Checking the Boxes on Your Approved Vendor List
To make it as painless as possible to add Protolabs to your company’s approved vendor list—and streamline part ordering as a result—we pulled together some of the most important areas that procurement and supply chain teams often look for when sourcing a manufacturing supplier.
Here are 11 reasons why Protolabs is a good fit.
1. COMPETITIVE PRICING
Competitive and accurate pricing is available with your quote in a matter of hours. Production pricing is also available for injection molding, CNC machining, and additive manufacturing. Plus, our applications engineers are always available to discuss key cost trade-offs for designs.
2. QUALITY ASSURANCE
Unlike quality measures of traditional manufacturing systems—usually conducted at the end of the production chain—our quality system is embedded throughout the entire process. Traceability and transparency of projects are found every step along the way.
Injection Molding. Process development reports and basic inspection reports are included with each order, and enhanced inspection reports, like FAIs, are available upon request. In addition, our on-demand manufacturing option allows for ISO 13485-certified injection molding for plastic medical device components.
CNC Machining. All machined parts are inspected for cosmetic conformance to workmanship standards and dimensional conformance on at least three dimensions (typically X, Y, and Z), and with production parts for machining, we also provide conventional inspection reporting like FAIs, Certificate of Compliance (CoC) documentation, and additional certifications like ISO 9001 and AS9100.
3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing. To ensure high-quality parts, we offer powder analysis, material traceability, process validation, and inspection reporting on printed parts, and our metal 3D printing process is ISO 9001 and AS9100D-certified. With metal 3D printing, you’re also able to choose from several secondary processes like post-process machining, tapping, reaming, and heat treatments that produce end-use production parts.
Sheet Metal Fabrication. Sheet metal fabrication happens in our New Hampshire facility and is ISO 9001:2015 certified. Inspections provide design verification for sheet metal parts, and in addition to our standard internal inspection process for all manufactured parts, additional inspection services are available upon request. This includes FAI, CoC, and material and finish certifications. We also offer welding, hardware insertion, plating, silk screening, and powder coating to provide complete sheet metal components—and total traceability—all under one roof.
View all of our facility certifications here.
3. QUOTING AND MANUFACTURING SPEED
We provide interactive quotes with free design analysis within a few hours and have expedite options across all four of our manufacturing service lines, so we can ship parts in as fast as day.
4. PRODUCTION SCHEDULING
Automated algorithms have been programmed to help prioritize and streamline ordering and scheduling processes to accelerate the manufacturing process. This is a key element in the digital equation that allows us to ship parts in as fast as 24 hours.
More than 1,000 pieces of automated manufacturing equipment run at 80% capacity to avoid production delays. You’re always at the front of the line so we are a reliable option if you run into a supply chain emergency or line-down situation.
We’re technology agnostic with many different equipment providers, so we're not reliant on one OEM. And when we add new machines to our manufacturing floors, they are typically customized for speed and accuracy like our existing equipment.
All proprietary 3D CAD files, intellectual property, or customer information is protected. And server redundancies are in place so data is protected and backed up. We are also ITAR compliant, and since we are a global company, we must ensure that employees outside of the U.S. don’t have access to any parts or part information for ITAR classified projects. This means keeping separate databases for different countries, having procedures in place to ensure that any parts or information we share publicly or between locations aren’t ITAR controlled, and not allowing employees from other locations access to the manufacturing floor or other secured areas. We also prohibit photo, video, and audio recording from visitors in our offices and manufacturing facilities.
Multiple measures are in place to ensure a safe work environment on the production floor including sound dampening, robotic block handlers, and safety harness systems. At our CNC machining facility, for example, we installed a Gorbel Tether Track fall protection system, which is an engineered track-and-trolley system over each milling machine. The system uses a self-retracting life line and a personal fall arrest harness to protect our employees as they work on top of a mills which immediately locks and stops like a seatbelt if it senses a fall.
We’ve also put in place many different safety precautions to protect both our employees and customers against COVID-19. Currently, facility tours with customers have been paused but you can virtually tour our CNC machining facility, molding facility (sampling), and additive manufacturing facility online.
9. MATERIAL INVENTORY
You can choose from more than 100 different thermoplastic and elastomer materials for molding and more than 30 plastic and metal materials for CNC machining. With 3D printing, we have 20+ plastic resins and metal powders for both prototyping and production-grade, end-use parts. And we also have a handful of sheet metal options including galvanized and galvannealed steel. We also accept customer-supplied materials and provide custom color matching for molded parts. Essentially, we have a variety of materials that can meet nearly any project requirement.
10. EXTENSIVE MANUFACTURING EXPERIENCE
We have experienced engineering, quality, and procurement teams and highly skilled machine and press operators overseeing pre-production, production, and post-production activities. With additive manufacturing, for example, we’ve seen over 1 million 3D-printed part geometries over the past 20 years. And if you have any manufacturing or procurement questions, you can talk with an in-house applications engineer at any time.
11. SINGLE SUPPLIER
We manufacture all parts in-house for consistency, speed, and reliability. But we also serve as your single contact for things like quality control and finishing options in-house—or with a trusted third-party vendor—to ensure you are getting end-use parts as fast as possible.