Industrial 3D Printing Services for Custom Prototypes and Production Parts
On-demand 3D printing for rapid prototyping and production in as fast as 1 day. Get an instant 3D printing quote with DfAM analysis today.
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Are you seeking capabilities beyond those offered by a desktop 3D printer? Do you require an alternative to your current in-house systems or detailed 3D prototyping? Our industrial 3D printing service ensures accuracy and repeatability, and guarantees precision parts with each production run. At Protolabs, we specialise in additive manufacturing, catering to functional prototypes, intricate designs, and production components, all delivered in as little as 1 day.
3D Printing Processes
At Protolabs we specialise in 5 main types of 3D printing. These include:
Metal 3D Printing (DMLS)
Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) uses a fibre laser system that draws onto a surface of atomised metal powder, welding the powder into fully dense metal parts.
Stereolithography (SLA) uses an ultraviolet laser that draws on the surface of liquid thermoset resin to create thousands of thin layers until final parts are formed.
PolyJet & 3D Printed Silicone
PolyJet uses a jetting process where small droplets of liquid photopolymer are sprayed from multiple jets onto a build platform and cured in layers that form elastomeric parts.
Multi Jet Fusion (MJF)
Multi Jet Fusion selectively applies fusing and detailing agents across a bed of nylon powder, which are fused in thousands of layers by heating elements into a solid functional component.
Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) Feedback on Every Quote
Our online 3D printing experience now includes design for additive manufacturing feedback with each quote. This information can be used to improve the quality of your parts and easily identify any hard to print features.Start your 3D printing project
Compare 3D Printing Processes
New to our 3D printing service and not sure which additive technology is right for your 3D design? Compare the capabilities of each process below to see what fits your application's requirements.
|Materials||Max Part Size||Min Feature Size||Tolerances|
|Metal 3D Printing||
Normal Res: 250mm x 250mm x 300mm
|Normal Res: 1.0mm
High Res: 1.0mm
Fine Res: 0.5mm
|Typically, for well-designed parts, with a designated build direction, tolerances of +/- 0.1 mm to +/- 0.2 mm + 0.005 mm/mm are expected and achieved|
|Normal Res: 736mm x 635mm x 533mm
Normal Res True Silicone: 70mm x 130mm x 100mm)
High Res: 247mm x 245mm x 254mm
Micro Res: 127mm x 127mm x 50mm (max. suggested 25mm x 25mm x 25mm - with bigger parts, lead time may increase)
|Normal Res: 0.25mm for the XY draw plane (0.406mm for the Z build direction)
High Res: 0.13mm for the XY draw plane (0.406mm for the Z build direction)
Micro Res: 0.07mm for the XY draw plane (0.2mm for the Z build direction)
|Normal Res: The tolerances for well-designed parts are in the X / Y direction ± 0.1mm plus an additional ± 0.001mm / mm; In Z direction ± 0.13mm plus additional ± 0.001mm / mm
High Res: The tolerances for well-designed parts are in the X / Y direction ± 0.05mm plus an additional ± 0.001mm / mm; In Z direction ± 0.13mm plus additional ± 0.001mm / mm
Micro Res: The tolerances for well-designed parts in the X / Y direction ± 0.05mm plus an additional ± 0.001mm / mm; In Z-direction ± 0.13mm plus plus additional ± 0.001mm / mm
|Selective Laser Sintering||Nylons
PA 12 Smooth White: 676mm x 367mm x 564mm
|PA 12 Smooth White: 0.75mm
PA 12 Carbon Filled Smooth Black, PA 12 Flex Pure Black: 0.80mm
PA 12 Glass Filled Smooth White, TPU-88A Pure Black: 1.00mm
Typically, expected tolerances on well-designed parts are +/-0.2mm, plus +0.002mm/mm
TPU-88A Pure Black: ± 0.3mm plus ± 0.002mm/mm can be expected (for parts bigger than 100 mm in this material, tolerance will be ± 0.3% of nominal dimension)
|Multi Jet Fusion||
284mm x 380mm x 380mm
Suggested maximum dimensions: 200mm x 200mm x 200mm (higher dimensions may increase warping and dimensional inaccuracy risk)
|0.5mm||For well-designed parts, tolerances of ±0.25mm (Ultrasint™ TPU-01: ±0.30mm) plus ±0.002mm/mm can typically be achieved. Note that tolerances may change depending on part geometry.|
Elastomer (30A to 95A)
|Elastomers: 490mm x 391mm x 200mm
3D Printed Silicone: 297mm x 210mm x 200mm
Minimum free-standing wall or feature is 0.80mm. Holes, channels, and slots less than 0.80mm in diameter/width will not form; maximum length-to-width aspect ratio is 4:1
|For well-designed parts, tolerances of ±0.1mm plus ±0.001mm/mm can typically be achieved. Note that tolerances may change depending on part geometry.|
Materials Available for 3D Printing
- Cobalt Chrome
- Stainless Steel
- Maraging Steel
- PA (Nylon)
- Digital Photopolymer
- True Silicone
- 3D Printed Silicone
"Great service at a fair price and the quality of my parts is fantastic. Keep up the great work.”
