5 Ways to Improve Part Moldability with Draft

When designing parts for plastic injection molding, applying draft (or a taper) to the faces of the part is critical to improving the moldability of your part. Without it, parts run the risk of poor cosmetic finishes, and may bend, break or warp due to molding stresses caused by the plastic cooling.

Equally important, an absence of draft may prevent parts from ejecting from the mold, damaging not only the parts, but possibly the mold itself — a costly and time-consuming detour.

Chevron arrows indicate surfaces that require draft in Proto Labs’ design for manufacturability (DFM) analysis.

In this month’s design tip, learn how to improve the moldability of your plastic parts by:

  • drafting early and often
  • sticking to the rules of draft
  • factoring in surface finish
  • implementing the core-cavity approach
  • leveraging design for manufacturability analysis


EYE ON INNOVATION: Droning Out the Hype at Annual CES

A sandy oasis amid the CES chaos. Photo: Wired.

The 2016 International CES, the annual consumer electronics show in Las Vegas this week, featured its usual giant exhibit hall (2.4 million square feet), a drone rodeo in the nearby Las Vegas desert, Hollywood stars, celebrity chefs, various booze-related ice sculptures, beach volleyball inside the exhibit hall (complete with sand), pro athletes, security dogs that were not to be petted and, oh yeah, product launches from innovative start-ups to icons of the corporate world.

Though some would say the event itself has become a bit overdone — the New York Times calls it “a noisy parade of puffed-up announcements” — the show usually offers a few items worth noting.

USA Today liked several items:

The compact 360fly camera easily captures spherical video. Photo: 360fly.com.

  • The 360fly camera, a baseball-sized, one-lens camera, which takes spherical videos. It doesn’t require complicated editing, and is available for $399.99 at Best Buy.
  • The Parrot Bebop 2, seen flying at the drone rodeo, is an affordable $550 drone that can be operated by a smartphone.
  • A steering wheel attachment for your car that helps curb distracted driving, developed by 20-year-old Tristan Evarts, who says, “Technology can be part of the problem, and part of the solution.” Continue reading

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.


TIPS WITH TONY: Mixing It Up with Plastic Colorants

Proto Labs’ material selection and available color options for thermoplastics can be found online at protolabs.com.

You may require colored resin or transparent coloring for your injection-molded parts, but exactly how much colorant is added and what consistency can you achieve?

Salt-and-Pepper Mix
Proto Labs offers colorant at no charge to most natural, white or clear materials. In most cases, we do this by adding a 3 percent salt-and-pepper mixture of colorant based on weight to the base resin, but on occasion, less colorant is added to transparent resins like polycarbonate.

A 3 percent salt-and-pepper colorant mix is typically used.


Since we hand mix the colorant and base resin, you may have a higher or lower concentrate of colorant throughout the order. The injection molding press does a good job of mixing the colorant and base resin when it melts and grinds the resin in the barrel before molding, but it isn’t 100 percent.

Continue reading

EYE ON INNOVATION: New Balance Steps Up With 3D-Printed Customized Soles

We’ve blogged about sneaker technology in the past, highlighting Converse’s new Chuck II shoe.

Photo: New Balance

Now New Balance is stepping up with a new concept for a shoe that uses 3D-printed midsoles customized to an individual’s stride.

As Wired recently reported, most running shoes have midsoles that are resilient but are typically just a uniform piece of rubber foam. This foam doesn’t really account for the fact that every person’s foot impacts the ground differently, such as mid-strike runners or those who land on their heels first, etc. Researchers at New Balance are looking to make a midsole that’s “both resilient and smart.”

Photo: New Balance

The shoe company is working with Boston-based design studio Nervous System to create a 3D-printed midsole that can be customized based on an individual’s stride. Wired: “The goal is to extend customization beyond aesthetics, creating a shoe designed with biomechanical data that gives its wearer an optimized running experience.”

This 3D-printed footwear appears to be a trend. Companies such as Nike, Adidas and Jimmy Choo are increasingly exploring the applications of additive manufacturing in their design processes, creating everything from 3D-printed football cleats to 3D-printed haute couture shoes.

New Balance’s 3D-printed midsoles are “squishy,” lightweight and strong, and made of DuraForm Flex TPU, a proprietary elastomer.

Still early in the process, it is unclear if customized soles will actually improve the running experience, and help with elements such as reducing injuries, speeding recovery and enhancing overall endurance.

Eye on Innovation is a weekly look at new technology, products and scientific advancements that we’ve mined from crowdsourcing sites and other corners of the Internet.