Trade Show Roundup: Detroit and Boston

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.

 

NEW JOURNAL: Trends, Drones and High Heels

The new issue of Proto Labs Journal is out. In our cover story, we look at industry macrotrends in manufacturing for 2016, from automotive lightweighting to human-factors engineering in health care.

The story reports on factors that are driving automotive innovation, trends keeping the aerospace industry aloft and forces such as an aging population that are influencing medical applications. And speaking of med tech, the Journal also includes an informative infographic on rapid manufacturing for medical device development.

Elsewhere in the new Journal, look for stories on high-tech high heels, smart luggage and a new drone we worked on for Lockheed Martin.

Read the entire Journal here.

We’re always on the hunt for thought-provoking content, so send your cool project or article idea to our editor at angelo.gentile@protolabs.com.

Thanks and enjoy the issue!

INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT: Evolving Health Care Demands and the Impact on Product Development

While there are a handful of major players in the medical and health care industries, there are actually more than 6,500 active medical device companies in the United States — most of which are smaller firms with fewer than 50 employees. There is little doubt that, with the combined industry efforts, research and development in the medical device space will continue to innovate and grow for years to come.

What drives innovation at these companies ranges from economic indicators to technology advancements to government regulations. But some of the most interesting factors driving development right now can be found in demographics and consumer behavior.

So, what does is mean? The fluctuation in demographics will translate to an increased demand for devices supporting later life care as the baby boomers enters their 70s. This includes everything from surgical devices to support orthoscopic procedures to at-home glucose measurement equipment. Furthermore, we’ll start to see an upward trend in births as Gen Yers move into their 30s and start families. These factors will start to shape how thousands of medical and health care companies re-imagine existing products and development new ones.

As a result, there is a heightened need to launch products and devices to market quickly. Iterative development of medical components and devices will reply on various rapid manufacturing processes and materials to ensure products have best chance at successful medical submissions and market trials. And because these products need to pass a significant number of functional tests before being approved for the market, prototypes need to be produced as close as possible to the finished product. This will mean using similar, if not identical, engineering-grade materials and manufacturing methods for prototypes as for production parts.

From metal 3D printing of extremely small surgical components to low-volume injection molding of optical silicone, Proto Labs is equipped to help large and small medical companies tackle the impending changes in the American demographic landscape.

3D Printing Methods for Medtech Prototypes

Being able to quickly produce prototype parts is critical to creating an environment of innovation that can lead to medical device market success. By removing inefficiencies, manufacturers should expect to have prototype parts in a few days, not months. The prototype method must be fast enough to allow multiple iterations in a condensed time frame, and possess the scale to allow for multiple iterations at the same time.

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Rapid manufacturing methods like 3D printing are leveraged to help drastically reduce development time for medical devices.

Additive manufacturing (AM), also called 3D printing, enables quick evaluation of new medical product designs without making compromises due to complex part geometries. Using AM offers easier design changes and at a low cost. When prototyping via 3D printing, designers should not expect a finished part, although it should be noted 3D printing processes can yield finalized products. Stereolithography, for example, has a number of post-secondary finishing processes and direct metal laser sintering produces fully dense end-use metal parts.

There may be limits to color and texture choices, and in certain instances, thermoplastic-like materials will differ from the final production material used in process like molding and machining. If the surface finish, texture, color and coefficient of friction vary from the end material, it is difficult to accurately assess the subtle needs and benefits of these properties.

The main advantage of 3D printing is that it provides accurate form and fit testing. The build process of additive technology can accurately produce the form and size of the desired part, making it very useful for early evaluation of new medical parts. It is best used to identify design flaws, make changes, and then make second-generation machined parts or invest in tooling to create injection-molded parts. This article reviews that various AM printing methods commonly used in prototyping.

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MD&M Show in Minneapolis

Minnesota’s Lt. Governor, Tina Smith, and Proto Labs CEO, Vicki Holt, talk shop.

Proto Labs is at MD&M Minneapolis this week (Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 4-5) in conjunction with Minnesota Medtech Week. Stop by booth #327 to talk with manufacturing experts, learn about newly launched capabilities and, of course, see prototypes and parts in all shapes and sizes made by our 3D printing, CNC machining and injection molding services.

We kicked today off with a visit by Lt. Governor of Minnesota, Tina Smith, who met with Proto Labs CEO Vicki Holt to discussed the state of Manufacturing and Proto Labs’ efforts.

At this week’s show, we’re all about speed-to-market and reducing development time, so Proto Labs will be participating in the following two conference sessions:

Tony Holtz.

  • Our technical specialist, Tony Holtz, will be at the Tech Theater stage on Nov. 4 at 2:30 p.m. talking about prototyping and low-volume production for medical applications. He’ll go in-depth on how to accelerate the development of medical devices and quickly launch products to market.
  • Eric Utley (our expert on everything 3D printing) will also be participating on a panel discussion titled “Going Beyond Prototyping: Accelerating Regulatory Approval and Speed-to-Market” on Nov. 5 from 1 to 1:40 p.m. The group will evaluate common pre-development design failures, how to differentiate prototypes from final products, and tactics to better analyze the composition of prototypes versus final products.

Haven’t registered for the show yet? Enjoy a FREE Exhibit Hall Pass from Proto Labs. Register online and enter promo code: MYPASS

See you there!