3D Printing Boosts Rocket Project for Engineering Students

University of Minnesota engineering students are readying a 3D-printed rocket engine for launch sometime later this year, with help from Proto Labs.

This cutaway view of the engine shows the cooling channel, which is one long tube that spirals down inside the wall.

David Deng, a senior aerospace engineering student at the U of M’s Twin Cities campus, is leading the extracurricular effort to design, build, and eventually fly a liquid-propellant rocket as project manager of LPRD Rocketry. The group’s name, pronounced “leopard,” is an acronym for Liquid Propellant Rocketry Design. The group includes aerospace engineering students and others studying electrical engineering, computer science, mechanical engineering, and materials science.

The primary design challenges the group faced included the small overall size of the engine itself, and the need to also somehow incorporate a cooling system inside the engine.

David Deng (right), and the University of Minnesota student group LPRD Rocketry (left).

“The manufacturing of [the rocket engine] is incredibly difficult using conventional methods, especially for a very small engine,” Deng said. “The struggle was how do we [add] a single cooling channel through this entire engine, coiling around the side of it? That’s where Proto Labs came in. 3D printing is essentially the only way to get regenerative cooling on an engine this small and have it be a single channel.”


Bridging the STEM Gap

Our cover story for this month’s Journal focuses on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields as they relate to both education and employment. We take an in-depth look at how STEM-related jobs have remained in high demand as high schools and colleges work to train future employees in this curriculum.

Notably there is a gap between the skill sets that employers are seeking in STEM fields and the amount of qualified people who are available to fill them. School districts, universities, and companies are beginning to recognize this disconnect and have been working in recent years to raise awareness about the importance of STEM-based education.

Find out how the STEM gap is affecting the business world, the work being put forth by schools and businesses to close this gap and Proto Labs’ own efforts toward building a strong STEM presence within our workforce.

Read the full story here

Minnesota Mag Names Proto Labs a Best Company

We’re proud to announce that we’re a recipient of the 2015 100 Best Companies to Work For Award from Minnesota Business magazine.

The award honors top-notch companies from many different industries across Minnesota, the home state of Proto Labs HQ. Companies submitted nominations and an independent research firm conducted an anonymous questionnaire filled out by employees. Employees’ answers determined which companies excelled in work environment, employee benefits and overall employee happiness, just to name a few highlights. Continue reading

2015 Manufacturing Trends

Last year was pretty big for the American manufacturing industry. Milestones both big and small made headlines: the White House hosted a Maker Faire; scientists achieved firsts in 3D printing technology by printing living human tissue and printing in zero gravity; President Obama announced his commitment to supporting American manufacturing through the creation of research hubs in key U.S. cities; a resurgent labor market has continued to fuel an “onshoring” trend with manufacturing jobs returning stateside; we figured out how to 3D print pizza, chocolate and sugary treats.

3D-printed chocolate confections are a real thing. Photo by Choc Edge.

As important as all of the strides made in the U.S. manufacturing space were in 2014, we’re most excited about what might be around the corner. We’re confident this is only the beginning of an exciting new era in our industry. Here are a few trends we’re keeping an eye out for this year: Continue reading