How Digital Manufacturing is Changing the Industry Forever

Our current issue of the Proto Labs Journal looks at the convergence of complex software and automated hardware bringing rise to the digital age of manufacturing. Follow the thread of a 3D CAD model from upload to digital analysis to final part, and the massive compute cluster that’s powering it all.

Along with our cover story, read about leveraging low-volume injection molding, the latest in innovative technology we’ve mined from the Internet  and new service offerings at Proto Labs.

Read the full Journal now.

Why Stereolithography is Built for Prototyping

Stereolithography (SL) is an established additive manufacturing process that can quickly and accurately create complex prototypes. Parts are built by curing paper-thin layers of liquid thermoset resin with an ultraviolet (UV) laser that draws on the surface of a resin to turn it from a liquid to solid layer. As each layer is completed, fresh, uncured resin is swept over the preceding layer and the process repeated until the part is finished.

SL offers a range of plastic-like materials to choose from with several types of polypropylene, ABS and glass-filled polycarbonate available. Normal, high and micro resolutions are achievable at Proto Labs, meaning very fine details and cosmetic surfaces are possible. As a result, minimal “stair stepping” is seen compared to printed parts such as fused deposition modeling (FDM).

SL parts can also be built to a max size of 29 in. by 25 in. by 21 in., giving it the edge over other additive processes like selective laser sintering (SLS).

Our latest design tip looks at these and other manufacturing considerations for the stereolithography process.

Wearable Thermoelectric Bracelet Wins Cool Idea! Award

The latest Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award winner is literally cool … and hot, too, for that matter.

This exploded view shows how Wristify comes together, including parts that were manufactured by Proto Labs.

Wristify is a thermoelectric wearable device that actively cools or heats one’s skin for comfort by sending hot or cold pulses to a patch of skin on the wrist dozens of times per minute.

Wristify’s developers, Cambridge, Mass.-based Embr Labs, call the product a “stylish bracelet” that helps keep you cool or warm, similar to what happens when you dip your toes in a cold lake on a hot, sunny day, or when you wrap your hands around a hot cup of tea on a cold night.

Sam Shames, one of the co-founders of Embr Labs, says developers are using the Cool Idea! Award manufacturing grant for various custom prototype parts from Proto Labs such as CNC-machined aluminum enclosures and Santoprene (rubber-like) bottom components.

This is how the finished product may look.

“The prototypes we have built out from Proto Labs’ manufactured parts have been the best prototypes used to date,” Shames says. “The parts have been greatly beneficial in the prototype phase and we’ve been really pleased with the general aesthetic and design, which have a sleek look and feel to them. Plus, the functionality of these parts has been great.” Read our recent press release here.

EYE ON INNOVATION: Converse, Nike Prove It’s Never Too Late to Innovate

Changing an icon can be risky business. Yet that’s just what Converse Inc., and its parent company Nike, are doing.

Boston-based Converse plans to release a new version of the classic Chuck Taylor shoe, or Chucks, which have been around since 1917. The new version will have more support and be lighter, using technology from design engineers at Nike.

The Chuck II, which arrives in stores next week, incorporates Lunarlon cushioning, which features a soft, yet resilient foam core that’s encased within a supportive foam carrier for lightweight, ultra-plush cushioning. Lunarlon foam, invented by Nike, is 30 percent lighter than traditional Phylon, which is normally Nike’s go-to midsole material. Lunarlon allows the force of impact to be more evenly distributed, which helps reduce painful pressure points on feet.

Simply stated, the Chuck II will be more comfortable, which may be a nod to aging baby boomers who love the counter-culture fashion statement of Converse shoes but are now seeking more comfort.

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DipJar Puts New Twist on Cashless Tipping

DipJar, a startup with offices in New York City and Boston, digitizes the all too familiar tip jar found at many coffee shops and restaurants. It allows credit and debit card users to leave a tip with a simple swipe of their card, providing service employees with yet another opportunity to collect that well-deserved gratuity.

DipJar lets coffee shop patrons leave quick and easy tips in a single swipe.

At a business where a DipJar is present, customers simply “dip” or insert their card into the device to leave a tip in an amount set by the establishment. The DipJar, which houses a card reader, circuitry and software to complete the cloud-based transaction, displays the amount tipped and makes a “change clinking” sound to notify employees of the payment. DipJar also is positioning the device as a way for charitable organizations to collect donations.

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