THE SHORT LIST: 3 Ways to Use Rapid Manufacturing Beyond Product Launch

Rapid injection molding is regularly used for prototyping and low-volume production during product development, and bridge tooling before large-scale production begins, but it’s also often used after a product is launched. Here are three ways to use rapid manufacturing once a product enters the market:

1. Supply Chain Emergencies

  • Minimize down time and reduce the risk of stock-outs when your production tool is down or being repaired.
  • Mitigate the risk of domestic and global shipping delays by having a reliable, on-demand supplier of low-volume parts.
  • Be prepared to meet an unplanned spike in demand without going on back-order.

2. On-demand Production

  • Order exact part quantities when you need them to avoid excess inventory.
  • Parts are shipped within 15 days or less to eliminate downtime.

3. End-of-Life Planning

  • Leverage low-volume aluminum tooling to place on-demand orders during product life cycle decline.
  • Mitigate the risk of inventory write-offs by ordering parts in lower quantities.

Click to enlarge product life cycle infographic:

Eyeing the Future of Wearable Fitness Tracking

California-based eyewear maker VSP Global is using Proto Labs’ rapid injection molding services to accelerate the design, prototyping and testing phase of a new product, a pair of glasses that includes a health-tracking capability.

Photo: VSP Global

The glasses have a fitness tracker built in, a prototype design concept that VSP Global calls Project Genesis. A vision care company, VSP Global includes an eyewear manufacturing and design division, plus a vision insurance plan that encompasses more than 80 million members and a network of 34,000 eye doctors in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia.

Wearable technology is a hot trend right now, and, as VSP Global explained in a recent press release, though “some [wearables] could be considered hype, some…could be considered the start of a personalized medicine revolution.” Continue reading

WEBINAR: Improving Manufacturability with ProtoQuote

Join us for a webinar on improving part manufacturability. Our technical specialist Tony Holtz will demonstrate how to navigate ProtoQuote to optimize your design for 3D printing, CNC machining or injection molding. 


In case you’re unfamiliar with ProtoQuote, it’s our fully automated quoting and design analysis software. Simply put – it makes your life a whole lot easier. It allows you to know exactly how much a part will cost and provides an analysis of your design within hours.

Sign up and learn how to tap into the full potential of ProtoQuote and its design for manufacturability analysis:

TITLE: Improving Manufacturability with ProtoQuote
DATE:  Thursday, May 26 at 1 p.m. CDT
LINK: Click here to register!

At the end of the presentation, there will be time for a Q&A session.  Have a colleague who might be interested? We’d love to have them join as well. And if you can’t make it at the specified time, you can still register and we’ll send you a recording afterward.

DESIGN TIP: Improving Part Design with Uniform Wall Thickness

Designing parts with consistent wall thickness is a fundamental rule of plastic injection molding, and ignoring it can lead to sink, warp and inaccurate or non-functional parts. Yet the functional requirements of consumer, medical, aerospace and industrial products often leave designers little consideration for the material flow and fill properties of plastic, both of which are at least partially determined by wall thickness.

Pay close attention to rib-to-wall thickness ratios. To prevent sink, the thickness of the rib should be about half of the thickness of the wall.

This month’s tip discusses:

  • Guidelines to avoid cosmetic defects associated with thin and thick features
  • Material alternatives to improve wall thickness consistency
  • Important questions to ask about material properties
  • The benefits of design for manufacturability analysis


On-Demand Webinar: Choosing the Right Rapid Manufacturing Method

We recently hosted a 30-minute webinar on: Choosing the Right Rapid Manufacturing Method for Plastic Parts. If you missed it, no worries. You can still watch it on-demand HERE.

What did you miss?
We discussed the benefits of rapid manufacturing for plastic components and how to select the correct manufacturing process:

  • 3D printing, machining and molding processes and specifications
  • Material selection and properties for each process
  • Advanced molding materials like thermally conductive plastic and liquid silicone rubber

Top 3 Questions Asked
How long will you keep a mold and do you inform the customer if you’re going to get rid of it?
We’ll store the mold for one year from the last order unless it is requested to keep in storage, and we’ll notify the customer of inactivity to if they would like the mold disposed of or retained in storage.

Is there any limit on volume for injection-molded parts?
No, you can get injection-molded parts in quantities of 25 to 10,000+ with several molds even surpassing 100,000 parts. We have the ability for single and multi-cavity molds dependent on size and complexity.

Can Proto Labs be used for light pipe assemblies in PC, PMMA and silicone?
Yes, we have molded countless parts in those materials for light pipe assemblies. Mold finish should be polished to a SPI-A2 with special attention made to the mold build for ejector pin location, gate location and parting lines.

Stay Tuned
Look for additional technical webinars throughout the year on various 3D printing, CNC machining or injection molding topics. The next webinar will discus how to navigate through Proto Labs’ design for manufacturability (DFM) feedback.