Eyeing the Future of Wearable Fitness Tracking

California-based eyewear maker VSP Global is using Proto Labs’ rapid injection molding services to accelerate the design, prototyping and testing phase of a new product, a pair of glasses that includes a health-tracking capability.

Photo: VSP Global

The glasses have a fitness tracker built in, a prototype design concept that VSP Global calls Project Genesis. A vision care company, VSP Global includes an eyewear manufacturing and design division, plus a vision insurance plan that encompasses more than 80 million members and a network of 34,000 eye doctors in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia.

Wearable technology is a hot trend right now, and, as VSP Global explained in a recent press release, though “some [wearables] could be considered hype, some…could be considered the start of a personalized medicine revolution.” Continue reading

Innovative Catalytic Reactor Incorporates Metal 3D Printing

Minnesota-based start-up Activated Research Company recently launched its flagship product, the Polyarc™ catalytic reactor — built in part with Proto Labs’ 3D printing process of direct metal laser sintering (DMLS).

A DMLS stainless steel block that attaches to a gas chromatograph, the reactor accelerates the process of analyzing the composition of matter and is useful in industries ranging from fuel to pharmaceuticals, according to Andrew Jones, a chemical engineer, who, along with former Proto Labs CEO Brad Cleveland, founded Activated Research in 2014.

The Polyarc™ microreactor was 3D printed in stainless steel with direct metal laser sintering technology.

Fans of TV’s “CSI” are likely familiar with a gas chromatograph. The evidence from the crime being investigated goes into the crime lab’s gas chromatograph, the high-tech machine quickly identifies whatever is in it and a dramatic arrest ensues.

That’s great for a TV crime series, but the show glosses over how, in reality, as Jones explains, the chemical or composition analysis is quite expensive and time-consuming.

That’s where the Polyarc™ reactor comes in. It can quickly quantify carbon-containing chemicals in a sample without the slow, costly calibrations of existing methods.

The idea for what would become the Polyarc™ reactor originated with researchers at the Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation led by Paul Dauenhauer, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Minnesota. Dauenhauer’s group published a paper proposing a “quantitative carbon detector” based on their research, which received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences.

For more details on how Proto Labs provided prototypes and production parts for this project, read the complete case study here.

Proto Labs Quoting System Helps Lockheed Martin Drone Take Off

The commercial-grade Indago Quadcopter unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone, from Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin, is soaring in popularity with law enforcement agencies, defense customers, firefighters, real estate firms, farmers and construction companies.

The high demand stems mostly from the drone’s versatility, range and small, 5-pound, fold-up size, says Miguel Perez, an engineer for Lockheed’s Procerus subsidiary, which developed the drone with prototyping and low-volume production help from Proto Labs.

Lockheed Martin’s Indago drone is a small, 5-pound, fold-up quadcopter capable of work at various ranges — up to 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) using integrated antenna solutions — from its ground controller.

Continue reading

Honey, I Shrunk the Pyramids: Met Museum, Proto Labs Create Model of Ancient Egypt

For the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition, “Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom,” on view at the New York museum through Jan. 24, 2016, exhibit planners decided to reconstruct the pyramid complex of King Senwosret III in both a virtual and physical model.

The scale model of the pyramid site is displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s galleries.

The physical 1:150-scaled model of the site is based on a 3D virtual model that was produced first, and modeled after 3D-printed prototype parts that were created by Proto Labs. For perspective, the main pyramid of the original complex was more than 206-ft.high. In the scaled model, it is 1.5 feet. The creation of the model, which is intended to bring this important Middle Kingdom era to life for visitors to the exhibition, involved a process that was an intriguing blend of traditional and digital methods. This process included traditional sculpting, model-making, mold-making, casting, carpentry and faux painting, plus digital methods of fabrication, specifically 3D printing. The additive manufacturing process by Proto Labs served as the Met’s prototyping phase that helped replicate the unique parts of the model. Continue reading

Proto Labs Boosts Trinity University Research Project for NASA

A team of university students in engineering science recently turned to Proto Labs to manufacture metal parts for a research challenge project the group was working on for NASA.

The project centered on designing, building and testing an asteroid-sample retrieval and containment device for a simulated space mission. Heady stuff for the four first-year students at San Antonio-based Trinity University: Mel Du, Tanner Peterson, Davis Owen and Samy Abdallah.

Mel Du, left, Trinity University student, posed for a photo with Stan Love, right, NASA astronaut, who is holding the SHARC device.

The team had churned out several prototypes on a university-owned, production-model, fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printer. But, as Mel Du concluded, those 3D-printed plastic (ABS) parts would not be strong enough for actual use in space or even in NASA’s testing phase of the device. The retrieval device is basically a hand tool for astronauts to use.

Du and his team turned to Proto Labs’ industrial-grade prototyping. Proto Labs fabricated several SLS and machined parts for the students’ device, which they had dubbed the SHARC—Sampling Hardware for Asteroid Retrieval and Containment. These parts included retention pins, retention pin covers, a right arm for the device, a slide, a plate and handguard with a tether loop.

The testing occurred this past June in the simulated microgravity environment of the Neutral Buoyancy Lab (a giant swimming pool) at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The testing was part of NASA’s Microgravity University. The SHARC worked well throughout all of the testing.

Read more details about how Proto Labs helped NASA and Trinity University in our latest case study.