Developing the Next Generation of Manufacturing Leaders

Posted On April 3, 2018 By Protolabs
The Protolabs Foundation is aimed at growing and developing students' interest in STEM by making grants to organizations focused developing innovative science and technology educational programming.

According to Deloitte, of the 3.5 million manufacturing jobs that will be available over the next decade, an estimated 2 million of them will go unfilled due to talent shortages. It is imperative that as a leader in the industry, we do our part to nurture interest, engagement, and knowledge to close this gap. What are some of the ways we’re doing that?

Protolabs Foundation

In 2013, the Protolabs Foundation was established, after emerging from the company’s founder, Larry Lukis’ desire to give back. The Foundation is aimed at supporting the communities in which our various facilities are located through a number of initiatives. One of which is through grants that are made for innovative programming focused on advancing students’ interest in STEM fields.

The Foundation drew on data from the Minnesota Compass STEM in Minnesota project, which found that there are significant disparities in achievement between white students and students of color, and between low-income and higher-income students in measures of proficiency in STEM. Through this STEM giving, the Protolabs Foundation aims to make grants to organizations focused on transforming students’ interest in STEM fields into a demonstrated ability to succeed in a STEM career, as well as to organizations providing assistance to parents and families to support a child’s STEM education.

“These contributions help to ensure Protolabs continues to flourish, and help to build and sustain strong communities.” - Vicki Holt, Protolabs CEO
University Involvement

Protolabs has worked with many universities to provide gratis parts to support various programs. One such involvement was with Trinity University on a student research challenge project for NASA, in which an asteroid-sample retrieval and containment device for a simulated space mission needed to be designed, manufactured, and tested.

We recently collaborated with MIT to contribute content and additive manufacturing expertise for their upcoming MIT xPRO course, Additive Manufacturing for Innovative Design and Production. This course is designed for professionals in the field of engineering and product design who seek to understand both the technical and business aspects behind additive manufacturing. The MIT staff leaned on Protolabs’ additive manufacturing expertise—largely based on having built nearly 2 million unique geometries using various industrial 3D printing processes over the last 17 years.

We are also working with the PACE (Partners for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering Education) program as a contributor. PACE is led by General Motors, with a mission “to develop the automotive Product Lifecycle Management team of the future, by closing the gap between engineering education and practice at strategically-selected academic institutions worldwide.” Protolabs is offering discounted services to institutions participating with PACE and also providing teams participating in the program’s PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility Access) initiative with gratis services. In addition to Protolabs, PACE sponsoring partners include Siemens PLM Software, Autodesk, Oracle and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

The Protolabs Design Cube is one of the many resources we provide to both students and professional engineers to further their manufacturing knowledge.
Free Educational Resources

Protolabs has long offered a variety of free educational resources to help designers, engineers and students hone their skills and knowledge. Among our offerings:

  • Design aids: demonstrate how complex features can be designed into parts, how different resins impact finish, and other design elements that can enhance or compromise quality.
  • Dummies Books: look at the digital manufacturing tools available to today's product designers and engineers. Readers learn about various 3D printing, machining, and molding technologies, material options, tips for part design, and how digital manufacturing is being used for commercial applications in nearly every industry.
  • Material selectors: serve as quick reference guides to help users identify the right plastic and metal materials for their next project, listing specific measurements on properties to ensure the most suitable material and process for a part’s application.

We also regularly publish design guidelines and helpful tips, white papers, educational webinars, videos, and a journal.

Additionally, our quotes provide invaluable design for manufacturability (DFM) analysis—within hours of request for quote. This analysis provides feedback on potential manufacturability issues, allowing the user to make modifications before a part is produced, which saves money, time, and enables the product to get to market faster. Many university professors have incorporated getting quotes from Protolabs into their curriculum, as it gives real-world feedback—without spending money—on the viability of parts the students are designing. Other interactive benefits of our quotes include the ability to adjust finish, quantity and material, which gives additional insight. Explore a sample quote here.

Protolabs strongly values and seeks out ways to support the advancement of engineering and STEM education to nurture tomorrow’s engineers. We are honored and very excited to be in a position to give back to the industry and education community by sharing our expertise. 

Tagged: STEM, education