How to Select the Right 3D Printing Technology

The term 3D printing encompasses several manufacturing technologies that build parts layer-by-layer. Each vary in the way they form plastic and metal parts and can differ in material selection, surface finish, durability, and manufacturing speed and cost.

Selecting the right 3D printing technology for your application requires an understanding of each process’ strengths and weaknesses and mapping those attributes to your product development needs. Let’s first discuss how 3D printing fits within the product development cycle and then take a look at common 3D printing technologies and the advantages of each.

Metal 3D-printed parts can enable design features not possible with traditional manufacturing processes.

3D Printing for Prototyping and Beyond
It’s safe to say 3D printing is most often used for prototyping. Its ability to quickly manufacture a single part enables product developers to validate and share ideas in a cost-effective manner. Determining the purpose of your prototype will inform which 3D printing technology will be the most beneficial. Additive manufacturing can be suitable for a range of prototypes that span from simple physical models to parts used for functional testing.

Despite 3D printing being nearly synonymous with rapid prototyping, there are scenarios when it’s a viable production process. Typically these applications involve low-volumes and complex geometries. Often, components for aerospace and medical applications are ideal candidates for production 3D printing as they frequently match the criteria previously described. Continue reading

Meet the Cool Idea! Award Judges: Amanda Williams

The Cool Idea! Award judges are technologists, innovators, entrepreneurs, instructors, and some are even past Cool Idea! Award recipients. All of our judges have a story worth sharing, so we sat down with each for a quick Q&A to help you get to know them a bit better.

This will be Amanda’s first year on the Cool Idea! Award judge panel.

Next in our Cool Idea! Award judge series is Amanda Williams. Currently, she spearheads intelligent packaging programs at Jabil—a global manufacturing company. Before joining Jabil, Amanda founded multiple startups in consumer electronics and manufacturing logistics and has worked at tech companies like Xerox PARC, Adobe, Intel, and Microsoft.

What are you looking forward to most about being a Cool Idea! Award judge in 2017?
Seeing lots of cool ideas!

Tell us about your background—what’s something about your professional life that we wouldn’t necessarily know by looking at your LinkedIn profile?
I went to graduate school for information and computer science, but also received some training in ethnography and anthropology while I was there and I use it daily.

What’s the best piece of entrepreneurial or business advice you’ve received and how did it help you?
I was talking with the president of a design firm about one of his employees, and he said “He’s a great designer because he argues well. He argues a lot, but it’s never to win or to prove that he is right. He argues because that’s how you make the product better.” I thought it was a really smart insight, and it has informed what I look for when I’m hiring, and how to judge and handle conflict when managing a team. Continue reading

The Difference Between Jigs and Fixtures

TIPS WITH TONY

Jigs or fixtures? The two terms are easy to confuse. You’ll often find them paired together and despite sharing similar functions, the two are not interchangeable. Let’s learn the subtle differences between these manufacturing tools by examining how they are used to improve manufacturing quality, reduce production costs, and automate work.

Jigs Improve Manual Work
You might know the term “jig” from your weekend fishing hobby, but it has a different meaning within the engineer’s lexicon. For our purposes, a jig holds the position of a tool in order to perform a manufacturing task. It’s often a custom part that ensures accuracy and repeatability when drilling and tapping holes.

Shops may use different types of jigs for various tasks inside manufacturing equipment.

Drill bushings are a common jig application. They help guide a drill through a workpiece in order to maintain accurate positioning and angle. Not only does it lead to higher quality work, but a drill bushing can also increase manufacturing speed.

Fixtures for Automated Manufacturing Processes
How does a fixture differ from a jig? Rather than guiding a manufacturing tool, fixtures hold a workpiece in a secure position, orientation, or location. A prime example, and one were familiar with at Proto Labs, is the fixture in which a block of raw material is clamped into inside a CNC machine. The vice on your workbench is also a fixture. Continue reading

Meet the Cool Idea! Award Judges: John Vaskis

The Cool Idea! Award judges are technologists, innovators, entrepreneurs, instructors, and some are even past Cool Idea! Award recipients. All of our judges have a story worth sharing, so we sat down with each for a quick Q&A to help you get to know them a bit better.

This week we’re chattin’ with John Vaskis, Senior Director of Hardware at Indiegogo. John helps hardware-based businesses execute successful crowdfunding campaigns whether that be through PR outreach, finding a manufacturing partner, gauging consumer interest, or any other activity that helps startups get off the ground.

John Vaskis of Indiegogo

What are you looking forward to most about being a Cool Idea! Award judge in 2017?
Seeing all of the awesome products that always come through the contest every year. The innovation that happens with the Cool Idea! Program always blows my minds—it feels like you’re looking into the future.

Tell us about your background—what’s something about your professional life that we wouldn’t necessarily know by looking at your LinkedIn profile?
I originally went to college for computer science to create video games; needless to say CS and me were similar to oil and vinegar. I did get into the video game world, though, on the business side as my first real job.

What’s the best piece of entrepreneurial or business advice you’ve received and how did it help you?
When I started my first job I was told to simply “get out there” because I knew no one, had no network, and I was told that would be the quickest way to learn. That proved to be very useful. This industry is based upon connections, so I suggest to everyone to make as many of them as possible. Continue reading

Meet the Cool Idea! Award Judges: Andy MacInnis

The Cool Idea! Award judges are technologists, innovators, entrepreneurs, instructors, and some are even past Cool Idea! Award recipients. All of our judges have a story worth sharing, so we sat down with each for a quick Q&A to help you get to know them a bit better.

Andy MacInnis is a director at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Andy MacInnis is the technical instructor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He leads the Integrated Design & Management (IDM) track, which takes a hands-on and practical approach to design. Prior to his position at MIT, Andy founded Monster Prototype—a leading go-to model and prototype firm in the Boston area. At Monster Prototype, he consulted companies developing consumer products, medical devices, and footwear.

What are you looking forward to most about being a Cool Idea! Award judge in 2017?
Seeing where inventors find the junction of Need and Solution.

Tell us about your background—what’s something about your professional life that we wouldn’t necessarily know by looking at your LinkedIn profile?
I find the challenge of repairing old things like cars, boats, houses, and bikes rewarding and worthwhile. Continue reading