TIPS WITH TONY: Top 5 FAQs for CSEs

Proto Labs has a knowledgeable support staff able to answer nearly any manufacturing question you toss their way. If you haven’t already spoken to them, you should get to know our customer service engineers (CSEs) who can help guide you on your next additive manufacturing, CNC machining and injection molding project.

This is Tony from the popular blog series, Tips with Tony. He was a CSE for years and is now Proto Labs’ go-to technical specialist.

It’s challenging to assemble the top five most frequently questions asked — it should be more like a top 100 questions asked on a daily basis. But, I whittled it down to the top questions our CSEs are most frequently asked.

5. How many parts can you produce and how fast can I get them?

Additive Manufacturing
SL, SLS and DMLS:  1 to 50+ parts in 1 to 7 days

CNC Machining
Milling and Turning:  1 to 200+ parts in 1 to 3 days

Injection Molding
Plastic: 25 to 500 sample parts in 1 to 15 days with low-volume production of 10,000+ parts available

Liquid Silicone Rubber (LSR): 25 to 500 sample parts in 1 to 15 days with low-volume production of 5,000+ parts available

Metal: 25 to 100 sample parts in 10 to 15 days with low-volume production of 5,000+ parts available

Magnesium: 25 to 100 sample parts in 15 days with low-volume production of 5,000+ parts available

Please note that lead times are dependent on part size and current workload. As such, not all parts are eligible for a one-day turn and expedite fees may be applied turnaround times faster than standard delivery.

4. What manufacturing method(s) should I use?
First, let me ask you these questions to help you decide:

  • How many parts do you need?
  • Are these functional, cosmetic or just something to hold in your hand?
  • Do you know the material you want?
  • What type of finish do you need?

If you have a part total in mind, you can begin narrowing down the manufacturing method to either injection molding (for higher volumes) or additive manufacturing or machining (for lower volumes). Identifying the material you need will then allow you to narrow down your decision even further. Beginning with any one of these questions will start you down the correct path towards the proper manufacturing method.

3. What type of manufacturing equipment do you use?
This is typically directed at additive manufacturing, but we have all Hass CNC mills and lathes with several brands of injection molding machines. Here are the additive machines that we use at Proto Labs:

  • SL: Viper, ProJet 6000 and iPro
  • SLS: SinterStation Pro 230 and sPro 60
  • DMLS: Mlab and M2

One of Proto Labs’ commercial-grade Concept Laser M2 machines.

2. What are your expected tolerances?

Additive Manufacturing
SL:  X and Y dimensions have ±0.002 in. for the first inch plus ±0.001 in./in. for each additional inch, and for the Z dimension ±0.005 in. for the first inch plus ±0.001 in./in. for each additional inch
SLS:  ±0.010 in. or ±0.0015 in./in., whichever is greater
DMLS:  ±0.003 in. plus 0.001 in./in.

CNC Machining
Milling and Turning:  ±0.005 in.

Injection Molding
Plastic:  ±0.003 in. plus no less than ±0.002 in./in.
LSR:  ±0.025 in./in.
Metal:  ±0.010 in./in.
Magnesium:  ±0.005 in. plus ±0.001 in./in.

Please note that these are expected tolerances on well-designed parts.

1. What material should I use?
This is the big one since hundreds of materials are available between all of the services. Again, you need answer a few questions first before we can answer that question:

Thermoplastic samples.

  • What is the part’s intended use?
  • What resistances do you require?
  • What cosmetics do you need?
  • Do you know the manufacturing method you want to use?

These four qualifying questions are extremely helpful in guiding you to the right material as each manufacturing method provides a different level of available materials that can be similar in some ways, yet extremely different in others. After providing your exact requirements, our CSEs can certainly get you pointed in the right direction.

For questions beyond the big five, visit protolabs.com or contact our CSEs at 877.479.3680 or at customerservice@protolabs.com.

This entry was posted in Tips with Tony and tagged , by Tony Holtz. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tony Holtz

Tony is a technical specialist at Proto Labs with more than 10 years of experience ranging from CNC mill operator to mold designer to customer service engineer. While his formal education is in industrial machinery operations, he has extensive knowledge and experience in both traditional and advanced manufacturing processes and materials. Throughout his tenure at Proto Labs, Tony has worked with countless designers, engineers and product developers to improve the manufacturability of their parts.

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