Checking In on Hockey and Manufacturing

A Minnesota Wild hockey puck

Minnesota has formally dubbed itself “The State of Hockey,” a moniker that’s hard to argue with when the headquarters of Minnesota-based Proto Labs is brimming with hometown patriotism for its local team on the brink of advancing to the next round of the NHL playoffs. Hockey even shares some similar language with the manufacturing industry. Checking in hockey is a technique used to “stop or slow down the progress of something undesirable,” like Colorado Avalanche players. Checking in rubber components happens when “short, shallow surface cracks are caused by damaging action.” Both hockey and the molded rubber pucks that are used experience this disruptive nature of checking. Continue reading

For Lego Enthusiasts Young and Old, Everything is Awesome

Lego Vitruvius

Let’s see a show of hands: Who’s built something out of Lego blocks? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Most of us have fond memories of our first Lego creation, and some of us (like myself), have been able to relive that nostalgia through their kids. Not liking Lego is basically the same as not liking cute puppies, ironic mustaches or Justin Timberlake.

Since the 1930s, the cult of Lego has grown for a company that has remained exciting to children yet relevant to grownups. Today, The Lego Group employs a team of master builders who design sets, they have a contingent of 100 Lego Ambassadors from around the world preaching Lego fundamentals, and they work with external Lego Certified Professionals who animate models, curate art exhibits and many other cool endeavors. They have larger-than-life retail stores, theme parks, television series, and most recently, released “The Lego Movie,” a blockbuster (no pun intended) film that has grossed more than $400 million at the box office.

In our latest issue of Proto Labs Journal, read about Lego, its culture and some prototyping parallels that can be gleaned from its philosophy.

It’s National Engineers Week!

Know an engineer? Give them a big hug, an epic high five, an aggressive fist bump, because it’s National Engineers Week (Feb. 16-22). It’s a seven-day celebration of our friends who help create nearly everything we interact with on a daily basis, from the cars we drive to the hinges on our laptop computers. The purpose of the week is to “observe how engineers make a difference in our world, increase public dialogue about the need for more engineers and bring engineering to life for kids, educators and parents.” At Proto Labs, we staff a team of experienced customer service and design engineers who work with a variety of engineers from companies large and small around the world. This engineering partnership helps develop some of the most innovative products found across all industries. Continue reading

Innovation On Display: Proto Labs hosts Cool Idea! Award gallery event in NYC

It was an all-white space. I mean, ALL white. Walls. Floors. Ceiling. Proto Labs is headquartered in Minnesota, and even our winters don’t hold a snowflake to this place. So where and what is this Narnia I’m talking about? Located in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood, Openhouse is a storefront Proto Labs rented to host our inaugural Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award gallery event.

2014 began the fourth year of the award program, which provides those with an innovative product idea an aggregate of $250,000 in Proto Labs prototyping and short-run production services. We sought to introduce a way for individuals to view and interact with a selection of the 17 products that have, to date, received a Cool Idea! Award, and to celebrate ingenuity and innovative design. Continue reading

Keeping it in-house: U.S. manufacturing continues its resurgence

There’s a bit of a renaissance happening in domestic manufacturing across the United States and the proof is found in a number of recently published reports. In December 2013, manufacturing grew at its second-fastest pace in more than two years and the Institute for Supply Management’s factory index held firm at 57 (over 50 indicates growth), according to Bloomberg. Growth is being spurred by spending in construction, automobile sales and an increase in demand in most major industries, which in turn, has led to investments in equipment and added jobs.

In fact, The Wall Street Journal says manufacturing employment in the U.S. has grown nearly 5 percent to 12 million jobs since 2010, as many U.S. companies want to stop relying so heavily on foreign plants, where quality and delivery times are hard to control. Continue reading