Proto Labs Founder Larry Lukis Set to Retire Knowing Company is on a Strong Path with Third Straight Manufacturing Leadership Award

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proto labs logo2016 was a busy year for Minnesota-headquartered Proto Labs, purportedly the world’s fastest digital manufacturing source for low-volume production parts and custom prototypes. The company’s motto is “Real Parts. Really Fast,” and it offers 3D printing, injection molding, and CNC machining to produce parts for its customers in just days. Last year, Proto Labs teamed up with for a free webinar on Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), opened a new manufacturing facility and expanded services with Concept Laser, had a good increase in revenue, and introduced its new rapid insert molding technology at SOLIDWORKS 2017.

Larry Lukis

Larry Lukis [Photo: Proto Labs]

This is all great news, and probably gives the founder and board chairman of Proto Labs, Larry Lukis, great peace of mind in leaving the company that he launched 18 years ago in such good shape. Proto Labs announced yesterday that Lukis has decided to retire from Proto Labs, and will not be standing up for re-election on the board at the company’s annual meeting this May.

Proto Labs got its start with Lukis, as a small startup called ProtoMold Company, back in 1999. Lukis, in order to reduce how long it took product developers to get plastic injection-molded parts, came up with the solution of writing front-end software programming that would automate the 3D CAD model design analysis. For quick-turn part production (remember, real parts, real fast), it could be sent digitally to interconnected manufacturing equipment.

Proto Labs grew quickly, adding production facilities not only in the US, but also in Japan and Europe, and by 2012 it was public on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: PRLB). By the end of 2016, annual revenue was reported as being nearly $300 million. Proto Labs isn’t the only thing Lukis has been working on – he created the Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award back in 2011, which provides in-kind manufacturing services to other startups, and launched Digi Labs in 2014, to accelerate and invest in startup companies that specialized in everything from virtual reality devices to compact marine tech.


Proto Labs at SWW 17 [Photo: Sarah Goehrke]

Vicki Holt, President and CEO of Proto Labs, said, “Larry’s brilliant computing mind and leadership presence in the boardroom have been invaluable. He is the reason Proto Labs is the company it is today, and we’ll certainly still look to him at times for advice in the future.”

Steve Wehrwein, a longtime Proto Labs board member who’s served as its lead independent director for six years, will be Lukis’ successor as the chairman of the board.

“While the company has grown significantly over the past decade, Proto Labs has never lost that tenacious startup mentality that it was founded on. With the current executive leadership, I know Proto Labs will be in good hands for many years to come as it continues to push the boundaries of what’s possible in manufacturing,” said Lukis.

frost-sullivan-logoThere’s another reason Lukis can retire knowing his company is in good hands and doing well: for the third year in a row, it’s been recognized by Frost & Sullivan, the Growth Partnership Company. Proto Labs has been awarded a 2017 Manufacturing Leadership Award by the corporate growth consulting firm, and will be recognized at the 13th Annual Manufacturing Leadership Awards Gala, on the last day of the Manufacturing Leadership Summit this June. These awards are given to honor individuals and companies who are shaping the future of global manufacturing.


Holt said, “We are thrilled to be recognized by Frost & Sullivan as a leader in digital manufacturing. Proto Labs’ continued success depends on hiring and retaining top industry talent. It not only helps us serve our customers more effectively, but also cultivates the next generation of manufacturing leaders.”

frost-sullivan-diagramFor over 50 years, Frost & Sullivan has helped its clients achieve growth, through integrating three value propositions:

  • Vision and strategy
  • Brand and demand
  • Technology and IP

There are a total of twelve award categories, and Proto Labs was recognized in “Talent Leadership Management,” for its progress in developing a workforce with the necessary skills of the Manufacturing 4.0 era. The company’s talent development initiative has opportunities for fast growth, and offers a flexible, open work environment, competitive wages and benefits, management training and tuition reimbursement programs, and, thanks to donations, community STEM support. Discuss in the Proto Labs forum at


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