Eric Utley, application specialist at Proto Labs.
We’ve been 3D printing for a while now, and our facility in Raleigh, North Carolina is packed with 3D printing specialists. For this installment of our Q&A, we spoke with one of those experts, Eric Utley, application specialist, for a chat about stereolithography and why product designers and engineers need it for prototyping.
To start off, can you give a quick overview of the stereolithography (SL) process?
Stereolithography uses UV light shot from a laser to cure a liquid thermoset resin called a photopolymer. In fact, even though 3D printing is often thought of as a new technology, SL has been around since the 1980s. But there’s a reason it has stuck around for so long — it has some key features that product designers need for prototypes.
What are some of those key features unique to SL?
I’d say the most important feature is that it creates a very high-resolution part with excellent surface finishes.
It can handle micro-sized features so it’s most suitable for parts that have a high level of detail. Most SL parts will have a nice, smooth finish and, although it’s typically used for prototyping, it leaves you with the feel of a final part — and looks go along way when sharing your new product design.
Another important benefit of SL is that it’s our most flexible process in terms of geometry it can handle, which gives designers a lot of freedom to work with.
The automotive and medical industries are on display this week at a couple of high-profile trade shows:
We’ll be at SAE World Congress running today through Thursday at the COBO Center in Detroit. Find us at booth #1335 to talk with a customer service engineer about how quick-turn 3D printing, machining and injection molding are well-suited for automotive prototyping.
In Boston, we’ll be talking device development and prototyping in booth #304 at BIOMEDevice, taking place at the Boston Convention Center tomorrow and Thursday. Get a free Expo Hall pass with code: invite.
A CAPACITY FOR GROWTH
Proto Labs started in 1999 in a garage in Long Lake, Minnesota with a single injection molding press. At last count, we’re at more than 600 machines: roughly 400 CNC mills, 150 presses and 50 3D printers.
Injection molding presses line Proto Labs’ production floor.
We currently serve more than 160 countries (out of 195) on six continents.
Psst. You can get up to 10,000 injection-molded parts with aluminum tooling at Proto Labs, but there’s a good chance we’ll be able to produce part runs well beyond that depending on material and geometry. Just sayin’.
A part built by stereolithography, a 3D printing process we added in 2014.
Up until 2014, we had two manufacturing processes: plastic injection molding and CNC milling. By the end of 2015, we’ll have added another EIGHT: three 3D printing processes (stereolithography, selective laser sintering, direct metal laser sintering), CNC turning and injection molding processes for steel, magnesium, liquid silicone rubber and one in the pipeline. It has been a busy two years.
The total amount of computing muscle at Proto Labs. What’s a TFLOP? One TFLOP equals a trillion floating point operations per second.
Proto Labs has been named to Fortune Magazine’s 2015 100 Fastest-Growing Companies List, the magazine’s annual compilation of public companies with the best three-year profit, revenue and stock growth.
Our company ranks 75th on Fortune’s list, and is the only Minnesota firm to make the cut.
We join Facebook as first-timers to the rankings. This was the first year Proto Labs was eligible to make the list, given that Fortune only reviews public companies that have been trading continuously since June 20, 2012. Proto Labs went public in February of 2012. Other familiar brands on Fortune’s list this year include Skechers (No. 21), Netflix (No. 46) and Under Armour (No. 62). Lannett, a Philadelphia-based pharmaceuticals company, was named No. 1.
Read our full press release here.
Proto Labs’ President and CEO, Vicki Holt, with VP of Global Marketing, Bill Dietrick.
It is a tremendous honor to have been named Manufacturer of the Year, Small Enterprise by the Manufacturing Leadership Council at growth consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. The 2015 Manufacturing Leadership Awards ceremony, which was held in Carlsbad, Calif. on June 4, celebrates industry leaders and companies that are shaping global manufacturing.
Alongside Proto Labs, Dow Chemical received top honors as Manufacturer of the Year, Large Enterprise; Bristol-Myers Squibb, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, General Electric and The Campbell Soup Company were among other notable award winners. Large and Small Enterprise categories for Manufacturer of the Year were determined by companies with annual revenues of over and under $1 billion, respectively.
Read the full press release here.