Welcome to Your All New Digital Manufacturing Platform

By Matt Hatch

A manufacturing revolution – Protolabs’ brand new quoting platform delivers even greater speed and flexibility for prototyping and on-demand manufacturing (ODM)

Imagine if you could rapidly add production lines to your manufacturing base to include greater product customisation. Traditionally, economies of scale would not allow you to do this, but today we are entering a new era of on-demand manufacturing (ODM) where you can outsource this capability to specialist digital manufacturers who produce lower volumes and higher mixes both faster and more cost effectively.

Enhancements to our digital architecture, which supports the launch of our brand new online quoting platform, allow you to manage your requirements for both prototyping and ODM from your desk. It’s just like having an additional product line added to your manufacturing facility but without the capital investment.

When we launched more than 20 years ago, our digital manufacturing model was revolutionary. But it’s been necessary to continuously evolve ever since – by expanding our manufacturing services and enhancing our capabilities way beyond the original prototyping service. Many of the customers we serve have grown along with us, so expectation is being continuously elevated.

Product developers want to reduce development cycles and be able to react more quickly to shifts in market demand. We deliver an end-to-end manufacturing service that can be leveraged at any point, whether that’s for prototyping or ODM.

So our new online quoting platform has been created to deliver even greater speed and flexibility for prototyping and on-demand manufacturing. It is the ultimate tool for designers, engineers, product developers and procurement teams in their efforts to get products to market faster than ever before.

Mass customisation

For individual items or smaller volumes into the hundreds, CNC machining or 3D printing could be the go-to technologies. If this capability were outsourced, parts can generally be shipped quickly. In fact, at Protolabs we can ship parts using these technologies in as little as a day.

The blind spot for ODM has been when you need a few thousand parts or components quickly, which is often what you need in today’s era of mass customisation. The challenge as an on-demand manufacturer is to meet all your needs, drive the lead times down and give you more control. We need to make what we do a seamless part of your organisation.

Of course, to achieve this you need far more than the parts delivered quickly. You need to verify that you are getting parts and components that meet your quality needs and you need the reports to validate these standards. Not only that, but in this new era of digital supply chains you need to share critical information from your chosen ODM supplier easily so that procurement can sign off on the quote and production is not held up.

Our new online quoting platform and ODM offering supports in this way. Our business is about speed but it’s also about matching our digital offering with the manufacturing resource required to meet your needs. You may associate us mostly with rapid prototyping but we have always provided low-volume manufacturing for customers. In fact, it makes a lot of sense as we can reduce total time to market by taking the prototype that was developed with us and then manufacture it in higher volumes.

Our secret has always been our digital capability to reduce lead times and give customers more control. Of course, human advice from engineer to engineer is still vital to solve some issues, but using software speeds up the process. And the new quoting platform speeds this process up even more, gives greater flexibility and helps put you firmly in the driving seat of their project.

Low volume, high mix parts

Our ambition is to be the leading industrial supplier of low volume, high mix parts across 3D printing, CNC and injection moulding.

To achieve this, we have given customers even more control with our new quoting platform. Our aim is to help you be the project manager for the part or component that we are producing for you. And we recognise that to become a remote part of a customer’s production capability we must think about your business’ procurement, quality process and supply chain. The new quoting platform widens our capabilities so that you can manage all of this from their desk.

Lower lead times

If the part is going to be injection moulded then the tooling is manufactured from aluminimum instead of steel. Using aluminium we can produce moulds in 15 days or less as standard – compare that to the 10-12 weeks typically quoted for steel tooling.

And through the new quoting platform, other variables are easier to design into the mould. Notably you can now easily repeat multiple cavities into a single mould to help balance the tool cost against the price per part. These decisions depend on several factors and our new platform provides visual tools to help you achieve the lowest cost for the parts that you need. It is also easier to file designs and different iterations of designs and call them up for future reference.

Find out more

You can find out more about the full capability of our new quoting platform by visiting here (link to 2.0 hub page). You can also take a look at our ODM webinar or simply use the new platform by signing in/up and uploading a CAD. If you have used our previous system, then you’ll find the process is simpler but offers greater flexibility and more options at the same time.

It’s a very exciting time for manufacturing and we need to recognise that as consumer needs change, then the supply chain has to play a role in offering manufacturing flexibility. Our new quoting platform allows product designers and engineers to design their final product to optimise its performance and then choose which manufacturing technology from 3D printing, CNC and injection moulding best meets their needs.