Proto Labs was founded in 1999 by Larry Lukis, a successful entrepreneur and computer geek who wanted to radically reduce the time...
Proto Labs was founded in 1999 by Larry Lukis, a successful entrepreneur and computer geek who wanted to radically reduce the time it took to get injection-molded plastic parts. His solution was to automate the traditional manufacturing process by developing complex software that communicated with a network of mills and presses. As a result, plastic and metal parts could be produced in a fraction of the time it had ever taken before.
Over the next decade, we continued to expand our injection molding envelope, introduced quick-turn CNC machining, and opened facilities in Europe and Japan. In 2014, we launched our industrial-grade 3D printing service to allow product developers, designers, and engineers an easier path to move from early prototyping to low-volume production.
Today, Proto Labs is a leading rapid manufacturer of custom prototypes and on-demand production parts due to our commitment to accelerating our customers’ product development. Our manufacturing services and process are always expanding in order to meet the ever-changing needs of product developers and engineers around the world.
At the heart of our manufacturing speed is our proprietary software, web-based quoting system, and automated processes. It all starts with a customer uploading a 3D CAD model online and receiving an interactive quote within hours. Each quote contains design feedback and real-time pricing—so customers can adjust material, lead times, quantities, and more and instantly see the impact on pricing. Once an order is placed, digital manufacturing instructions are sent to the factory floor for production.
3D printing at Proto Labs consists of five commercial-grade technologies: stereolithography, selective laser sintering, PolyJet, Multi Jet Fusion, and direct metal laser sintering. In addition to a range of capabilities, we have process controls and quality standards in place to ensure precise parts every time. Each 3D CAD model is carefully reviewed by an applications engineer before the build begins and carefully monitored during each build.
Our CNC machining process uses 3- and 5-axis axis milling along with turning with live tooling to machine parts from more than 30 engineering-grade plastic and metal materials. The result is functional parts suitable for form and fit testing, jigs and fixtures, and end-use applications. Our automated CNC machining process can manufacture and ship up to 200 parts in as fast as one day.
Rapid injection molding at Proto Labs leverages our proprietary software to quickly fabricate aluminum tooling and mold plastic parts within days. Our molding service offers two options—prototyping and on-demand manufacturing—that enables customers to select a tooling solution tailored to their project’s requirements. Our injection molding service includes multiple processes: plastic molding, overmolding, insert molding, and liquid silicone rubber molding, and we offer more than 100 thermoplastic resins and elastomeric materials.
In 2017, Proto Labs acquired Rapid Manufacturing, expanding our service offering to include rapid sheet metal manufacturing and enhanced CNC machining capabilities. We now have more than 12 manufacturing facilities located around the world and continue to explore new ways to accelerate product development, reduce costs, and optimize our customers’ supply chain with rapid manufacturing technologies.
For more information contact Proto Labs
3D Printing Technologies for Protoyping and Production
There are many different additive manufacturing processes to choose from, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Our white paper examines the various 3D printing technologies—SL, SLS, DMLS, FDM, PolyJet and others—being used by today’s product designers and engineers to build better products faster.
Selecting the Right Material for Industrial 3D Printing
This industrial 3D printing white paper explores the properties of thermoplastic and metal materials available with direct metal laser sintering, selective laser sintering, and stereolithography technologies. It also includes a quick-reference guide of material attributes that can steer you toward the proper grade.
Designing for Moldability: Fundamental Elements
Whether you’re new to injection molding or a veteran of manufacturing, our comprehensive Designing for Moldability white paper is a quick reference guide to wall thicknesses, surface finishes, tolerances, materials and other thermoplastic molding insights. It’s a thorough look at injection molding that might just provide a few tips to help you make better prototype or production parts.
Thermoplastic Material Selection for Injection Molding
There are more than 85,000 commercial options for plastic materials listed in materials databases. Needless to say, narrowing down that extensive list of materials can sometimes seem like a formidable task. Our comprehensive white paper provides a highly technical observation of thermoplastic resins and their properties for engineers who want to quantitatively analyze a part; determine loads, stresses, strains and environments; and make material decisions based on the analysis.
Data, Digitla Threads, and Industry 4.0
The manufacturing industry is undergoing a revolution as automation software and new technologies have made processes leaner and innovation faster. This movement is often referred to as Industry 4.0 and it’s changing the entire product development cycle. In this white paper, we share how companies are rethinking traditional manufacturing in order to accelerate development, reduce risk, and drive innovation.
Selecting a Rapid Prototyping Process
Product designers and engineers have a number of prototyping options available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. From stereolithography, selective laser sintering, and direct metal laser sintering to CNC machining and injection molding, our free Prototyping Processes white paper is a highly technical look at the various manufacturing processes. It lets you weigh the benefits of each, so you can focus in on a process best suited for your project.
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Maple Plain, MN