October 22, 2020

Consultative Design Analysis Prepares Parts for Production

By Nicole Hopper

The key to getting a part made at Protolabs is having a CAD model suited to our manufacturing system. In fact, it’s the principle our company was founded on over two decades ago when Larry Lukis wrote a complex software system to reduce the time it took to get injection-molded parts by automating the traditional manufacturing process to communicate with a network of mills and presses, running off the very CAD models our system still requires today.

When you upload your CAD file for a molded part into our quoting software, within a few hours you will receive your quote, along with some useful information including prep for part orientation, gate and ejector system design, mold design, toolpath information, and part design analysis. This analysis features design for manufacturability feedback to ensure your design is producible within our system.

But, what happens when your CAD model isn’t quite suited to our system? Or, you need help getting it to meet our guidelines? That’s where our new, consultative design analysis for injection molded parts comes in.

Consultative Design Service
Our free Consultative Design Service helps improve manufacturability of your plastic parts.

Free Consultative Design Analysis for Injection Molded Parts

Simply put, our Consultative Design Service (CDS) helps you update your CAD model to address the manufacturability feedback you received with your quote. One of our experienced injection molding applications engineers will work with you on your part design to improve manufacturability and ensure your part is moldable.

The first step in this process is having your project vetted by our applications engineering team to make sure it meets certain criteria to be eligible for CDS, such as having gone through the iteration phases and being ready to place an order. This will also depend on the manufacturability feedback received on your design, and your understanding of how to move forward with that. Your account representative and one of our application engineers will engage you in a conversation to see if this process is right for you.

"Sometimes it’s tricky to either translate our DFM, or sometimes it’s tricky to figure out a way to build your model," said Mike Adams, applications engineer. "We have customers who are all over the map as far as how much experience they have designing for injection molding."

From there, the engineer you are working with will talk through the design feedback from your quote, offer suggestions, and make the actual updates to your CAD file for you so that your part can move back into the ordering system, and on to production.

"At the end of the day, we are there to get our customers over the goal line fast," said Adams. "Speed is our game, and this service is all about the customer experience."

Consultative Design Service vs. Protolabs Proposed Revisions

Repeat customers might be familiar with the Protolabs Proposed Revisions (PPR) process, in which you receive a quote with design feedback on features that don’t pass the criteria to be manufacturable within the Protolabs system, and our engineering team suggests changes or updates that must be approved to move on to production. CDS differs from the PPR process in that it is done in a consultative fashion.

Following the CDS practice, the application engineer engages the customer, talks through the issues that came up in the manufacturability analysis, suggests solutions, and updates the CAD model accordingly. Because the service is consultative and conversational, unlike the PPR process, our application engineering team can also help by reviewing designs, rather than just sending required changes to meet manufacturability guidelines. While it isn’t the typical use case, this means CDS can also be used to help customers cut costs.

"We know our process better than most of our customers do, so there are other things that we can see on a part (outside of the manufacturability specifications)," said Adams. "I just spent a couple hours on the phone with a customer working on their first version of a new assembly, going over each and every one of their parts and what we could do to make it less expensive and faster for us to manufacture. We went through and updated all of their parts as an assembly and sent it off. So, even though the parts were technically manufacturable, we were still able to help the customer out."

Watershed medical molding part
We carry a number of common plastics and resins used in medical molding, and we work extensively in the medical industry, including producing components for this robotic exoskeleton made by Parker Hannifin.

Medical Molding

While this consultative design service is available to customers across all industries, it is a highlight of our expanded medical molding capabilities. Our medical injection molding service provides the speed-in-development necessary in this high-requirement space, with capabilities including certification, clean rooms, and medical-grade plastics. Our team of medical molding manufacturing experts will help take your components from prototype to production and through regulatory body submissions.

CDS works within that service to help quickly improve part manufacturability and address any manufacturability issues at the beginning of the quoting process, accelerating ordering, production, and speed to market.