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Accelerating Innovation
Brilliant ideas for new products emerge every day. They can happen during long car rides to work, coffee shop conversations with friends, or accidental encounters with inconvenience. But far too many promising napkin sketches end up in waste baskets because product development resources and funding are scarce. The Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award was created to help turn those inspiring concepts into real-life products.

Each year, the program awards an aggregate of up to
in Proto Labs services to innovative thinkers who can use their grant towards fully functional parts for prototyping, design iterations, testing or even an initial production run. Since its 2011 introduction, the Cool Idea! Award has been presented to well-deserving recipients whose products range from a smartphone breathalyzer to a rugged wheelchair to a self-serve beer system.

Proto Labs’ rapid manufacturing services — 3D printing, CNC machining and injection molding — bridge the gap between great idea and great product.

So, what are you waiting for?
Apply Now!
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Award Recipients
Proto Labs parts for Sleeping BeautyProto Labs produced injection-molded optical LSR lenses for Strange LensesProto Labs parts for AgPulse
Sprite droneRevolve inverted configurationCompliant GamesWristifyHush smart earplugsPocketLabSkyven solar panel system
AMPYRoambotics’ Jr.Thruster-100
GarageioVOTOFLOOMEEverpurse exploded viewFlipout TantrumAssembled Maze-OReMotion prosthetic knee joint
iPourIt RFID reader holderAssembled IN3G TélétactSOLOSHOT motorized baseThe Quadshot exploded view of parts6dot Braille labeler
SkyLight with smartphoneQuicKaddyRoughRider wheelchairr-one robotsTruFlavorWare
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Apply Now!
Applying for a Cool Idea! Award is easy. Just click the Apply Now! link and complete the round 1 application.

You’ll also need to retrieve a quote(s) by uploading your accompanying 3D CAD model(s) via our Upload a Part link.

Round 1 reviews will be conducted on a rolling basis within each application period. If the judges deem your application to be a finalist, you will receive an email from Proto Labs within a month of applying inviting you to round 2. If you do not hear back from Proto Labs about your application, your product was not selected as a finalist.

Round 2 reviews will be conducted the month following the close of the application period to which you have applied. Each finalist will hear back from Proto Labs on the outcome of their application around the end of the month following the close of the application period.
Application periods:
• January 1 – February 28, 2017
• April 1 – May 31, 2017
• July 1 – August 31, 2017
• October 1 – November 30, 2017
Rules & Regulations There are a lot of competitions for those with products already in production or on the market. The Cool Idea! Award comes in much earlier in the process – during the design and development stages – providing innovators with manufacturing resources to help turn brilliant ideas into smart, enjoyable, problem-solving, life-improving products. Read through our quick guidelines, and if you’re ready to take your idea to the next level, we’d love to see what you’ve got.

General guidelines for the submission process:

  • A 3D CAD model(s) must accompany the application form.
  • If you are granted an award, Proto Labs will ask you to let us actively promote your project in print, press releases, case studies, etc.
  • Cool Idea! Award recipients have 90 days to use their award.
  • If your project is related to a government contract or grant, it is ineligible for an award.
  • Proto Labs employees and families are ineligible for an award.

For complete Terms and Conditions, click here.
What is Proto Labs?
Proto Labs manufactures custom parts through its rapid 3D printing, CNC machining and injection molding services for designers and engineers around the world. Its proprietary software and automated manufacturing processes allow for quick-turn prototyping and low-volume production of real plastic, metal and liquid silicone rubber parts within days.

When is the application deadline?
The 2017 program runs from January 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017. There are four application and review periods throughout the year.

How will I know if I’m a Cool Idea! award winner?
Whether you’ve won or not, we’ll alert you as soon as we’ve made a decision.

How many award recipients are chosen?
There isn't a set number of Cool Idea! Award winners. A review session may produce zero recipients or it may produce three.
What type of 3D CAD file formats are accepted?
We support many different file formats. See the full list here.

What kind of things are you looking for?
We always keep a watchful eye out for ideas that would make life a little better, easier, safer, healthier, less frustrating or more fun. Basically, if it’s cool and it involves parts that Proto Labs can make, we want to hear about it. Check out our previous award recipients.

What is the judging based on?
We determine winners based on originality, feasibility, potential benefit to end users and, of course, innate coolness.

Are you going to take ownership of my idea if I’m chosen as an award recipient?
Worry not. As cool as we think your idea is, we’re not interested in claiming it as our own. We’ll just stick to what we do best — getting you real, functional parts, really fast.
Will you market my product for me if I’m chosen as an award recipient?
We send out a press release announcing that your idea was selected for the Cool Idea! Award, pitch the story to the media, and where applicable, we publish it on our social media pages (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) and write a case study about the product that appears on our website and Proto Labs Journal. Beyond that, any marketing of your product is yours to manage.

Are there any Honorable Mention recipients?
Yep. We get a lot of great ideas but not all get named as Cool Idea! Award winners. Anyone that we feel is worthy of Honorable Mention will get recognized with a 25% discount off of their order (up to a $40,000 order, so up to $10,000 off), and where applicable, will receive promotional media exposure.

If I haven’t made parts with Proto Labs before, will that affect my chances of winning?
Nope. Cool Idea! is an awards program, not a rewards program, so if you’ve never used our services or have used them hundreds of times before, your chances of winning are not affected.
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