TIPS WITH TONY: Prototyping with Soft Metals

Soft metals — aluminum, magnesium, brass, copper — are available in different grades at Proto Labs depending on the 3D printing, CNC machining and injection molding service chosen. Quantities range from 1 to 5,000+ parts in 1 to 15 business days.

Aluminum engine bracket 3D printed through DMLS.

At Proto Labs, we use the industrial 3D printing process of direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) to build parts from soft (and hard) materials like aluminum.

DMLS-built aluminum provides parts with excellent strength-to-weight ratios, temperature and corrosion resistance, and provides good tensile, fatigue creep and rupture strength. With a tensile strength of 37.7 ksi (260 MPa) and a hardness of 47.2 HRB, for example, you are able to have parts produced in nearly any part geometry with features like internal channels or complex undercuts that can’t be manufactured through any other method. And, final parts are still up to 98% dense.

You can also get aluminum parts using CNC machining in 6061 and 7075 grades. 6061 can provide you with improved corrosion resistance and can be welded while 7075 provides you a part that has a higher tensile strength and is harder than 6061.

Do you need a prototype of an aluminum die-cast part? We can mimic aluminum die casting using our stereolithography (SL) process and SLArmor technology. SLArmor uses our DSM Somos (NanoTool) material, applying a nickel metal coating that gives the look and feel of metal without the added strength or weight.


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NEW JOURNAL: Pitting Manufacturing Processes Against One Another

In the cover story of our current issue of the Proto Labs Journal, we pit manufacturing processes against one another.

As you know, the manufacturing industry is peppered with prototyping and production processes that share some common attributes, but also some notable differences. Our manufacturing “bouts” explore how several of these processes — big and small — compare. The fight card includes:

  • Magnesium Injection Molding vs. Magnesium Die Casting
  • Stereolithography vs. Fused Deposition Modeling
  • Direct Metal Laser Sintering vs. CNC Machining vs. Metal Injection Molding

Beyond our cover story, read about Sean Doan, a long-time Proto Labs employee who is the go-to person in our R & D division; the latest in innovation and advanced technology we’ve mined from the Internet; and new service offerings at Proto Labs.

Read the full Journal now.

EYE ON INNOVATION: Cool corkscrew arrives in time for holiday parties

File this under having the right tool for the job.

The striking Zig Zag Corkscrew uses the original steel-press molds from the 1920s in France, and is a new, nickel-plated steel replica of those original, iconic, expanding French corkscrews.

Antique Zig Zag-brand corkscrews, which were invented in France and patented in 1919, continue to be sought out in Parisian flea markets and elsewhere by collectors and wine connoisseurs.

This new, updated Zig Zag blends modern functionality and classic design. It features a folding cork remover and a bottle opener, too, and will make opening your holiday vino a pleasure. Price: $39.

‭Design Essentials for Injection Molding

A good rule of thumb is to apply 1 degree of draft per 1 inch of cavity depth.

‭There are multiple paths to injection molding. Some parts are first prototyped through 3D
‭printing where moldability considerations are of limited concern. Others take a more
‭traditional machining route that allows for iterative testing in engineering-grade materials
‭similar to that of molding. And many simply jump right to injection molding.

‭Before production begins, there are important design considerations that will improve the
‭moldability of the parts, and ultimately, reduce the chance of production hiccups,
‭cosmetic defects and other issues.

In this month’s design tip, we walk through these key design elements:

  • ‭Draft and radii
  • ‭Wall thickness
  • ‭Coring out and ribbing
  • Ramps and gussets
  • ‭Undercuts
  • Gating and ejection

Read the full design tip here.

Autodesk University Includes Launch of $100-million Investment Fund

If you didn’t attend Autodesk University this week in Las Vegas, here is one big item you missed. Autodesk announced the launch of Forge, a $100-million investment fund to support the creation of a cloud-based platform that will connect design and manufacturing ecosystems in an effort to help developers bring new ideas to market faster and more often. We at Proto Labs are excited to be one of Forge’s inaugural partners in this effort.

As a result, Autodesk Fusion 360 users now have seamless access to our design for manufacturing analysis and web-based, interactive quoting right from Fusion 360 CAD program. “We are excited to bring this seamless quoting and ordering process to the Fusion 360 users and look forward to continued collaboration with Autodesk on the Forge platform,” said Rob Bodor, Proto Labs’ Vice President and General Manager, Americas.

Meanwhile, in the exhibitors’ area at Autodesk’s annual event, Proto Labs representatives talked with a variety of attendees, including electrical, civil and mechanical engineers and various educators (below).

Read more about the Forge initiative here.