Proto Labs has become well-known in the 3D printing industry, but the company, which was established in 1999, has actually only been in the 3D printing business for a few years. Before that, it was known for rapid prototyping via injection molding, and despite the fact that it has added CNC machining as well as 3D printing to its repertoire, injection molding hasn’t been neglected in recent years – in fact, that aspect of Proto Labs’ business is doing better than ever.
Low volume production and customization are two priorities for Proto Labs, and the company has made it a point to address what it sees as a gap in manufacturing. Most manufacturers have minimum order quantities, requiring customers to purchase larger volumes than they perhaps needed. Meanwhile, they’d often have to work with multiple vendors to prototype and produce a variety of parts, resulting in unnecessarily high cost and time, in addition to excess parts. Proto Labs is now tailoring its services to cater to those companies, offering both on-demand manufacturing and prototyping for low-volume, high-mix part orders.
“Since every manufacturing project is different, our two injection molding options let customers begin to focus on what is really needed from their tooling,” said Becky Cater, global product manager for injection molding at Proto Labs. “Whether it’s a product development need for molded prototypes or a strategic partnership for on-demand production parts, we now have a total solution for the entire life cycle of a product.”
According to Proto Labs, the new on-demand manufacturing service offers more competitive prices, plus guaranteed lifetime mold maintenance and ownership. You can learn more about the services here.
That’s not all that’s new from Proto Labs – the company is also turning to metrology. Proto Labs is opening a new metrology lab to improve inspection reporting on end-use production parts. It’s the company’s first metrology lab, and it holds a variety of standard inspection equipment in addition to several 3D scanners that provide an automated 360-degree look at parts in only minutes. Proto Labs provides the standard range of First Article Inspection Reports, as well as a digital inspection report that includes a precision surface scan along with a detailed color map for a direct CAD-to-scan comparison, allowing manufacturers to quickly identify dimensional variances on parts.
“Digital inspection reporting is a final checkpoint for the digital thread as it moves from CAD model to final part,” said Jeff Schipper, director of special operation at Proto Labs, and lead engineer in the metrology lab. “We’ve always provided our customers with front-end design analysis on their CAD models really fast—digital inspections bookend this process by significantly reducing the cost and time associated with conventional inspection reporting.”
Proto Labs is another company that has proven it’s well aware that 3D printing alone won’t change the face of manufacturing – it’s 3D printing along with older means of production, such as injection molding, plus other forms of sophisticated 3D technology including metrology. You can take a virtual tour of Proto Labs’ digital manufacturing facility here. Discuss in the Proto Labs forum at 3DPB.com.