Digital Manufacturing Guides and Trend Reports

Read in-depth guides and trend reports on rapid manufacturing processes, industry innovations, part design, material properties, and more.

Manufacturing Technology

Rapid Prototyping Processes

Each rapid manufacturing process comes with its own advantages and disadvantages during prototyping. From 3D printing to CNC machining to injection molding, our white paper is a technical look at different manufacturing processes. It lets you weigh the benefits of each, so you can focus on a process best suited for your project.

What is 3D Printing?

This introductory guide to 3D printing examines the various additive manufacturing technologies—SLA, SLS, DMLS, FDM, PolyJet, and others—being used by today’s product designers and engineers to build prototypes and even functional, end-use parts.

3D Printing for End-Use Production

Industrial-grade 3D printing has developed a solid reputation as a reliable process for prototyping parts. More recently, 3D printing has emerged as a potentially viable production option. This white paper offers an analysis of additive manufacturing technologies that may be redefining 3D printing as a manufacturing method for end-use parts.

Overmolding and Insert Molding

Overmolding and insert molding are regularly used to manufacture multi-material components for applications in industries such as medical and health care, automotive, and electronics. But it’s only recently that it also became a viable and cost-effective prototyping method. This white paper offers a primer on overmolding and insert molding and how they can be used both for prototyping during development and on-demand production.

Data, Digital Threads, and Industry 4.0

Just like how the steam engine led an industrial revolution centuries ago, software and data are changing the way we manufacture today. In this white paper, learn how industry-leading companies are accelerating the product development cycle through the use of new technologies and data analytics.

Product Development: Creating a Product Strategy Around Industry 4.0

Taking a broader view of Industry 4.0 and its impact on manufacturing reveals not only greater efficiency on the factory floor but a more responsive, customer-driven approach to product development. This white paper explores how companies can use digital manufacturing technologies to develop a more agile and responsive product strategy.

cnc machine milling and turning a metal part

What is CNC Machining?

CNC machining has been around for decades, and for good reason. It’s one the fastest manufacturing technologies for prototypes and end-use parts. Want to learn how you can optimize your product development cycles with CNC machining? This white paper shares how to design for the subtractive manufacturing process, select the best material for your application, and streamline new product development.

Supply Chain Management

Strategic management of your manufacturing supply chain is critical during product development and life cycle planning. This white paper illustrates how on-demand manufacturing can be used to reduce financial risk and accelerate speed to market through the implementation of supply chain safeguards.

Part illustration

What is Design for Additive Manufacturing?

Rapid advances in 3D printing technologies suggest it’s important to take a step back and keep yourself focused on the rules behind manufacturing printed parts

Part Design

Designing for Moldability: Fundamental Elements

Whether you’re new to the injection-molding process or a veteran of manufacturing, our comprehensive Designing for Moldability white paper is a quick reference guide to wall thicknesses, surface finishes, tolerances, materials, and other thermoplastic molding insights. It’s a thorough look at injection molding that might just provide a few tips to help you make better parts.

Designing for Moldability: Complex Features

In our second volume on designing parts for moldability, we dig deeper into some of the more complicated design challenges that product designers and engineers face. If your part has complex features that require undercuts and through-holes, see how the use of side-actions, sliding shutoffs, and pickouts can be used mold those features.

Scientific Molding Helps Ensure Repeatable Part Function

How to create consistency in injection molding part production through detailed, scientific processes. This guide covers the basic steps in setting up this process.

Metal 3D Printing Assembly Breakout

Combining Part Assemblies with Additive Manufacturing

A prime benefit of additive manufacturing is the ability to consolidate existing multi-part assemblies into a single part. In this guide, learn when and how to combine assemblies for additive, and explore related considerations such as finishing options, scalability, and, when to stick with traditional manufacturing.

Cosmetic Appearance

There are a lot of factors that can affect the cosmetic appearance of injection-molded plastic parts. Our white paper on cosmetics addresses the importance of part geometry, material selection, and mold design in minimizing or eliminating cosmetic flaws like sink, knit lines, flash, burn, and other issues that can arise during molding. Knowing the solutions to cosmetic issues early can improve the final appearance of your injection-molded parts.

technician using sheet metal press machine

Designing for Sheet Metal Fabrication

This in-depth look at sheet metal part design explores material considerations, manufacturing processes, design elements, and finishing options for sheet metal prototypes and low-volume production parts. From choosing the right material for your application to designing features that improve the manufacturability of your parts, this white paper is a comprehensive guide to the multi-step sheet metal fabrication process.

