3D Printing or Machining for Plastic Parts?

An SL machine displays a final ABS-like part with supports.

There are many questions to consider when determining if your plastic parts should be 3D printed or machined. Can you test form, fit and function by using plastic-like materials or do you require engineering-grade thermoplastics? Do you need a broader selection of plastic materials during protoyping? Is your part geometry simple or complex? What are the cost considerations for both methods?

Our latest April Design Tip takes a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of both 3D printing and CNC machining.  It aims to help you determine which method is better for your particular application. Continue reading

Design Tip: How to Get Well-Rounded Parts with Lathe

Our new turning technology can help you create cylindrical features.

The launch of CNC turning brings product designers and engineers a new set of machining capabilities for part production at Proto Labs. By adding turning centers to our three-access milling services, we’re able to better machine parts with cylindrical features. Turned parts have excellent surface finish and are typically more cost effective for customers.

Whether you’re developing a new camera lens housing, drive shaft or anything else cylindrical in nature, we may be able to assist. We currently offer parts made from aluminum, steel and stainless steel materials, but are working to expand our options with the impending release of brass and copper and the introduction of plastic later in 2015.

Read our full design tip on CNC turning to see if it’s right for your next project.

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

There’s a Right Time to “Lay Down” on the Job

 

Imagine that you’re molding a simple straight-sided cup. The traditional approach is to make it in a two-part mold, with the A-side forming the outside of the cup and the B-side forming the inside. As long as both sides are suitably drafted to facilitate ejection, it’s all very simple. But add a C-handle, and it gets a little more complicated. Because the handle acts as an undercut, you’ll lay the cup on its side, form the outside with A- and B-side mold halves meeting at the handle, and use a side-action to form the inside. Continue reading