WATCH: From 3D CAD to Final Parts

We’re officially kicking off our series of short Proto Labs videos today. Throughout the year, the series will take brief glimpses into our different manufacturing processes, technology, quoting and other areas that make Proto Labs unique. Our first short follows an initial concept as it moves from sketch to 3D CAD model to final part. Have a look:

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.

Medical Device Prototyping With A Manufacturing Hand From Proto Labs

Modern science has allowed surgeons to fix the human body amazingly fast, yet leave behind only small traces that repairs were performed. One of the more commonly used methods to achieve this is by a minimally invasive technique called laparoscopic surgery, where small incisions are made into a patient’s skin, a laparoscope is inserted to provide a magnified view of the patient’s organs, the procedure is performed, and the incision is closed by stitching or surgical staples. You can have your gallbladder removed before breakfast and be binge-watching Netflix from the comfort of your couch by dinner.

Typically, the small openings created during laparoscopic surgery are closed in one of two ways: manually stitching subcutaneously (beneath the skin) with a bio-absorbable, thread-like material and a curved needle that moves from one side of the hole to the other to close it tight, or with a surgical stapler that inserts metal staples into the skin to close the wound. The first technique is more time consuming, but leaves less surgical evidence. The latter method is faster, but can cause scarring and infection. Chuck Rogers, Ph.D., and Kenneth Danielson, M.D. of Massachusetts-based Opus KSD are nearing the launch of a device that combines the best of both worlds: the ease of a stapler with proprietary bio-absorbable subcutaneous fasteners. Continue reading