Material Consideration

Metal 3D Printing Materials Guide

Learn about metal 3D printing materials and DMLS process intricacies in this insightful guide.

3D Printing Materials

This industrial 3D printing guide explores the material properties available through additive manufacturing with direct metal laser sintering, stereolithography, Carbon DLS, selective laser sintering, Multi Jet Fusion, and PolyJet.


There are more than 85,000 commercial options for plastic materials listed in materials databases. Needless to say, narrowing down that extensive list of materials can sometimes seem like a formidable task. Our white paper provides a technical observation of thermoplastic resins and their properties for engineers who want to quantitatively analyze a part; determine loads, stresses, strains, and environments; and make material decisions based on the analysis.

Material Alternatives for Plastic Injection Molding

Navigating supply chain issues is a constant challenge, especially in times of material shortages. Accordingly, during material supply shortages, consider these resin substitutes for ABS, PC, PP, and other commonly molded thermoplastics.

Liquid Silicone Rubber

Our white paper on liquid silicone rubber (LSR) discusses the injection-molding process of the elastic material and offers guidelines to improve molded LSR parts. While there are some shared similarities to thermoplastic injection molding, LSR is a thermoset material with a unique set of design characteristics.


Learn about the material properties of metals as well as the various manufacturing processes used to produce them. We discuss which metals bring added strength, reduced weight, improved durability, and other benefits to help determine the right path for metal prototypes and low-volume production parts.

Trend Reports

Product Development Trends 2024

Innovation leaders share the factors shaping how we bring products to market today and in the future.

3D printed process

Market Insights and Forecasts for 3D Printing Trends in 2023

Based on a combination of survey data and extensive research, our 3D printing trend report takes the pulse of the global engineering community across many industries at a moment in time when 3D printing has become a mainstream manufacturing option for most companies. Read how 3D printing is advancing in areas like materials, production capabilities, sustainability, and artificial intelligence.

CNC cutting

Supply Chain Resilience Report

Supply networks drive the world's economies. Not only that, we are dependent on global supply chains for access to everything from food, to medical equipment, to energy. This is why it is more important than ever for organizations to shore up their supply chains and make them more resilient to both predictable and unpredictable disruptions. In this report, we look at supply chain risks, industry trends and strategies to combat concern including manufacturing automation, agile internal processes, supply chain monitoring, among others.

Charging Toward an Electric (Vehicle) Future

Automakers and tech firms are accelerating electric vehicle development while autonomous innovation has a longer journey. We're in an electric vehicle arms race, as one industry insider put it. Expect disruption and massive growth—are you ready?

Automotive: Reducing Component Weight

Government restrictions like CAFE standards are driving automakers to develop increasingly fuel-efficient vehicles. One way to do that is through reducing the weight of components in cars and trucks. This white paper looks at lightweight materials, like magnesium and aluminum, as well as plastic alternatives that can lessen the load. We also discuss different design considerations to help reduce part weight and the rapid manufacturing processes to get there fast.

How to Survive a Pandemic with Digital Manufacturing

COVID-19 has caused the acceleration of Industry 4.0 and emphasized how digital manufacturing is not just a business differentiator but a necessity in the 21st century. In a recent Protolabs survey, customers said digital manufacturing’s speed and flexibility are helping solve supply chain challenges.

Aerospace Manufacturing Methods for Prototyping and Production

Industry outlooks predict significant growth in the aerospace and defense sectors in the coming years, meaning rising production needs in these industries. This report explores how advanced manufacturing and 3D printing for iterative prototyping and accelerated development are helping these industries get to launch faster, and the benefits of leveraging a single supplier from pre-production through on-demand manufacturing. It also outlines material options, quality controls, and certifications for aerospace and aviation parts and the future of the industry as a whole.

Medical and Health Care: Accelerating Speed to Market

Speed to market is everything when it comes to development of medical components and devices. This white paper examines various rapid manufacturing options available to today’s medical design engineers and product developers. From 3D printing to injection molding, explore the strengths and weaknesses of each process as well as material options best suited for your particular application.