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

EYE ON INNOVATION: Cool G-RO Luggage Likely to Go Places

“Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has turned on the ‘Fasten Seat Belt’ sign…please make sure you’ve stowed your carry-on luggage underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin.”

That’s an easy request if you’re traveling with the new G-RO carry-on luggage, which is set to reach the market next summer. Its size is compliant with TSA, FAA, airline and international travel regs.

Photo By: New York Post

But we like it because of its smart product design.

Developed by New York-based Shalgi Design Studio, this luggage is well thought out, and includes uncommon features such as patented, large, low-mass “all-terrain” wheels; a strong, ballistic nylon overall material for the case; a charging station with two USB ports to charge your laptop, tablet and smartphone simultaneously; a location tracker and proximity detector; a built-in tablet stand; and even a waterproof bottom. Continue reading

Proto Labs Boosts Trinity University Research Project for NASA

A team of university students in engineering science recently turned to Proto Labs to manufacture metal parts for a research challenge project the group was working on for NASA.

The project centered on designing, building and testing an asteroid-sample retrieval and containment device for a simulated space mission. Heady stuff for the four first-year students at San Antonio-based Trinity University: Mel Du, Tanner Peterson, Davis Owen and Samy Abdallah.

Mel Du, left, Trinity University student, posed for a photo with Stan Love, right, NASA astronaut, who is holding the SHARC device.

The team had churned out several prototypes on a university-owned, production-model, fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printer. But, as Mel Du concluded, those 3D-printed plastic (ABS) parts would not be strong enough for actual use in space or even in NASA’s testing phase of the device. The retrieval device is basically a hand tool for astronauts to use.

Du and his team turned to Proto Labs’ industrial-grade prototyping. Proto Labs fabricated several SLS and machined parts for the students’ device, which they had dubbed the SHARC—Sampling Hardware for Asteroid Retrieval and Containment. These parts included retention pins, retention pin covers, a right arm for the device, a slide, a plate and handguard with a tether loop.

The testing occurred this past June in the simulated microgravity environment of the Neutral Buoyancy Lab (a giant swimming pool) at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The testing was part of NASA’s Microgravity University. The SHARC worked well throughout all of the testing.

Read more details about how Proto Labs helped NASA and Trinity University in our latest case study.

Microscope ‘Game-Changer’ Garners Cool Idea! Award

The developers of a hybrid microscope — called the Revolve — which merges two microscopes into one, and replaces conventional eyepieces with an iPad, have been presented with the latest Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award.

In life sciences research, two types of microscopes are used — upright (for viewing glass slides) and inverted (for live samples in dishes). As a result, industry sources estimate that nearly 75 percent of labs today own both. The Revolve, developed by San Diego-based Echo Laboratories, is a hybrid microscope that transforms between these two configurations, eliminating the need to purchase two separate instruments. This frees up valuable lab space and offers cost savings, given that the Revolve costs about the same price as a traditional, research-grade microscope. Continue reading

TIPS WITH TONY: Additive Manufacturing for Microfluidics

Prototyping small volumes of microfluidic parts has traditionally been difficult using CNC machining or injection molding, but Proto Labs offers microfluidic fabrication through additive manufacturing (3D printing) for just this purpose.

Microfluidics typically requires very flat surfaces, and clear and thin/shallow features that are difficult to produce in a mold that is milled and hand polished. These tiny features are not easily distinguishable, requiring careful polishing and injection molding pressures can sometimes role the edges even further, not to mention the effect that the ejector pins have on the part surface. Ejector pins play a huge factor in removing the part from the mold and can cosmetically impact microfluidic parts that are molded. We will continue to injection mold microfluidics, but please first discuss these projects with a customer service engineer at Proto Labs.

Additive Approach
Additive microfluidics changes all of this as ejector pins are a non-factor. We use stereolithography (SL) to produce parts using an ultraviolet laser drawing on the surface of a thermoset resin, primarily our Somos WaterShed XC 11122 material. High-resolution SL is able to produce features as thin as 0.002 in. layers to provide the fine detail that microfluidics require. We recommend channel sizes of 0.025 in. square cross sections with a minimum wall thickness of 0.004 in. for X and Y dimensions and 0.016 in. for the Z dimension. Of course, we can produce features smaller than this, but it would need to be carefully reviewed by our engineers before the build begins.

Continue reading