Cool Idea! Award: Meet the judges

Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award kicked off its fourth year with two major additions to the program. First, we’ve assembled an eclectic mix of industry experts from the design, engineering and manufacturing worlds that will join the judge panel, which, to date, has consisted solely of Larry Lukis, Proto Labs’ founder and Chairman of the Board. The additional judges will bring diverse expertise from their particular area of experience. Second, Proto Labs will host its inaugural Cool Idea! Award Gallery Event in New York City on Thursday, Jan. 30. The event honors a selection of the products that have received the support of the award.

So, before the gallery doors open in New York, let us introduce you to our esteemed panel of judges. Continue reading

Consumer Electronics Show 2014: Who Wore It Best?

Brian Krzanich at CES 2014

Brian Krzanich, Chief Executive Officer of Intel, delivers a keynote address at the 2014 CES.

While we remain firmly entrenched in the Polar Vortex over at Proto Labs HQ, it hasn’t prevented us from gazing afar towards a slightly warmer Las Vegas where the annual Consumer Electronics Show is underway. The four-day event (Jan. 7-10) brings out all of the major electronic names (and some big-name celebrities, albeit only briefly at times) along with many other innovative smaller companies touting the latest in high-tech gadgetry. Continue reading

Proto Labs Launches New Website

Protolabs website screen captureWe’re excited to close out 2013 with the launch of our completely redesigned website. Like many of the parts we manufacture, we built with a blend of style and substance. One could say it’s a tough, stable, wear-resistant site with good optical properties that is used by many different industries. Within the makeover lies a strong visual presence yet it retains all of the reliable content we’ve always had. Continue reading

Wanted: New CEO to Run Growing Company

In August of 2001, while paging through the Sunday newspaper, I came across a small, black-and-white print ad placed in the Minneapolis Star Tribune classified section. The employment ad was seeking a CEO for a growing rapid injection-molding manufacturer called The Protomold Company. Intrigued, I answered the ad placed by the company’s founder, Larry Lukis. A few months later, I joined his team of 10 employees and my tenure as President and CEO began.

Fast forward 12 years to a company that now employs 730 people in the United States, Europe and Japan and serves a global market of more than 7,000 product developers and engineers. During that time, we’ve added a CNC-machining service, manufactured millions of plastic and metal parts, changed our name to Proto Labs and took the company public on the New York Stock Exchange.

As I look back to that classified ad, it described Protomold as a million dollar company with an immediate available opportunity of $150 million. Proto Labs’ projected revenue for 2013 is expected to very likely eclipse the $150 million mark. The company has never been in better shape, and its future has never looked brighter, so it might have seemed strange to our board of directors when I recently announced that it was time for me to leave Proto Labs.

Whereas Larry was the starter and I was the organizer, we now need a builder to take Proto Labs from a $150 million to $1 billion company. And like Larry did before me, I now place my own employment ad of sorts seeking a new CEO who can take Proto Labs to the next level.

We’re looking for someone with the expertise and background to guide a world-class management team and motivated staff into the future as Proto Labs continues to grow. They should have the experience of growing a company to the $1 billion level or beyond, and be knowledgeable and passionate about systems, processes and procedures. They should know how to motivate a team to tackle complex challenges. Recognizing the fact that sometimes the best idea isn’t their own is critical. Candidates should also be proactive, self-starters who have strong communication skills, demonstrate financial aptitude and are almost obsessive in their responsiveness, since this has become standard operating procedure at Proto Labs.

Finding a new CEO will be a lengthy process and a thorough search is well underway. My plan is to remain with the company throughout that entire process. If you think you are the person to lead Proto Labs, please contact Bo Herbst at

Brad Cleveland, President and CEO
Proto Labs, Inc.

Medical Design & Manufacturing Expo: A Newcomer’s Perspective

I entered the bustling halls of the Minneapolis Convention Center in search of my first Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) Expo, a two-day event that brings medical device developers, part manufacturers, suppliers, packagers and others together to promote their capabilities and network with one another.

With an espresso firmly in hand, I made my way onto the convention floor, a wide-eyed virgin to manufacturing trade shows. Sure, I’ve been to car, truck and boat shows before, but never an industry trade show. Gone were bikini-clad models pitching luxury cars, replaced with automated robots offering Reese’s Pieces Halloween treats. Being a fan of both candy and robots, especially when paired together, my attention was immediately captured. Continue reading