For low-volume production, Proto Labs, with its global headquarters in Minnesota, is the world’s fastest digital manufacturer. Founded in 1999 as the ProtoMold Company by Larry Lukis, who was seeking a quicker and more cost-effective way to produce injection molded parts, the venture was clearly very successful. Thus far the company has focused its efforts on one-day injection molding services and CNC machining only. But all of that is about to change. Now they’re introducing an advanced additive manufacturing service for custom prototyping to its Telford, UK production facility that will greatly expand business offerings and customer opportunities.
New stereolithography services will aid customers — like designers and engineers — by providing more ways to get a product from prototyping to low-volume production. Lee Ball, Operations Director for Proto Labs, explains how customers can benefit from this new stereolithography service:
“We are excited to be able to offer this new additive manufacturing service to our customers in Europe. When compared to the commonly available fused deposition modelling (FDM) processes that are popular with hobbyists, SL offers a vastly improved level of resolution, accuracy and surface finish. SL can build parts with a layer thickness of 25 microns (0.0250mm) compared to the typical, entry-level FDM layer thickness of around 127 microns (0.127mm).”
Stereolithography uses materials that mimic polypropylene and thermoplastics, and it works great when prototyping small parts comprised of complex formations. It provides smoother surfaces and higher accuracy, proving to be a better option than the FDM process more commonly used by 3D printing hobbyists.
Proto Labs’ US location already offers selective laser sintering (SLS) and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), and in 2016, the company plans to once again expand these offerings to some of its other locations. The company is represented in Japan, Germany, France, and Italy too.
In order to keep up on all of the changes within Proto Labs, the company is offering a “Digital Manufacturing” TCT-hosted webinar on September 17th. It will cover four learning objectives: what prototyping technology looks like today; the technology most suited to your project; how you can get support from Proto Labs for your project; and, finally, how digital manufacturing can help. Webinar speakers will be two Proto Labs employees: Damien Hennessey (Commercial Director) and Saleem Shariff (Senior Customer Service Engineer). You can register for this event here.
All of this is good news for Proto Labs fans and fans of additive manufacturing! Let us know your thoughts in the Proto Labs SLS Services forum thread over at 3DPB.com.