Award-winning digital manufacturer steps up to fight Covid-19

Posted on 30 Mar 2020 by Jonny Williamson

Protolabs, a world-leading specialist in custom prototypes and low-volume production parts, is using its unprecedented speed-to-market to help support the frontline battle against Covid-19.

Protolabs, which employs more than 450 people at its European headquarters in Telford, is using its 3D printing, CNC machining and injection moulding expertise to produce critical parts for testing and ventilator masks.

The company has played a key role in supporting Italian engineers in the conversion of ‘Easybreath’ snorkelling equipment into ventilator masks.

Protolabs - Charlotte Valve and Design

3D printed ‘Charlotte’ valves (pictured above) are being rapidly produced and shipped direct to the business’ customer Isinnova, who are producing kits that can be used to create a non-invasive ventilator mask.

The company is also urgently working with a highly multiplexed molecular diagnostics specialist to produce a series of plastic cassettes that will help house a critical medical solution used in testing for Covid-19.

AusDiagnostics approached Protolabs to see if it could injection mould 500 sample parts, a challenge that was immediately picked up by the Shropshire-based on-demand manufacturer.

The first CAD drawings were not fit for manufacture so were quickly updated and the right material specified, with production now underway. Parts are expected to be ship by April 9.

Bjoern Klaas, VP and MD of Protolabs Europe, commented: “The ‘Charlotte’ valve in Italy is already having a really positive impact on the challenge faced by medical staff and the wider society, while our latest involvement with AusDiagnostics is crucial in the national ramp up of testing for the virus.”

Protolabs - Charlotte Valve 3D printed parts

He continued: “The tests will be used by over 20 large NHS trust hospitals in the UK, as well as medical diagnostics centres across Europe. The customer makes almost 200 kits a day, but this figure will increase rapidly to meet the demand for more testing, with our injection moulding line ready to manufacture 20,000 cassettes every quarter.

“Digital manufacturing provides incredible speed of development and continues to be essential in equipping frontline staff with the solutions they need.”

Protolabs provide critical design, engineering and manufacturing services to medical supply chains, telecommunications providers, energy companies and water treatment services, among others.

The company expects to continue operating across its UK and German manufacturing facilities, ensuring that staff adhere to work from home policies where possible and adopt hygiene and social distancing measures.


The Manufacturer MX Awards 2019 - Achieving Customer Value - ProtolabsProtolabs took home the trophy for  Achieving Customer Value (sponsored by Trust Hunter Ltd [Hunter]) at The Manufacturer MX Awards 2019.

The ceremony and gala dinner took place at Exhibition Centre Liverpool on the evening of 14 November.

Click here to view the full list of 2019 winners

*All images courtesy of Protolabs