Q&A: Eric Utley Discusses the Advantages of Stereolithography

Eric Utley, application specialist at Proto Labs.

We’ve been 3D printing for a while now, and our facility in Raleigh, North Carolina is packed with 3D printing specialists. For this installment of our Q&A, we spoke with one of those experts, Eric Utley, application specialist, for a chat about stereolithography and why product designers and engineers need it for prototyping.

To start off, can you give a quick overview of the stereolithography (SL) process?
Stereolithography uses UV light shot from a laser to cure a liquid thermoset resin called a photopolymer. In fact, even though 3D printing is often thought of as a new technology, SL has been around since the 1980s. But there’s a reason it has stuck around for so long — it has some key features that product designers need for prototypes.

What are some of those key features unique to SL?
I’d say the most important feature is that it creates a very high-resolution part with excellent surface finishes.

It can handle micro-sized features so it’s most suitable for parts that have a high level of detail. Most SL parts will have a nice, smooth finish and, although it’s typically used for prototyping, it leaves you with the feel of a final part — and looks go along way when sharing your new product design.

Another important benefit of SL is that it’s our most flexible process in terms of geometry it can handle, which gives designers a lot of freedom to work with.

Continue reading

HP Selects Proto Labs to Test New 3D Printing Technology

HP Inc. made its announcement Tuesday morning at RAPID, the 3D printing trade show underway this week in Orlando. Here’s a glimpse of HP’s booth at RAPID.

Proto Labs has been selected by HP Inc. as a product testing site for the printing and PC giant’s new HP Multi Jet Fusion technology for industrial-grade 3D printing.

HP announced its new technology today at RAPID, a 3D printing and additive manufacturing trade show underway in Orlando, Florida through May 19. Proto Labs is at RAPID. You can find us at booth #443 to talk with a customer service engineer about our industrial-grade 3D printing services.

We’re excited to test drive this new technology that looks to be a dramatic leap ahead in 3D printing. We are looking forward to collaborating with HP on this new platform that promises to be faster and more economical than currently available 3D printing options.

Proto Labs’ staffers take a short photo break during RAPID underway all week in Orlando. From left, Joe Cretella, Greg Thompson, Rob Connelly and Thomas Davis. Visit Proto Labs at booth #443.

Proto Labs is one of several companies HP is working with as part of the company’s Early Customer Engagement Program, which conducts product testing and garners user feedback.

We were chosen because of our extensive experience as a prime user of industrial-grade 3D printing technology (also known as additive manufacturing) for our prototyping and low-volume manufacturing services.

READ THE FULL PRESS RELEASE ANNOUNCEMENT

TIPS WITH TONY: Flame-Retardant Thermoplastics and UL Classifications

UL 94 is a plastics flammability standard released by the Underwriters Laboratories (USA). The standard classifies plastics according to how they burn in various orientations and part thicknesses from the lowest flame-retardant to most flame-retardant in six different classifications.

UL 94 Rating

Definition of Rating

HB

                                          Slow burning on a horizontal part.

V-2

                                          Burning stops within 30 seconds on a vertical                                             part allowing for drops of flammable plastic.

V-1

                                          Burning stops within 30 seconds on a vertical                                             part allowing for drops of plastic that are not                                               inflames.

V-0

                                          Burning stops within 10 seconds on a vertical                                             part allowing for drops of plastic that are not                                               inflames.

5VB

                                          Burning stops within 60 seconds on a vertical                                             part with no drops of plastic allowed but may                                               burn through the part.

5VA

                                          Burning stops within 60 seconds on a vertical                                             part with no drops of plastic allowed and                                                     cannot burn through the part.

Continue reading

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:

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