Partnership with GE Additive Builds on Protolabs' 3D Printing Growth
Last month, Protolabs became one of the first companies to join GE Additive’s newly launched Manufacturing Partner Network (MPN), committing to invest in GE Additive equipment, materials, software, and technology.
As part of the agreement, Protolabs will use the GE Additive equipment and technology as a development platform, to scale production and industrialization of all work that is referred through the MPN. GE Additive hopes that the MPN can enable 3D printing’s next step, transitioning 3DP from primarily a prototyping technology to a volume production process. Protolabs was named to the MPN along with Canada-based Burloak Technologies and Philadelphia-based Carpenter Technology Corporation.
This partnership with GE Additive builds on Protolabs’ strategy to continue developing and expanding its service offerings of industrial-grade 3D printing (additive manufacturing) technologies. Over the past two years, Protolabs added PolyJet and Multi Jet Fusion technologies to its 3D printing services, which now brings the total service offerings in additive manufacturing to five processes, in addition to stereolithography, selective laser sintering, and direct metal laser sintering.
Beyond added technologies, in 2016 Protolabs opened a 77,000 sq.-ft. 3D printing facility near Raleigh, North Carolina, replacing two significantly smaller buildings and opening what is now considered one of the largest additive manufacturing plants in the world.
The GE Additive partnership also underscores Protolabs’ technology-agnostic service model approach.
What does technology-agnostic mean? At Protolabs, it means that because the company itself is not an equipment manufacturer, nor is it affiliated with any machine OEM, Protolabs can bring online a variety of services and equipment, and quickly integrate those into its offerings.
Protolabs now deploys more than 150 additive manufacturing machines from companies such as 3D Systems, Concept Laser (which was acquired by GE in 2016), and HP.
“We take great pride” in being at the forefront of the additive manufacturing industry, said Vicki Holt, president and CEO of Protolabs. “We are excited to partner with GE Additive to further advance and democratize access to industrial-grade additive manufacturing technologies and materials.”
Jason Oliver, president and CEO of GE Additive, said, “We already enjoy a strong relationship with Protolabs, so I’m thrilled that they will be part of the MPN from day one. We share a similar set of beliefs around providing access to technology and experts, the transformative impact of additive, and the power of collaboration...”
GE Additive sources say that the MPN will add additional manufacturing partners in various regions of the U.S. and beyond, but by design it will remain a select group of additive manufacturing specialists.