Automotive Tech Takes the Wheel at CES 2017

EYE ON INNOVATION

Take a stroll through CES 2017 and you might think you accidentally entered an auto show. As cars become venues for the latest tech, they’ve turned into centerpieces at the world’s largest consumer electronics showcase.

This year, auto manufacturers captivated attendees with demos of self-driving cars, high-performance electric vehicles, and even holographic dashboard displays. Here’s what caught our attention at the show.

The HoloActive Touch system uses reflections to produce a holographic interface.

BMW Makes Holographic Displays a Reality
Seeing new tech from BMW has become somewhat of a tradition at CES. This year was no different. Attendees were introduced to the HoloActive Touch system. It’s a free-floating, holographic display not unlike something you’d find in a “Star Wars” film. The user interface enables drivers to control the car’s functions without making physical contact with the vehicle.

A camera installed in the dashboard detects users’ movements and registers the position of their fingertips. When a fingertip makes contact with the virtual surface, a pulse is emitted and the function is activated. BMW has yet to announce a release date for the new dashboard concept, but its current gesture-controlled system will do for now. Continue reading

5 Common Rapid CNC Machining Questions

TIPS WITH TONY

Most are familiar with machining, but what makes it unique at Proto Labs? These are a few of the most common questions we receive about our rapid CNC machining service. These answers will help you optimize your design for CNC machining and determine how it can improve your product development efforts.

CNC-Machining-Block-Plastic

CNC machining is a subtractive manufacturing process that mills away at a block of solid plastic or metal.

1. What is unique about Proto Labs’ CNC machining process?
In order to efficiently machine low quantities as fast as possible, we do things a bit differently compared to a traditional machine shop. When you upload a 3D CAD file to protolabs.com, our proprietary software analyses the design, creates a quote, and generates the CNC toolpaths. By automating the front-end of the manufacturing process, we can machine a part in as fast as one day.

2. How does the quoting process work?
Once you upload your 3D CAD model to our website, the software calculates the price—not a budgetary estimate—to machine your design. Within a few hours, you’ll receive an email with an interactive quote. Here, you can select different materials and quantities and receive real-time price updates. The quote even contains a 3D-view of your machined part, which will highlight any differences between the machined part and the original 3D CAD model. See a ProtoQuote preview here. Continue reading

Webinar Round-Up: 3D Printing Materials, CNC Machining, and More

We wrapped up 2016 with two webinars on rapid manufacturing. First, we discussed how to design efficient parts for CNC machining. Then we shared tips on how to select the right material for your 3D-printed parts. Both are available on demand.

Stay tuned for what’s to come in 2017. We’ll be kicking off the new year by looking at how to leverage on-demand production to reduce manufacturing costs and manage demand volatility.

Proto Labs’ On-Demand Webinars 
Below you’ll find our complete library of webinars—just click the title to watch.

Designing for Rapid Overmolding

  • Design factors that determine the quality of flexible-to-rigid bonds
  • Methodology used to measure bonding strength

Designing for 3D Printing: Selective Laser Sintering

  • SLS material considerations
  • Design guidelines for functional prototypes and production parts

How to Choose the Right Thermoplastic Material

  • Factors in thermoplastic material selection
  • Overview of common thermoplastics including the effects of additives

Designing for 3D Printing: Direct Metal Laser Sintering

  •  DMLS design considerations including surface finishes, internal features, stresses, and support requirements.
  • Reducing multi-part assemblies into a single component

Webinar: Selecting the Right Material for 3D Printing

Join Proto Labs’ team of 3D printing application engineers as they share how to navigate the material selection process for three additive manufacturing processes: stereolithography (SL), selective laser sintering (SLS), and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS).

In order to help you understand every variable that goes into selecting the right 3D printing material, the presentation will share:

  • Material properties attainable with SL, SLS, and DMLS
  • When to use each process and common applications
  • 3D printing specifications at Proto Labs

TITLE: Selecting the Right Material for 3D Printing
DATE: Thursday, December 15 at 11 a.m. CST
REGISTER: Click here to sign up

The presentation will conclude with an open Q&A session, so bring your 3D printing questions! Also, please feel free to forward this invite if you have a colleague or friend that may be interested.

A Cloud-Based Future for 3D CAD

3D CAD Design software is increasingly moving to cloud-based models, greatly benefitting product developers and manufacturers alike.

The tools available to designers have changed mightily over the last few decades. Long gone are drafting boards, replaced by progressively more intelligent software and cloud-based collaboration platforms. This new and improved design landscape offers designers, engineers, and OEMs lower development costs and faster time to market, and is an integral part of any digital manufacturing environment.

What’s new in computer-aided design (CAD)? Plenty. Pick any leading CAD software on the market today: Aside from greater intelligence, usability, mobility, and a plethora of cool features that were unavailable even a few years ago, virtually all providers offer or will soon offer cloud-based deployment for their customers.

Case in Point
One of these is PTC Inc., developers of the Creo design suite, WindChill PLM, and a range of other manufacturing software solutions. Paul Sagar, PTC’s vice president of product management, said his company will be offering cloud versions of many of its products by year end, and that moving to the cloud is a logical step for companies struggling with routine maintenance of large software deployments, or needing to invest in new hardware every few years. “High-end cloud solutions eliminate all that effort and expense, while still providing the power associated with on premise CAD installations,” he explained. That power is about to get much stronger as PTC and other CAD providers tighten their embrace of digital manufacturing. For example, ThingWorx, PTC’s industrial internet of things (IIoT) development platform, has been adopted by General Electric and others as part of an industry-wide push toward smarter shop floors, more connected CAD systems, and greater transparency throughout the supply chain.

“From a design perspective, the IIoT and digital manufacturing are going to significantly change the way we do things,” Sagar said. Currently, “we design products in a vacuum. We start with a basic set of requirements, collate whatever historical knowledge is available, and then make assumptions. Those assumptions might cost the business a lot of money.” Continue reading