14 Reasons Why Optical LSR is Good for Lighting Applications

As LEDs increasingly supplant metal filaments in light bulbs, optical LSR — in addition to plastics like polycarbonate and acrylic resins — is replacing glass in many optical applications including lens covers and light pipes.

Optical LSR is a transparent, flexible thermoset material that is replacing glass in many optical applications.

The flexible, transparent material is second in clarity only to glass; it can withstand heat in proximity to high-output LEDs and operate in a range of ambient temperatures. Optical LSR is flexible enough for rough duty, outdoor and automotive use. It also allows for very flexible design including accurate replication of fine features. It can support minor undercuts and negative draft without the need for side-actions, and both thick and thin walls. Designs in this material can often integrate multiple parts into a single unit, combining for example a lens, a clear lens cover and a sealing gasket, reducing the bill of materials for a final assembly.

Proto Labs stocks Dow Corning MS-1002 LSR, a material that has been engineered for molding finely detailed parts for LED applications. Read our full Design Tip to see how optical LSR might help on your next lighting project.

2015 Manufacturing Trends

Last year was pretty big for the American manufacturing industry. Milestones both big and small made headlines: the White House hosted a Maker Faire; scientists achieved firsts in 3D printing technology by printing living human tissue and printing in zero gravity; President Obama announced his commitment to supporting American manufacturing through the creation of research hubs in key U.S. cities; a resurgent labor market has continued to fuel an “onshoring” trend with manufacturing jobs returning stateside; we figured out how to 3D print pizza, chocolate and sugary treats.

3D-printed chocolate confections are a real thing. Photo by Choc Edge.

As important as all of the strides made in the U.S. manufacturing space were in 2014, we’re most excited about what might be around the corner. We’re confident this is only the beginning of an exciting new era in our industry. Here are a few trends we’re keeping an eye out for this year: Continue reading

Kinetic Charger for Smartphones Brings New Meaning to Mobile

AMPY is an innovative kinetic charger that captures a person’s movement and converts it to charge for their mobile device. Tejas Shastry, Mike Geier and Alex Smith began developing the device in 2013 as students in an entrepreneurial class at Northwestern. They worked through dozens of prototype iterations involving 3D printed parts while fine-tuning its patent-pending, proprietary linear inductor. The user’s motion drives a magnet and coil system that generates electricity, which goes into a lithium ion battery for storage. Plug an iPhone, Android phone or other wearable device into AMPY’s USB port to begin charging.

The team at AMPY entered and won Proto Labs’ Cool Idea! Award, a service grant that will be used towards internal thermoplastic bobbins in the device. AMPY is now pilot testing with consumers while accepting online preorders at getampy.com for market-ready devices that are slated to ship in July 2015. Read our full case study on the development of AMPY.

DMLS lugs help build the ultimate urban utility bike

San Francisco is an ideal backdrop for a bike culture to thrive. Its temperatures remain consistently mild year-round, and its landscape seamlessly blends hills, streets and shoreline. Bicyclists commute to work, run errands, transport groceries (and their kids), and climb rugged bike paths to Bay Area overlooks. And that’s just a Monday.This fusion of task- and recreationally minded biking activities amidst the natural and man-made architecture of San Francisco was the inspiration behind Huge Design’s recent entry into Oregon Manifest’s Bike Design Project. Along with the California-based design firm, organizers of the national competition asked teams from Chicago, Portland, Seattle and New York to create an urban bike that most represented their city. Teams included both a design firm and frame builder — the San Francisco team being composed of Huge Design, bicycle fabricator Forty One Thirty Cycle Works and engineering partner PCH Lime Lab.

Combing Through 3D CAD Programs

Look around. Nearly everything that you interact with was likely a creation of three-dimensional computer-aided design (3D CAD) — homes, furniture, automobiles, lighting, smartphones, computers. At its most basic level, a CAD program takes a designer’s two-dimensional sketch and extrudes, or solidifies, that drawing into a three-dimensional model. Depending the industrial focus of the CAD program, and the modular extensions used to support and enhance its software, product developers and engineers are able to design extremely intricate products that can be built or manufactured. At Proto Labs, every single part submitted for manufacturing arrives as a 3D CAD model in one of several different file formats derived from different CAD programs. Continue reading