Rapid prototyping and low-volume production facility Proto Labs, located in Minnesota, recently won its third straight Frost & Sullivan 2017 Manufacturing Leadership Award, which was a high point as founder and board chairman Larry Lukis announced his imminent retirement. The digital manufacturing company began expanding its 3D printing capabilities a couple of years ago, and currently offers CNC machining, injection molding, and 3D printing production services to its customers, and just announced that it has added PolyJet technology to its available industrial additive manufacturing service processes. We have been eagerly anticipating this addition, as Proto Labs Americas VP and General Manager Rob Bodor noted at SOLIDWORKS 2017 last month the upcoming beta launch of this capability.
“The addition of PolyJet is a testament to our effort to further expand our capabilities in a technology-agnostic manner. We firmly believe in providing a variety of manufacturing options so that our customers can choose the best process for their particular application,” said Rich Baker, CTO at Proto Labs.
Proto Labs made the announcement today at the Advanced Design & Manufacturing Expo in Cleveland. The PolyJet process will “jet out” liquid photopolymer droplets from multiple jets, and are UV cured the second they hit the build platform. Once the print job is done, the support structures are removed from the object with water and a special chemical solution, but no other post-processing or finishing is required. Engineers and product designers who use this method will be able to manufacture overmolded and elastomeric prototypes, without having to invest in additional tooling.Parts produced through the PolyJet process come out with smooth surface finishes, and are able to support complex geometries, with flexible features. Some of the more common applications for this process include soft-touch and two-tone aesthetics, seals and gaskets, and multi-material prototypes with both rigid and elastomeric materials, like medical devices and components. Users can choose a range of hardnesses, and combine multiple colors and materials into a part; Proto Labs’ materials selection includes “multiple Shore A hardnesses of tear-resistant Agilus 30 for increased durability.”
Proto Labs now offers a total of four 3D printing technologies:
- Direct Metal Laser Sintering
- Selective Laser Sintering
The company uses several different 3D printers, with large build sizes and quick production times; for customers who wish to use their PolyJet process, Proto Labs utilizes its Stratasys Objet260 Connex3 and Objet350 Connex3 3D printers. The maximum build size for PolyJet parts is 13.4″ x 13.4″ x 7.9″, with a layer thickness of 30 microns (minimum feature size 0.012″). Digital Clear, Digital Black, and Digital White colors are available for Shore A hardnesses of 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 85, and 95, and rigid. Customers can upload their own 3D CAD design files using Proto Labs’ proprietary software, get a quote instantly, and receive their 3D printed parts in just a few days.
If you’re in Cleveland today or tomorrow, stop by the Advanced Design & Manufacturing Expo – you can visit Proto Labs at Booth #717 to learn more about its PolyJet process, and its other available rapid manufacturing technologies. Discuss in the Proto Labs forum at 3DPB.com.
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