Guide and Trend Reports

Read in-depth white papers on rapid manufacturing processes, part design, material properties, and other important considerations.

Manufacturing Technology

complex dmls part

Industrial 3D Printing Technologies

Our 3D printing white paper examines the various additive manufacturing technologies—SL, SLS, DMLS, FDM, PolyJet, and others—being used by today’s product designers and engineers to build prototypes and even functional, end-use parts.

overmould part

Overmoulding and Insert Moulding

Overmoulding and insert moulding are regularly used to manufacture multi-material components for applications in industries such as medical and health care, automotive, and electronics. But it’s only recently that it also became a viable and cost-effective prototyping method. This white paper offers a primer on overmoulding and insert moulding and how they can be used both for prototyping during development and on-demand production.

digital manufacturing circuitry

Data, Digital Threads, and Industry 4.0

Just like how the steam engine led an industrial revolution centuries ago, software and data are changing the way we manufacture today. In this white paper, learn how industry-leading companies are accelerating the product development cycle through the use of new technologies and data analytics.

cnc end mills in magazine

Supply Chain Management

Strategic management of your manufacturing supply chain is critical during product development and life cycle planning. This white paper illustrates how on-demand manufacturing can be used to reduce financial risk and accelerate speed to market through the implementation of supply chain safeguards.

metal part

Prototype to Production

In the drive to accelerate new product development and time to market, the pressure to validate a design can be intense. Increasingly, smart manufacturers—and their design teams—are looking ahead, past the prototyping phase of the product design process, and are thinking in terms of the end product and its required performance characteristics.

3D Printing for End-Use Production

Industrial-grade 3D printing has developed a solid reputation as a reliable process for prototyping parts. More recently, 3D printing has emerged as a potentially viable production option. This white paper offers an analysis of additive manufacturing technologies that may be redefining 3D printing as a manufacturing method for end-use parts.

sketching out a development process

Rapid Manufacturing Processes

Each manufacturing rapid manufacturing process comes with its own advantages and disadvantages during prototyping. From 3D printing to CNC machining to injection moulding, our white paper is a technical look at different manufacturing processes. It lets you weigh the benefits of each, so you can focus on a process best suited for your project.

Part Design

plastic injection-moulded part

Designing for Mouldability: Fundamental Elements

Whether you’re new to the injection-moulding process or a veteran of manufacturing, our comprehensive Designing for Mouldability white paper is a quick reference guide to wall thicknesses, surface finishes, tolerances, materials, and other thermoplastic moulding insights. It’s a thorough look at injection moulding that might just provide a few tips to help you make better parts.

complex plastic injection-moulded part

Designing for Mouldability: Complex Features

In our second volume on designing parts for mouldability, we dig deeper into some of the more complicated design challenges that product designers and engineers face. If your part has complex features that require undercuts and through-holes, see how the use of side-actions, sliding shutoffs, and pickouts can be used mould those features.

plastic part with cosmetic finish

Cosmetic Appearance

There are a lot of factors that can affect the cosmetic appearance of injection-moulded plastic parts. Our white paper on cosmetics addresses the importance of part geometry, material selection, and mould design in minimising or eliminating cosmetic flaws like sink, knit lines, flash, burn, and other issues that can arise during moulding. Knowing the solutions to cosmetic issues early can improve the final appearance of your injection-moulded parts.

metal machined part

Designing for Machinability 

CNC machining has been around for decades, and for good reason. It’s one the fastest manufacturing technologies for prototypes and end-use parts. Want to learn how you can optimise your product development cycles with CNC machining? This white paper shares how to design for the subtractive manufacturing process, select the best material for your application, and streamline new product development.

Scientific Moulding Helps Ensure Repeatable Part Function

How to create consistency in injection moulding part production through detailed, scientific processes. This guide covers the basic steps in setting up this process.

Combining Part Assemblies with Additive Manufacturing

This guide explores how to find opportunities to move multi-part assemblies toward consolidated additive manufacturing in direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), selective laser sintering (SLS), and multi jet fusion (MJF), but also how to achieve a result that is more cost effective and higher performing than other manufacturing methods.

Material Considerations

SL microfluidic part

3D Printing Materials

This industrial 3D printing white paper explores the properties of thermoplastic and metal materials available with stereolithography, selective laser sintering, and direct metal laser sintering technologies. It also includes a quick-reference guide of material attributes that can steer you toward the proper grade.

thermoplastic part


There are more than 85,000 commercial options for plastic materials listed in materials databases. Needless to say, narrowing down that extensive list of materials can sometimes seem like a formidable task. Our white paper provides a technical observation of thermoplastic resins and their properties for engineers who want to quantitatively analyse a part; determine loads, stresses, strains, and environments; and make material decisions based on the analysis.

liquid silicone rubber parts

Liquid Silicone Rubber

Our white paper on liquid silicone rubber (LSR) discusses the injection-moulding process of the elastic material and offers guidelines to improve moulded LSR parts. While there are some shared similarities to thermoplastic injection moulding, LSR is a thermoset material with a unique set of design characteristics.

