Happy Holidays from Proto Labs

As 2015 comes to an end, here’s to beautiful holiday gatherings and ugly holiday sweaters: Happy Holidays!

From all of us at Proto Labs in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Finland and Japan, we wish you a productive and profitable 2016!

A group of employees at Proto Labs’ headquarters in Maple Plain, Minnesota recently gathered to show off a variety of ugly sweaters to ring in the holiday season.


Proto Labs Foundation Supports STEM, Other Causes

’Tis the season of giving, and, at this time of year, we’re delighted to show how our employees’ generosity, through the Proto Labs Foundation, has supported the foundation’s targeted focus — science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education — and other charitable causes.

So far in 2015, thanks to the foundation’s Big Giving program, employee monetary and volunteer contributions, and the accompanying matching funds the foundation provides, more than $186,000 has been contributed to a variety of charitable organizations in Minnesota and North Carolina (for now, the foundation is available to U.S. employees of Proto Labs).

The Reve Academy in Minneapolis is one of several programs that receives funds from the Proto Labs Foundation.

The financial support is provided to nonprofit organizations that Proto Labs employees are passionate about, and through the Big Giving program for programs and initiatives that support STEM education. Large grants have included: Breakthrough Twin Cities, Code Savvy, Reve Academy, Minneapolis Community and Technical College Foundation, St. Catherine’s University, Hiawatha Academies, YWCA, High Tech Kids, Christo Rey Jesuit High School and Genesys Works.

Because the manufacturing industry needs future generations of diverse engineers and scientists, Proto Labs supports these educational programs to help bolster STEM interest and talent among youth.

In addition, we recognize the disparities in achievement between white students and students of color, and between low-income and higher-income students in measures of proficiency in STEM academic disciplines. The overall goal is that our large grants to organizations focus on transforming students’ interest in STEM fields and will provide those students with the resources and opportunities that will help foster and support this interest.

Beyond the STEM focus, employees are invited to contribute to charitable organizations through the foundation’s Good Ideas program and volunteering. The Proto Labs Foundation matches monetary and volunteer time investments to augment this giving. The foundation has organized structured opportunities to give back as well — earlier this fall, employees participated in helping build a Habitat for Humanity house.

Since 2014, the Proto Labs Foundation has provided nearly $350,000 in large grants to STEM-related education programs, and more than $450,000 overall.

Autodesk University Includes Launch of $100-million Investment Fund

If you didn’t attend Autodesk University this week in Las Vegas, here is one big item you missed. Autodesk announced the launch of Forge, a $100-million investment fund to support the creation of a cloud-based platform that will connect design and manufacturing ecosystems in an effort to help developers bring new ideas to market faster and more often. We at Proto Labs are excited to be one of Forge’s inaugural partners in this effort.

As a result, Autodesk Fusion 360 users now have seamless access to our design for manufacturing analysis and web-based, interactive quoting right from Fusion 360 CAD program. “We are excited to bring this seamless quoting and ordering process to the Fusion 360 users and look forward to continued collaboration with Autodesk on the Forge platform,” said Rob Bodor, Proto Labs’ Vice President and General Manager, Americas.

Meanwhile, in the exhibitors’ area at Autodesk’s annual event, Proto Labs representatives talked with a variety of attendees, including electrical, civil and mechanical engineers and various educators (below).

Read more about the Forge initiative here.

Compact Drone Wins Proto Labs’ Cool Idea! Award

The developers of the Sprite, a small, durable drone that offers an alternative to larger, generally more fragile quadcopter drones, have been presented with the latest Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award.

The popularity of drone aircraft for consumer use is surging. More than 700,000 drones are expected to be sold nationwide this year, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. Drones are also getting lots of buzz as a hot holiday gift item this year.

“Drones are already playing key roles in a variety of industries, and for military and public safety applications,” says Proto Labs founder Larry Lukis. “This particular drone is innovative because of its consumer-friendly design: a smaller size, greater durability and ease of use.” 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.