TIPS WITH TONY: Prototyping with Soft Metals

Soft metals — aluminum, magnesium, brass, copper — are available in different grades at Proto Labs depending on the 3D printing, CNC machining and injection molding service chosen. Quantities range from 1 to 5,000+ parts in 1 to 15 business days.

Aluminum engine bracket 3D printed through DMLS.

At Proto Labs, we use the industrial 3D printing process of direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) to build parts from soft (and hard) materials like aluminum.

DMLS-built aluminum provides parts with excellent strength-to-weight ratios, temperature and corrosion resistance, and provides good tensile, fatigue creep and rupture strength. With a tensile strength of 37.7 ksi (260 MPa) and a hardness of 47.2 HRB, for example, you are able to have parts produced in nearly any part geometry with features like internal channels or complex undercuts that can’t be manufactured through any other method. And, final parts are still up to 98% dense.

You can also get aluminum parts using CNC machining in 6061 and 7075 grades. 6061 can provide you with improved corrosion resistance and can be welded while 7075 provides you a part that has a higher tensile strength and is harder than 6061.

Do you need a prototype of an aluminum die-cast part? We can mimic aluminum die casting using our stereolithography (SL) process and SLArmor technology. SLArmor uses our DSM Somos (NanoTool) material, applying a nickel metal coating that gives the look and feel of metal without the added strength or weight.


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First Journal Issue of 2015

Journal issue 1, 2015

Moving a product through the duration of its life cycle involves many peaks, valleys and pivots. The trail can be difficult to navigate, but our various manufacturing technologies can guide you down the path. In our cover story, we show you how to leverage manufacturing at every stage of a product’s life.

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Design Tip: How to Get Well-Rounded Parts with Lathe

Our new turning technology can help you create cylindrical features.

The launch of CNC turning brings product designers and engineers a new set of machining capabilities for part production at Proto Labs. By adding turning centers to our three-access milling services, we’re able to better machine parts with cylindrical features. Turned parts have excellent surface finish and are typically more cost effective for customers.

Whether you’re developing a new camera lens housing, drive shaft or anything else cylindrical in nature, we may be able to assist. We currently offer parts made from aluminum, steel and stainless steel materials, but are working to expand our options with the impending release of brass and copper and the introduction of plastic later in 2015.

Read our full design tip on CNC turning to see if it’s right for your next project.

Doubling Down on Solar

Arun Gupta is the founder of Skyven Technologies, a Texas-based company that has developed a co-generating solar panel system that promises an efficient way to generate electricity and heat water.

The Skyven Cogen System brings together traditional solar photovoltaic, concentrating photovoltaic and solar water heating technologies, Gupta says, incorporating the best technologies that have emerged from the billions of dollars and decades of study that already have gone into solar energy.

Installed on a commercial rooftop, the system will produce 50 percent more electricity that will cost 20 percent less than a traditional photovoltaic system, he says. The installed cost of solar water heating with Skyven’s system is 40 percent less than with traditional technology.

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