WATCH: From 3D CAD to Final Parts

We’re officially kicking off our series of short Proto Labs videos today. Throughout the year, the series will take brief glimpses into our different manufacturing processes, technology, quoting and other areas that make Proto Labs unique. Our first short follows an initial concept as it moves from sketch to 3D CAD model to final part. Have a look:

Kinetic Charger for Smartphones Brings New Meaning to Mobile

AMPY is an innovative kinetic charger that captures a person’s movement and converts it to charge for their mobile device. Tejas Shastry, Mike Geier and Alex Smith began developing the device in 2013 as students in an entrepreneurial class at Northwestern. They worked through dozens of prototype iterations involving 3D printed parts while fine-tuning its patent-pending, proprietary linear inductor. The user’s motion drives a magnet and coil system that generates electricity, which goes into a lithium ion battery for storage. Plug an iPhone, Android phone or other wearable device into AMPY’s USB port to begin charging.

The team at AMPY entered and won Proto Labs’ Cool Idea! Award, a service grant that will be used towards internal thermoplastic bobbins in the device. AMPY is now pilot testing with consumers while accepting online preorders at getampy.com for market-ready devices that are slated to ship in July 2015. Read our full case study on the development of AMPY.

Medical Device Prototyping With A Manufacturing Hand From Proto Labs

Modern science has allowed surgeons to fix the human body amazingly fast, yet leave behind only small traces that repairs were performed. One of the more commonly used methods to achieve this is by a minimally invasive technique called laparoscopic surgery, where small incisions are made into a patient’s skin, a laparoscope is inserted to provide a magnified view of the patient’s organs, the procedure is performed, and the incision is closed by stitching or surgical staples. You can have your gallbladder removed before breakfast and be binge-watching Netflix from the comfort of your couch by dinner.

Typically, the small openings created during laparoscopic surgery are closed in one of two ways: manually stitching subcutaneously (beneath the skin) with a bio-absorbable, thread-like material and a curved needle that moves from one side of the hole to the other to close it tight, or with a surgical stapler that inserts metal staples into the skin to close the wound. The first technique is more time consuming, but leaves less surgical evidence. The latter method is faster, but can cause scarring and infection. Chuck Rogers, Ph.D., and Kenneth Danielson, M.D. of Massachusetts-based Opus KSD are nearing the launch of a device that combines the best of both worlds: the ease of a stapler with proprietary bio-absorbable subcutaneous fasteners. Continue reading

Checking In on Hockey and Manufacturing

A Minnesota Wild hockey puck

Minnesota has formally dubbed itself “The State of Hockey,” a moniker that’s hard to argue with when the headquarters of Minnesota-based Proto Labs is brimming with hometown patriotism for its local team on the brink of advancing to the next round of the NHL playoffs. Hockey even shares some similar language with the manufacturing industry. Checking in hockey is a technique used to “stop or slow down the progress of something undesirable,” like Colorado Avalanche players. Checking in rubber components happens when “short, shallow surface cracks are caused by damaging action.” Both hockey and the molded rubber pucks that are used experience this disruptive nature of checking. Continue reading

For Lego Enthusiasts Young and Old, Everything is Awesome

Lego Vitruvius

Let’s see a show of hands: Who’s built something out of Lego blocks? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Most of us have fond memories of our first Lego creation, and some of us (like myself), have been able to relive that nostalgia through their kids. Not liking Lego is basically the same as not liking cute puppies, ironic mustaches or Justin Timberlake.

Since the 1930s, the cult of Lego has grown for a company that has remained exciting to children yet relevant to grownups. Today, The Lego Group employs a team of master builders who design sets, they have a contingent of 100 Lego Ambassadors from around the world preaching Lego fundamentals, and they work with external Lego Certified Professionals who animate models, curate art exhibits and many other cool endeavors. They have larger-than-life retail stores, theme parks, television series, and most recently, released “The Lego Movie,” a blockbuster (no pun intended) film that has grossed more than $400 million at the box office.

In our latest issue of Proto Labs Journal, read about Lego, its culture and some prototyping parallels that can be gleaned from its philosophy.