NEW JOURNAL: Trends, Drones and High Heels

The new issue of Proto Labs Journal is out. In our cover story, we look at industry macrotrends in manufacturing for 2016, from automotive lightweighting to human-factors engineering in health care.

The story reports on factors that are driving automotive innovation, trends keeping the aerospace industry aloft and forces such as an aging population that are influencing medical applications. And speaking of med tech, the Journal also includes an informative infographic on rapid manufacturing for medical device development.

Elsewhere in the new Journal, look for stories on high-tech high heels, smart luggage and a new drone we worked on for Lockheed Martin.

Read the entire Journal here.

We’re always on the hunt for thought-provoking content, so send your cool project or article idea to our editor at angelo.gentile@protolabs.com.

Thanks and enjoy the issue!

EYE ON INNOVATION: Vertebrae Implants More Proof of 3D Printing’s Place in Med Tech

3D printing and other rapid manufacturing methods continue to transform the med tech industry, as illustrated recently by an Australian neurosurgeon who, in late 2015, removed cancerous vertebrae in a patient and implanted, in their place, printed vertebrae.

The 3D-printed part that would replace the patient’s cancer-ridden vertebrae. Photo: Dailymail.co.uk and ABC News.

Dr. Ralph Mobbs, a neurosurgeon at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, called the procedure a “world first.” The surgery was performed on a patient with chordoma, a rare form of cancer that occurs in the bone of the skull and spine. As Wired UK reports, the 60-year-old patient was affected in the two vertebrae responsible for turning the head — meaning that, if the 15-hour surgery had failed, he would have been left paralyzed.

Because of the position and function of these vertebrae, however, they’re extremely hard to replace — they must be an exact fit. Mobbs decided to 3D print the replacements instead, and worked with Anatomics, an Australian medical device manufacturer, to design and build the implants, which were made from titanium. The company also printed exact anatomical models of the patient’s head for Mobbs to practice on before the surgery. Continue reading

13 Cosmetic Defects and How to Avoid Them

As with any manufacturing process, injection molding comes with its own set of design guidelines, and design engineers who understand these best practices will increase their chances of developing structurally sound and cosmetically appealing parts and products.

Learn about different cosmetic issues that commonly occur on injection-molded parts, and how to eliminate them to improve overall part appearance and performance. This month’s tip discusses sink, warp, flash, knit lines, drag, vestiges, jetting, splay and other cosmetic issues.

Read the full design tip here.

Strategies in Light Underway in California

The big lighting and optics show, Strategies in Light, starts today in Santa Clara, California. We’ll be talking with designers and engineers over the next three days about how industrial 3D printing, machining and injection molding processes can help them develop well-designed, more efficient products and devices. Track us down at booth #102.

One topic that is certain to dominate the conversation is the relatively new thermoset material, optical liquid silicone rubber (LSR), which has many advantages during lighting development versus plastics like polycarbonate and acrylic.

Optical liquid silicone rubber prototype from automotive company MagWerks LED.

Optical LSR is changing the lighting industry with its superior material and optical properties that improve:

  • durability
  • lightweighting
  • heat resistance
  • UV stability
  • light transmission
In addition to ongoing optical LSR discussions in the booth, we’re co-hosting a presentation with Dow Corning on prototyping with optical moldable silicone on Wednesday, March 2 at 1 p.m. in the presentation theater. Proto Labs’ global segmentation manager Jeff Schipper and Dow Corning senior application engineer John Nelson will cover why optical LSR works well for prototyping and low-volume injection molding and the results of recent research on implementing aluminum versus steel tooling when molding with optical silicone.
We hope to see you at the show!

Q&A: StarWitness Offers Favorable Testimony of Rapid Manufacturing

Police and other security professionals frequently interview suspects and witnesses, sessions that require officially dated recordings. StarWitness, a supplier of specialty forensic audio-video products used by law enforcement and others, recently called on Proto Labs for prototyping and low-volume production help for a new product, the Field Interviewer.

Photo Courtesy StarWitness

StarWitness is a division of Signalscape, Inc., which is based in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. Signalscape and its brands supply engineering services and products used by U.S.-based law enforcement, security, intelligence and defense services to combat crime, fight terrorism and provide for homeland security. Mike D’Aurelio, mechanical designer at Signalscape, recently answered a few questions about his company’s work with Proto Labs.

What is the StarWitness Field Interviewer?
The Field Interviewer is a one-touch interview recorder that fits in your pocket. It provides a watermarked video identifier for authentication of recorded interviews, and can be controlled and monitored via secure Wi-Fi from an Android smart phone or tablet. Continue reading