Material Alternatives for Plastic Injection Moulding

Material Alternatives for Plastic Injection Moulding

Navigating supply chain issues is a constant challenge, especially in times of material shortages. So we looked at the more commonly used materials and compiled a list of substitution options that can serve well as replacements. Choosing which ones to use will depend on material properties and the intended functions of your parts. Each section delves into those material properties and reasoning behind the alternative recommendations to provide insight into additional resin options.

Material Hardness Testing

Material hardness testing is a crucial method for assessing the resistance of materials to deformation or penetration. This white paper discusses various aspects of material hardness testing, including methods, suitability, advantages and disadvantages of hard materials, and common treatments to enhance material hardness.

Industry Insights

Manufacturing Robotics Report

An Engineer’s guide to understanding the state of the art in hardware, materials, and the future of robotics manufacturing.

magnesium part for lightweighting

Automotive: Reducing Component Weight

Government regulations and market-driven redesign initiatives are driving automakers to develop increasingly fuel-efficient vehicles. One way to do that is through reducing the weight of components in cars and trucks. This white paper looks at lighter materials, like magnesium and aluminium, as well as plastic alternatives that can lessen the load. We also discuss different design considerations to help reduce part weight and the rapid manufacturing processes to get there fast.

Designing the Future: The Benefits of Additive Manufacturing to Oil and Gas

This paper attempts to reflect the challenges and significant opportunities relating to the greater adoption of 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, in the oil and gas industry. It draws on information from a number of public reports and analyses, combined with Protolabs' own market research and interviews with oil and gas professionals, including members of operator, digital transformation and drilling sectors.


Digital manufacturing revolution in marine, defence and maritime industries

This paper looks at how digital manufacturing is currently supporting defence and marine sectors, and how it can further support innovation and digitalisation goals through 3D printing, CNC machining and injection moulding.


Digital Manufacturing for the Medical Industry: Volume One

In this comprehensive guide, we take a deeper look into how digital manufacturing has supported the industry and what the future looks like. Including top tips and knowledge from our experts, this guide covers everything from medical applications to transitioning from prototyping to production to real-life examples. 

Digital Manufacturing for the Medical Industry: Volume Two

In this volume we take a deeper look into how digital manufacturing is supporting developments in prosthetics, dentistry, implants, medical devices and surgical instruments.

medical device development

Medical and Health Care: Accelerating Speed to Market

Speed to market is everything when it comes to development of medical components and devices. This white paper examines various rapid manufacturing options available to today’s medical design engineers and product developers. From 3D printing to injection moulding, explore the strengths and weaknesses of each process as well as material options best suited for your particular application.

Medical Applications for Additive Manufacturing

Over the past few years, additive manufacturing - better known as 3D printing -  has established itself as a driver of innovation in a wide variety of industries. In addition to its many industrial applications - for example for the production of prototypes and spare parts -there are many benefits to using 3D printing in the medical sector.

From the Printer into the Body - Metal 3D Printing in Medicine

While medicine and its associated technologies date back thousands of years, we should also bear in mind that humanity is currently in a Golden Age of progress in this field.

digital manufacturing revolution in marine, defence and marine

Digital Manufacturing Revolution in Marine, Defence and Marine

This technical paper explores how digital manufacturing can open up faster and low volume sourcing options for products and parts within the marine, defence and maritime industries.

Thought Leadership

How 5 Years Shaped the Future of UK Manufacturing

Based on findings from a 5 year study of over 700 Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) members, this report delivers unmatched insight into UK manufacturing’s evolution under extreme pressure and uncovers the strategy of the engineers who are shaping how manufacturing will evolve further.

Horizon Shift: Accelerated disruption in aerospace

Protolabs’ latest survey into the European aerospace industry is presented in a two part series: Horizon Shift chapter 1 was taken from an initial survey of 325 executives taken in February and March at the start of Covid-19.

Horizon Shift: In it for the long haul

In Chapter 1 of Horizon shift, we explored aerospace’s confidence in technology innovation as a catalyst for resilience and competitive advantage during times of disruption. Here, in Chapter 2, we investigate whether there is an opportunity to both revamp the industry post-pandemic and reduce emissions. And we find that it is innovation, operational efficiencies in the production process and government support that will keep up the momentum as the industry seeks to recover from the crisis and prepare itself for the long haul.

In Charge: Can Europe become a battery power in the electric age?

During the spring of 2021, through a unique survey of 200 senior executives in the European battery industry, we explored the challenges and opportunities faced by the sector and evaluated the actions it is taking in response.

Decision time: Oilfield services is at a crossroads

‘Decision Time’ is a fascinating industry report that takes a close look at the European oilfield services sector at a time of unprecedented change.