom Now We’re Here: The Rise of 3D Printing

3D Printed Globe

It’s nearly impossible to have a conversation about the current state of manufacturing without mention of 3D printing, an additive process that uses digital CAD models to build physical, real-life objects, layer by layer. While additive manufacturing has existed for more than 30 years, it wasn’t until the last few that 3D printing, led by increased accessibility, has become the poster child for progressive technology within the industry — NASA prints telescope! Designers print runway pumps! Scientists bio-print human organs!

It’s undoubtedly an exciting time in manufacturing that has many eager to see what the future brings, but can the promise of a printed world withstand the heat? We deconstruct the layers of 3D printing to find the substance beneath the style. Continue reading

Medical Device Prototyping With A Manufacturing Hand From Proto Labs

Modern science has allowed surgeons to fix the human body amazingly fast, yet leave behind only small traces that repairs were performed. One of the more commonly used methods to achieve this is by a minimally invasive technique called laparoscopic surgery, where small incisions are made into a patient’s skin, a laparoscope is inserted to provide a magnified view of the patient’s organs, the procedure is performed, and the incision is closed by stitching or surgical staples. You can have your gallbladder removed before breakfast and be binge-watching Netflix from the comfort of your couch by dinner.

Typically, the small openings created during laparoscopic surgery are closed in one of two ways: manually stitching subcutaneously (beneath the skin) with a bio-absorbable, thread-like material and a curved needle that moves from one side of the hole to the other to close it tight, or with a surgical stapler that inserts metal staples into the skin to close the wound. The first technique is more time consuming, but leaves less surgical evidence. The latter method is faster, but can cause scarring and infection. Chuck Rogers, Ph.D., and Kenneth Danielson, M.D. of Massachusetts-based Opus KSD are nearing the launch of a device that combines the best of both worlds: the ease of a stapler with proprietary bio-absorbable subcutaneous fasteners. Continue reading

‘Proposed Revision’ Enhancement in ProtoQuote Makes Ordering Parts Even Easier

We hear it often: “How do I make my part moldable?” With the introduction of Proto Labs Proposed Revisions in our automated ProtoQuote® system, your part may qualify to receive our enhanced moldability analysis that automatically makes adjustments to areas like draft or wall thickness. Here’s how it works: Continue reading

Red, White and Blue

The young lads on Team USA have had a solid showing in the World Cup. Taco Bell now has an amazing breakfast menu. The bald eagle is even undergoing a dramatic resurgence in the lower 48. What more could you ask out of America?!?

Red, white, and blue samples of LSR injection molding materials.

Well, raise those sparklers high in the air (like you just don’t care). Proto Labs is getting into the spirit of all things America! in the only way that a quick-turn manufacturing company filled with engineers can — by releasing new red, white and blue liquid silicone rubber color options. Obviously. Continue reading