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.

Autodesk University Includes Launch of $100-million Investment Fund

If you didn’t attend Autodesk University this week in Las Vegas, here is one big item you missed. Autodesk announced the launch of Forge, a $100-million investment fund to support the creation of a cloud-based platform that will connect design and manufacturing ecosystems in an effort to help developers bring new ideas to market faster and more often. We at Proto Labs are excited to be one of Forge’s inaugural partners in this effort.

As a result, Autodesk Fusion 360 users now have seamless access to our design for manufacturing analysis and web-based, interactive quoting right from Fusion 360 CAD program. “We are excited to bring this seamless quoting and ordering process to the Fusion 360 users and look forward to continued collaboration with Autodesk on the Forge platform,” said Rob Bodor, Proto Labs’ Vice President and General Manager, Americas.

Meanwhile, in the exhibitors’ area at Autodesk’s annual event, Proto Labs representatives talked with a variety of attendees, including electrical, civil and mechanical engineers and various educators (below).

Read more about the Forge initiative here.

EYE ON INNOVATION [Black Friday Edition]: Nifty Gifts for Techies

The season for gift giving has arrived, kicked off today by the frenzied shopping event Black Friday. With the holiday season in mind, consider these items for that techie on your list.

Makr Shakr. This robotic bar can make any cocktail you want and a whole lot more — shake up a martini, mix a mojito, thin-slice a lemon garnish, etc. It was a huge hit at the recent Milan Design Week, where furniture usually takes center stage. Makr Shakr is a collaboration between MIT Senseable City Lab and Carlo Ratti, an Italian architecture firm.

Ninja Coffee Bar. Fully programmable, this coffee maker can do it all: automatically brews java by various amounts, strengths, personal tastes; creates cappuccinos, lattes; includes a milk frother; and even features an iced-coffee function.


Small Drones. Drones are popular gifts this year. The BLADE Nano QX RTF Quadcopter is rated by as Best Drone for the Money — it sells for about $80. As Tom’s Guide muses, the drone won’t break the bank “if you happen to misjudge the top of a tree and get it stuck out of reach.” Speaking of drones, a recent Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award winner is the developer of another drone, the ultra-portable Sprite.

WooBots. These wooden transformers make “old-school toys look cool again,” says Popular Mechanics. The WooBots include an 18-wheeler cab named “Truck,” and a transforming Beetle, bus, jet fighter and warship.


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.

Compact Drone Wins Proto Labs’ Cool Idea! Award

The developers of the Sprite, a small, durable drone that offers an alternative to larger, generally more fragile quadcopter drones, have been presented with the latest Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award.

The popularity of drone aircraft for consumer use is surging. More than 700,000 drones are expected to be sold nationwide this year, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. Drones are also getting lots of buzz as a hot holiday gift item this year.

“Drones are already playing key roles in a variety of industries, and for military and public safety applications,” says Proto Labs founder Larry Lukis. “This particular drone is innovative because of its consumer-friendly design: a smaller size, greater durability and ease of use.” Continue reading