Why Choose Protolabs for 3D Printing?
Our 3D Printing Facility
Our 3D printing Centre of Excellence in Putzbrunn means that we can take your part from design, through production and then finish it all under one roof. Whether you need sub assembly, surface treatment, finishing or quality measurement and reporting we can deliver what you need quickly.
Get design feedback from our experienced engineering team that has helped thousands of customers bring their products to market with quality 3D-printed parts. We will also work with you to determine optimal part orientation based on your application's requirements.
Our industry-leading tolerances and surface finish quality stems from a dedicated process engineering and quality team for each 3D printing technology. We also offer a proprietary material called Microfine™, which can build features as small as 0.07mm.
Wide Material Selection
Across our five 3D printing technologies, we use a range of commercial-grade thermoset resins, and thermoplastic and metal powders to 3D print parts that are suitable for various part applications and industries. If required for your parts, we offer a variety of post-process options such as heat treating, secondary machining, plating, painting, and dyeing to further enhance mechanical properties and cosmetics.
Scale and Production
Our facility is home to more than 180 3D printing machines that produce metal and plastic parts. This means we'll always have capacity when you need parts fast - whether it's a small batch of parts or production level volumes.
What is 3D Printing?expand_less expand_more
3D printing is a term used to describe a number of additive manufacturing technologies that produce parts one layer at a time from a 3D digital model. Some 3D printing machines will extrude a filament to create a parts, while others use lasers to sinter or cure raw materials like metal or plastic powders and liquid resins. There are a variety of 3D printing technologies that differ in terms of materials, surface finish quality, cost, and quantity to name a few.
What are the advantages of 3D Printing?expand_less expand_more
Building parts layer-by-layer brings about many benefits that open up design possibilities that were previously unachievable through traditional processes like injection moulding, machining, or casting.
- Complex, organic geometries with limited impact on part cost
- Consolidation of multi-component assembly into a single part
- No upfront tooling costs
- Fast production for parts within 24 hours
- Internal features for advanced heat transfer and flow applications
What are the limitations/ disadvantages of 3D Printing?expand_less expand_more
Build Size Restrictions
Slow and costly for mass Production
Texture, material and colour limitations
Minimum wall thickness for optimal printability
What is 3D printing used for? Common 3D printing applications?expand_less expand_more
- Form and fit prototypes
- Housings and enclosures
- Medical devices
- Snap fits
- Jigs and fixtures
- Heat exchangers and heat sinks
- Engine components
- Fuel injectors
- Surgical instrumentation
- Prostheses and Orthoses
How much does 3D printing cost?expand_less expand_more
3D printing cost per part is dependent on a multitude of factors, including design, material, process, and post print operations. Typically, the post print operations account for most of the part cost, especially if manual labor is involved. In general, the laser powder bed sintering processes like SLS and MJF are the most optimal economic choices for end use parts if cost is a key factor.
How do I choose a 3D printing technology?expand_less expand_more
When selecting a 3D printing technology, first determine critical design requirements like strength, temperature resistance, water resistance, aesthetics, or durability. This will often help you determine if a metal or plastic 3D printing is needed for your application. Check out this 3D printing material selection guide for further assistance on technology options to align with your design requirements.
Is part orientation important in 3D Printing?expand_less expand_more
Part orientation is crucial in 3D printing, especially if using 3D printing for rapid prototyping. Not only can part orientation affect the quality of your printed parts, but it can also affect how fast your part can be produced.
At Protolabs, we recommend you let us orient your parts to produce the best quality part efficiently.
What are the 7 different types of additive manufacturing?expand_less expand_more
VAT Polymerisation/ Photopolymerisation – Photopolymer resin is placed in a VAT from which a part is constructed layer-by-layer using ultraviolet light to cure or harden the resin. A platform moves the part down after each new layer is produced until the final product is revealed. At Protolabs, we offer stereolithography (SLA), which uses the VAT polymerisation method.
Other services include Carbon DLS – digital light synthesis, DLP – direct light processing, CLIP – continuous liquid interface production, and DPP – daylight polymer printing.
Powder Bed Fusion/ PBF – Powder resin/metal is placed into a tray/bed, melted, and fused with a laser or electron beam. At Protolabs, we offer two types of powder bed fusion services at Protolabs selective laser sintering (SLS) and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS).
