Finding the Right Surface Finish

Molded parts are everywhere — from highly cosmetic housings hiding in plain sight to internal components where a fine polish is unnecessary. Most people pay no attention to the surface finish on those parts, but for product designers and engineers, it’s an important design consideration.

Identifying the right surface finish is dependent on a few important elements, namely the development or production stage that your parts are in, the materials they’re being manufactured in and their end-use applications.

On custom finishes, use color coding to provide a clearly marked image of your CAD model with its required finishes.

This month’s tip discusses:

  • available surface finishes for injection molded parts at Proto Labs
  • how to create a custom surface finish involving two or more finishes
  • navigating finishes within ProtoQuote
  • why gating and ejection play a limited role in liquid silicone rubber parts
  • secondary options applied to magnesium components

Read the full design tip here.

MD&M Show in Minneapolis

Minnesota’s Lt. Governor, Tina Smith, and Proto Labs CEO, Vicki Holt, talk shop.

Proto Labs is at MD&M Minneapolis this week (Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 4-5) in conjunction with Minnesota Medtech Week. Stop by booth #327 to talk with manufacturing experts, learn about newly launched capabilities and, of course, see prototypes and parts in all shapes and sizes made by our 3D printing, CNC machining and injection molding services.

We kicked today off with a visit by Lt. Governor of Minnesota, Tina Smith, who met with Proto Labs CEO Vicki Holt to discussed the state of Manufacturing and Proto Labs’ efforts.

At this week’s show, we’re all about speed-to-market and reducing development time, so Proto Labs will be participating in the following two conference sessions:

Tony Holtz.

  • Our technical specialist, Tony Holtz, will be at the Tech Theater stage on Nov. 4 at 2:30 p.m. talking about prototyping and low-volume production for medical applications. He’ll go in-depth on how to accelerate the development of medical devices and quickly launch products to market.
  • Eric Utley (our expert on everything 3D printing) will also be participating on a panel discussion titled “Going Beyond Prototyping: Accelerating Regulatory Approval and Speed-to-Market” on Nov. 5 from 1 to 1:40 p.m. The group will evaluate common pre-development design failures, how to differentiate prototypes from final products, and tactics to better analyze the composition of prototypes versus final products.

Haven’t registered for the show yet? Enjoy a FREE Exhibit Hall Pass from Proto Labs. Register online and enter promo code: MYPASS

See you there!

TIPS WITH TONY: Using Additive Fillers to Improve Durability

There are hundreds of thermoplastic materials available for injection molding, and various grades provide strength, durability, impact resistance and many other beneficial attributes. By adding compounded fillers to the equation, you can further increase the durability of your parts.

A component molded with glass-filled nylon to improve durability.

Glass-Fiber Filler
Glass is the most commonly used additive in plastics. Glass-filled materials provide a higher level of strength and rigidity to a part versus an unfilled base material. You can adjust the level of glass in a material depending on your needs, but be cautious as glass can affect how a part turns out dimensionally and cosmetically. We typically see 13 percent and 33 percent glass-filled materials, but occasionally it pushes upwards to 45 percent.

Other Additives and Fillers
There more additives than just glass fiber, and many of these are easily compounded by material manufacturers for your specific needs (or they may already have a pre-compounded material that meets your needs). Glass bead, mineral, metal, carbon, glass mica, talk and Teflon are just a few that Proto Labs has worked with in the past. These fillers can improve:

Strength Conductivity
Chemical resistance Impact resistance
Hardness Flame retardancy
UV stability Heat resistance
Stiffness Lubricity

Continue reading

EYE ON INNOVATION [Halloween Edition]: Surviving Zombies; Plus, Proto Labs’ Zombies

Nothing says Halloween like zombies. As a result, on this Halloween weekend, our Eye on Innovation features a column from the SolidWorks Simulation blog with the scary yet reassuring premise and title, “How an Engineer Survives a Zombie Apocalypse.”

Originally published last year by Desktop Engineering, the blog post offers engineering advice for zombie-proofing your house. As a SolidWorks Simulation, it leads readers through a step-by-step process to board up doors and windows just in case “the undead are stumbling over the horizon” toward your house on the day your car doesn’t start. Continue reading

TIPS WITH TONY: Shedding Light on Clear Materials

Designing luminaires or lenses with clear materials? Our tip this week looks at the material selection and surface finishes available for prototyping and low-volume production of lighting applications.

Prototype built in clear WaterShed XC 11122 material with stereolithography.

Additive Manufacturing
If you haven’t considered using additive manufacturing (3D printing) for your lens design, you may want to check it out. Proto Labs offers stereolithography (SL) with three options for clear parts.

  • Somos WaterShed XC 11122 — ideal for lens and high-humidity applications
  • 3D Systems Accura 60 (10 percent glass-filled) — creates a clear part with slight blue tint and high stiffness
  • 3D Systems Accura 5530 — high temperature resistance, suitable for under-the-hood applications