Proto Labs Named to Fortune’s 100 Fastest-Growing Companies List

Proto Labs has been named to Fortune Magazine’s 2015 100 Fastest-Growing Companies List, the magazine’s annual compilation of public companies with the best three-year profit, revenue and stock growth.

Our company ranks 75th on Fortune’s list, and is the only Minnesota firm to make the cut.

We join Facebook as first-timers to the rankings. This was the first year Proto Labs was eligible to make the list, given that Fortune only reviews public companies that have been trading continuously since June 20, 2012. Proto Labs went public in February of 2012. Other familiar brands on Fortune’s list this year include Skechers (No. 21), Netflix (No. 46) and Under Armour (No. 62). Lannett, a Philadelphia-based pharmaceuticals company, was named No. 1.

Read our full press release here.

TIPS WITH TONY: Wall Thickness by Resin Type

Knowing the material your parts are going to be manufactured in early on in your development process can save you time, money and a lot of frustration. You should work closely with your manufacturer during design, so they can help you identify potential material issues before any parts are actually molded. Because some part geometries inherently work better with certain resins, your manufacturer can help guide you toward the appropriate material options.

Issues that can result from selecting an incorrect material:

  • Warp
  • Sink
  • High fill pressure
  • Poor cosmetic finish
  • Shorting or burning
  • Brittleness

Uniform Wall Thickness
With injection molding, we talk a lot about how uniform wall thickness helps improve mold fill versus thin features that can restrict the material and create a number of the aforementioned issues. Having connected walls that are too thick and too thin can affect how a part cools, thus creating sink and warp. Furthermore, the same issues can arise if your entire part is too thick or thin.

 

Watch rib-to-wall thickness ratios. To prevent sink, rib thickness should be about half of wall thickness.

This is why the appropriate rib-to-wall thickness ratio must be followed. The appropriate thickness for a rib that is extruded from another surface is approximately half the thickness of the adjacent surface. This is the optimal part design to provide strength while at the same time reducing your chances for significant warp or sink. Learn more on uniform wall thickness in plastic parts on our website.

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EYE ON INNOVATION: Coffee Cup Made From Coffee Percolates With Investors

Nearly everyone loves coffee, right? But a coffee cup made from coffee? Really?

As it turns out, this cup is more about being green than any homage to coffee.

Fargo, North Dakota-based c2renew is seeking funds on Kickstarter for its c2cup: a travel coffee mug that’s made from a coffee biocomposite, using 30 percent recycled coffee grounds.

As of this week, the developers, who work out of a business and technology incubator at North Dakota State University, have garnered nearly $8,000 of a modest $20,000 goal, with a little more than a month remaining in the Kickstarter campaign.

We found this project intriguing because c2renew engineers are putting a twist on manufacturing processes like 3D printing and injection molding — and because we love coffee.

To develop the cup, the folks at c2renew created a biocomposite formula that is a hybrid of a bio-based resin and coffee waste. Developers claim that “this coffee biomass not only results in a greener plastic, it also cuts down on cost while maintaining the desired mechanical properties.”

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TIPS WITH TONY: Fine-Tuning Your Additive Resolution

When you’re watching an epic movie filled with sweeping cinematography, you probably want the highest on-screen resolution possible with, say, a Blu-ray disc or high-definition stream. But if your children are watching old Disney movies in the playroom while arguing with each other over Legos, a standard picture from a classic DVD will probably suffice. The point: Don’t overpay for something that isn’t really necessary.

Normal resolution.

Normal Res
The same thought can be applied during 3D printing when you’re prototyping with stereolithography (SL). Proto Labs uses three resolutions that range in cosmetics and functionality. Normal resolution (NR) provides the lowest cost, but lacks fine detail. With NR you get a layer thickness of 0.004 in. with a minimum feature size of 0.010 in. — but that might be all you need in early prototyping.

High resolution.

High Res
If your part requires an elevated level of precision, there’s high resolution (HR). Here, you get a layer thickness (0.002 in.) and minimum feature size (0.004 in.) half of NR. It costs more, but the boosting the part quality may be well worth it depending on your intended application.

Micro resolution.

 

Micro Res
You can even step up to a higher level of precision, which most manufacturers are unable to provide. Micro resolution (MR) — the Blu-ray of additive resolutions, if you will — can provide optimal part detail on the smallest of part features. With MR, you get a layer thickness of 0.001 in. and minimum feature size of 0.002 in. Yes, that is an actual life-sized ant (not an evil oversized ant) atop a microscopic chess board. You can even see the staircase inside the rook!

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EYE ON INNOVATION: Nebia Shower Uses Less Water, Makes Big Splash

Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet (Google) Chairman Eric Schmidt are early backers of an eco-friendly shower system that transforms water into a kind of mist-and-water combo in an effort to reduce water consumption.

As Entrepreneur Magazine reports, the shower-head system, from San Francisco-based startup Nebia, is “blowing up on Kickstarter.” You think? As of mid-August, the project had received more than $2.1 million in pledged funds, from nearly 6,000 backers. The original goal was a modest $100,000. The Kickstarter campaign closes September 11.

How does it work? On its website, Nebia explains that its technology “atomizes water” into millions of droplets to create 10 times more surface area than a regular shower, giving you “the best of a steam room and an invigorating shower … you’ve taken thousands of showers, but never one like this.” Nebia claims that those who use the shower system will use 70 percent less water.

Harrison Weber, executive editor of VentureBeat.com, looking a little skeptical (okay, scared), recently agreed to “review” an early Nebia prototype.

As Wired Magazine recently reported, the science behind Nebia is more closely related to how farmers water their fields than how we clean ourselves every day, which, basically, is just a faucet that allows gravity to do all of the work.

Nebia designers repurposed nozzles that are typically used for agriculture, rocket engines, combination engines and other industrial means. The challenge was keeping the mist warm. Many prototypes later, this challenge was met through incorporating a code used for rockets. Designers began using modeling software from the aerospace and automotive industries. Indeed, it may not be just hyperbole when one reviewer of the shower claimed that Nebia’s product “blasts a steamy mist with the force of a miniaturized jet engine.”

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