Happy Holidays from Proto Labs

As 2015 comes to an end, here’s to beautiful holiday gatherings and ugly holiday sweaters: Happy Holidays!

From all of us at Proto Labs in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Finland and Japan, we wish you a productive and profitable 2016!

A group of employees at Proto Labs’ headquarters in Maple Plain, Minnesota recently gathered to show off a variety of ugly sweaters to ring in the holiday season.

 

EYE ON INNOVATION: New Balance Steps Up With 3D-Printed Customized Soles

We’ve blogged about sneaker technology in the past, highlighting Converse’s new Chuck II shoe.

Photo: New Balance

Now New Balance is stepping up with a new concept for a shoe that uses 3D-printed midsoles customized to an individual’s stride.

As Wired recently reported, most running shoes have midsoles that are resilient but are typically just a uniform piece of rubber foam. This foam doesn’t really account for the fact that every person’s foot impacts the ground differently, such as mid-strike runners or those who land on their heels first, etc. Researchers at New Balance are looking to make a midsole that’s “both resilient and smart.”

Photo: New Balance

The shoe company is working with Boston-based design studio Nervous System to create a 3D-printed midsole that can be customized based on an individual’s stride. Wired: “The goal is to extend customization beyond aesthetics, creating a shoe designed with biomechanical data that gives its wearer an optimized running experience.”

This 3D-printed footwear appears to be a trend. Companies such as Nike, Adidas and Jimmy Choo are increasingly exploring the applications of additive manufacturing in their design processes, creating everything from 3D-printed football cleats to 3D-printed haute couture shoes.

New Balance’s 3D-printed midsoles are “squishy,” lightweight and strong, and made of DuraForm Flex TPU, a proprietary elastomer.

Still early in the process, it is unclear if customized soles will actually improve the running experience, and help with elements such as reducing injuries, speeding recovery and enhancing overall endurance.

Eye on Innovation is a weekly look at new technology, products and scientific advancements that we’ve mined from crowdsourcing sites and other corners of the Internet.

EYE ON INNOVATION: ‘Attack’ of the Drones to Prompt Regulations

The buzz on drones is getting louder.

More than 700,000 drones are expected to be sold nationwide in 2015, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. Drones are a hot holiday gift item this year. Nearly 400 drone-related products and projects are currently listed in active crowdfunding campaigns at Kickstarter.com and Indiegogo.com.

Photo: Madpac.nl

Even the winner of the most recent Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award was a drone — the ultraportable Sprite, made by Ascent AeroSystems.

Hovering over all of this drone proliferation, inevitably, are potential regulations. In November, the New York Times reported that the Federal Aviation Administration released a list of recommendations for how to better monitor recreational use of the machines. Under the proposal, most drone owners would have to register their drones with the federal government, which would place the information in a national database, the first such requirements. New York Times: “The recommendations, from a task force created by the agency, would be the biggest step yet by the government to deal with the proliferation of recreational drones, which are usually used for harmless purposes but have also been tools for mischief and serious wrongdoing, and pose a risk to airborne jets.” Continue reading

NEW JOURNAL: Pitting Manufacturing Processes Against One Another

In the cover story of our current issue of the Proto Labs Journal, we pit manufacturing processes against one another.

As you know, the manufacturing industry is peppered with prototyping and production processes that share some common attributes, but also some notable differences. Our manufacturing “bouts” explore how several of these processes — big and small — compare. The fight card includes:

  • Magnesium Injection Molding vs. Magnesium Die Casting
  • Stereolithography vs. Fused Deposition Modeling
  • Direct Metal Laser Sintering vs. CNC Machining vs. Metal Injection Molding

Beyond our cover story, read about Sean Doan, a long-time Proto Labs employee who is the go-to person in our R & D division; the latest in innovation and advanced technology we’ve mined from the Internet; and new service offerings at Proto Labs.

Read the full Journal now.

EYE ON INNOVATION: Cool corkscrew arrives in time for holiday parties

File this under having the right tool for the job.

The striking Zig Zag Corkscrew uses the original steel-press molds from the 1920s in France, and is a new, nickel-plated steel replica of those original, iconic, expanding French corkscrews.

Antique Zig Zag-brand corkscrews, which were invented in France and patented in 1919, continue to be sought out in Parisian flea markets and elsewhere by collectors and wine connoisseurs.

This new, updated Zig Zag blends modern functionality and classic design. It features a folding cork remover and a bottle opener, too, and will make opening your holiday vino a pleasure. Price: $39.