TIPS WITH TONY: Design for Manufacturability (DFM) Analysis

Design for manufacturing (DFM) analysis provides information to not only improve the design of your injection-molded part at Proto Labs, but suggests improvements that can be applied regardless of your manufacturer.

Once you upload your 3D CAD model, you’ll receive an email inside of 24 hours — typically, within only a few hours — that contains a link to your quote. Quotes are generally defined as an estimated cost for a particular service, but arguably, the most valuable information that you receive in your Proto Labs quote is our automated DFM feedback.

The manufacturability feedback addresses considerations like:

  • Draft
  • Wall thickness
  • Undercut regions
  • Thin and thick sections
  • Material flow
  • Design complexity
  • Areas that cannot be manufactured
  • Gating and ejection

Proto Labs specifically uses this information to explain wall thickness and draft based on our manufacturing capabilities to machine an aluminum mold through three-axis CNC milling. These are unique to our manufacturing process, but are great guidelines to improving your part design in general.

Customers often times will begin designing a part with no draft or wall thickness concern and bring this design to our quoting software for a quick review at the end of the day. In many cases, by the time you arrive back at work, you may have your DFM analysis waiting. You can then apply those changes, or speak with one of our experienced customer service engineers who can help explain how to simplify your design or discuss why we have capability issues with how your part is intended.

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EYE ON INNOVATION: Turning the Tables on Turntables

The resurgence of vinyl records has been well documented.

The biggest music industry comeback story is the soaring popularity of vinyl records, the Wall Street Journal recently reported. Nearly 8 million records were sold in 2014 in the United States, up 49 percent from the previous year. Indie-rock fans especially are buying records in greater numbers, attracted to the perceived superior sound quality of vinyl, the ritual of putting needle to groove and the physical connection to album art that is sometimes lost in the digital age.

One Chicago-based startup has turned the tables on record players by creating the Floating Record, a vertical turntable that sits on a simple, minimal block of wood that contains speakers and electrical components.

Gramovox, a consumer electronics company that, as its website says, “re-imagines vintage audio design with modern technology,” just closed the books on a $1.6 million Kickstarter campaign for this vertical record player. The Chicago Tribune reports that Gramovox is working with AssemTech as its assembly partner, and expects to deliver the turntables to market by December. Last year, Gramovox brought the Bluetooth Gramophone to market, a Bluetooth-enabled speaker that looks like an antique gramophone.

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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.