THE SHORT LIST: 4 New Capabilities at Proto Labs

The crew at Protoworks (our R&D program) has been busy. Every day they’re pushing the boundaries to advance new rapid manufacturing processes and materials and expand your design possibilities.

We just rolled out a few new capabilities that we’re excited to share.

2 is better than 1: Overmolding

Overmolding expands on our injection molding offering. At Proto Labs, it’s a multi-step process where we mold a substrate part and place it into a second mold, which then molds another material onto the substrate. It’s called pick-n-place molding.

liquid silicone rubber manufacturing facility

A look inside our liquid silicone rubber manufacturing facility

Overmolding can aid in dampening vibration, improving grip as well as two-color aesthetics. We are still in the beta testing phase of our overmolding process, but it’s open to everyone.

Visit our overmolding page for design guidelines or to submit a request for parts.

Extra-strength machined parts: titanium

You asked. We listened. Our CNC machines can now mill and turn parts from titanium. With an excellent strength-to-weight ratio and corrosion resistance, titanium is most suitable for applications in aerospace, medical and other industries where high performance is critical.

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THE SHORT LIST: 3 Ways to Use Rapid Manufacturing Beyond Product Launch

Rapid injection molding is regularly used for prototyping and low-volume production during product development, and bridge tooling before large-scale production begins, but it’s also often used after a product is launched. Here are three ways to use rapid manufacturing once a product enters the market:

1. Supply Chain Emergencies

  • Minimize down time and reduce the risk of stock-outs when your production tool is down or being repaired.
  • Mitigate the risk of domestic and global shipping delays by having a reliable, on-demand supplier of low-volume parts.
  • Be prepared to meet an unplanned spike in demand without going on back-order.

2. On-demand Production

  • Order exact part quantities when you need them to avoid excess inventory.
  • Parts are shipped within 15 days or less to eliminate downtime.

3. End-of-Life Planning

  • Leverage low-volume aluminum tooling to place on-demand orders during product life cycle decline.
  • Mitigate the risk of inventory write-offs by ordering parts in lower quantities.

Click to enlarge product life cycle infographic:

THE SHORT LIST: 5 Med-Friendly Materials

Developing medical devices or health care components? Here’s five good material options to consider.

PEEK, PEI (Ultem) and PPSU (Radel). Attributes: High temperature resistance, creep resistance and works well for applications that require sterilization.

Polycarbonates (Makrolon and LEXAN HP1). Attributes: Good clarity with clear and translucent applications, good impact resistant, and durability.

Medical-grade LSR.

Medical-grade liquid silicone rubber (QP1-250). Attributes: Thermal, electrical and chemical resistance, biocompatibility, and is suitable for skin contact.

Titanium (Ti 6-4). Attributes: Lightweight, temperature and corrosion resistant 3D printed metal used with direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) process to produce fully functional medical components.

WaterShed XC 11122.

WaterShed XC 11122. Attributes: ABS-like material used to 3D print clear microfluidic parts with sterolithography (SL) process. Resistance to water and humidity, and good for lens and flow-visualization models.

For more information on materials, check out our complete selection at protolabs.com, and to learn more about using rapid manufacturing to develop health care and medical products, read our white paper: Prototyping and Low-Volume Production for Medical Applications.

THE SHORT LIST: 5 Reasons to Use Digital Manufacturing

Companies in automotive, aerospace, med tech, lighting and a range of other industries are using digital manufacturers for their prototyping and low-volume production supply partners.

Here are five reasons why:

Speed to Market
Depending on the supplier you use, you should be able to get short turnaround times that support multiple design iterations, which is crucial in those early, prototyping stages of a product’s development.

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Automated Quoting Systems
Partner with a manufacturer that offers a helpful quoting system. Our interactive quoting system at Proto Labs provides free, automated design for manufacturability (DFM) analysis, typically in an hour or two. Miguel Perez, a designer with Lockheed Martin, recently commented on our DFM feedback: “The auto-quoting system is amazing. Within a day, you get an answer as to whether you can make the part, whether you need to make changes, etc.” Continue reading

THE SHORT LIST: 5 Observations on West Coast Trade Expos

Disneyland is not the only venue making magic this week in Anaheim. The city’s mammoth convention center is hosting six “co-located” expos — ATX West, Electronics West, MD&M West, Pacific Design & Manufacturing, PLASTEC West and WestPack, which is attracting a global collection of product designers, engineers, software developers, inventors and entrepreneurs.

A banner outside the Anaheim Convention Center.

Here’s what is being discussed in nearby convention-center hotel lobbies after day one of the show on Tuesday. The event continues through Thursday. Continue reading