By Anthony J. Lockwood
Dear Desktop Engineering Reader:
Today’s Check It Out video is a 4-minute effort from Proto Labs. This is a really good production, which will tell you something about the quality Proto Labs brings to its craft. In fact, while tooling around the Proto Labs website, I found a couple of numbers that might interest you as much as this video: 22,000 and 24 million. Respectively, that’s how many molds and parts Proto Labs has produced over the past decade for its clients worldwide. That’s a lot of expertise, experience, and repeat customers. Still, I know that for some of you, Proto Labs may be one of those outfits that you know better by another name: Protomold or First Cut.
First Cut is the CNC machining side of the Proto Labs. First Cut uses standard materials — real blocks of plastic or aluminum, for example — to produce functional prototype parts, generally in the 1- to 10-unit range and within a 10- by 7- by 3.75-inch envelope. Protomold does the rapid injection molding. It can produce 10 or more than 10,000 injection molded parts in pretty much any resin that you can think of — ABS, nylon, and so forth.
With both services, you upload a 3D CAD model and receive a web-based, interactive price quote later the same day. Your quote comes complete with options, recommendations for better machining, etc., and – get this – your price quote is real not a “it’ll cost you about” quote. And, depending on your order, both services can ship parts to you in as little as one business day.
Now, this all begs the question: how do they do it? The key to Proto Labs is its proprietary software and its automated manufacturing systems. The software runs on a compute cluster capable of more than 2 trillion floating-point operations per second. What this means for you is that your design is analyzed, toolpaths developed, and parts produced automatically and quickly.
Proto Labs is all about getting you high-quality machined or injected molded parts quickly, and they’re good at it. They have five offices worldwide with manufacturing facilities in the US, England, and Japan that ensure you are getting near local service wherever you are.
Today’s Check It Out video goes over all this in far more detail that I have room for. After the video, scroll down a bit and you’ll see links to First Cut and Protomold, where you’ll find a wealth of details on materials, tolerances, and what not.
For 10 years now, Proto Labs has made the low-volume production of CNC machined parts and injection molded parts both fast and cost-effective for design engineers and manufacturers worldwide. Proto Labs could be just the sort of partner you’ve been looking for.
Thanks, pal. — Lockwood
Anthony J. Lockwood
Editor at Large, Desktop Engineering