Other services include EBM – Electron Beam Melting.
Material Jetting – material is dispensed from a printhead, not too dissimilar to that on a normal 2D printer. Material is dispensed in droplets of photosensitive material solidified under an ultraviolet light, built up layer-by-layer. At Protolabs, we offer PolyJet & 3D Printed Silicone (60-65%), utilising the material jetting printing method.
Other services include DOD – Drop on Demand and NPJ – NanoParticle Jetting.
Binder Jetting – Not too dissimilar to powder bed fusion methods, such as selective laser sintering. Powder materials are spread in a bed. Then, rather than a laser that melts and fuses parts, a printhead deposits a binding agent onto layers of powder, binding the layers together to form a part. Binder jetting is sometimes known as “inkjet”. At Protolabs, we offer Multi Jet Fusion, a binder jetting method of 3D printing.
Material Extrusion – A material, generally a thermoplastic polymer, is forced through a heated nozzle, which is then deposited onto a build platform in a continuous, selective stream to build up the part layer by layer.
Services that use the material extrusion method include CDD – Composite fibre fabrication, FFF – fused filament fabrication and FDM – fused deposition modelling (the latter is a service offered by our partner network, HUBS.)
Sheet Lamination – Thin sheets of material, such as paper, plastic or foil, are bonded layer-by-layer to form a single part that is cut. Material is generally supplied by a feed of rollers and is laminated by either ultrasonic welding, adhesive or heat and pressure. This method combines additive and subtractive manufacturing, in that the material is layered up to make an object and subtractive, the part is then cut away from this layered material.
Services that use the sheet lamination method include LOM – laminated object manufacturing, UC – ultrasonic consolidation, SDL – Selective deposition lamination and CBAM – composite-based additive manufacturing.
Directed Energy Deposition – Parts are created directly as Material is melted by a laser, electron beam or plasma arc as it is deposited. Material is added layer-by-layer and solidifies. This offering is often used for repairing material features on existing parts but can be used for creating also.
Services that make use of the directed energy deposition method include LENS – laser engineering mesh formation, DLF – direct light production, DMD – direct metal deposition, LC - 3D laser coating, Aerosol jet, EBAM – electron beam additive manufacturing, LDW – laser deposition welding and hybrid manufacturing.
How large of a part can you 3D print?expand_less expand_more
The maximum size of the part depends on the bounding box in the 3D printing machine being used.
Please see maximum part sizes for each process above.
Why type of file format is needed for 3D printing?expand_less expand_more
Though all file types are ultimately converted to STL (.stl) before printing, the recommended file type to upload is STEP (.stp/.step). SOLIDWORKS (.sldprt), and IGES (.igs/.iges) files. Check out further guidance on how to design .stil files for 3D printing. Learn more about .stl files for 3D printing.
What is an STL file?expand_less expand_more
STL files are considered the preferred and standard file type for 3D printing. STL files describe the part’s surface by breaking it into triangles and listing the location of each point of every triangle, including which side of the triangle faces outwards. Compared to other CAD file formats, STL files have relatively little information, describing only the surface geometry of a three-dimensional shape, not factoring in other attributes such as colour, texture etc.
So, what does STL stand for? STL has several backronyms, such as Standard Triangle Language and Standard Tessellation Language, but was originally taken from the word and process stereolithography.
To learn more about STL files and how to design for them, read our tip here.
Is 3D printing mainly used for prototyping?expand_less expand_more
While additive manufacturing is excellent
for prototyping because it is a very cost
effective way of producing many different
designs during the development phase,
it is also increasingly used to make final
parts. Indeed, there are many advantages
of using 3D printing for production, but
more on that later.
Is 3D printing suitable for larger volumes?expand_less expand_more
Increased automation and faster production speeds mean that if you need anything up to a few hundred parts, then 3D printing could be the answer you are looking for.
Can 3D Printing be used for mass production?expand_less expand_more
3D printing is increasingly used to produce end-use parts. However, it is generally not the preferred manufacturing method for mass production. Whilst the speed and flexibility make it perfect for prototyping, when produced parts at mass, lead times and costs can struggle to match that of more traditional methods. Regarding mass production, manufacturers tend to favour injection moulding, which is faster and cheaper when producing at scale. However, don’t rule out 3D printing from the mass production stage in the future. 3D printing is especially good for customisable products and variable quantities.
What are supports in 3D Printing?expand_less expand_more
The support is an added part that supports any overhanging material, keeps it in the correct position, and helps avoid deformation. This support structure generally needs to be removed after, which means the part must go through post-processing.
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