Protolabs is the world's fastest source for custom prototypes, but how do they do it? TM spoke to Stephen Dyson, special operations manager, about how the company executes this.
Protolabs is the world’s quickest producer of custom prototypes and production parts, the business specialise in 3D printing, CNC machine technology and injection moulding.
Founded in 1999 and with manufacturing facilities in eight countries, Protolabs has an automated quoting and manufacturing system that allows the business to produce plastic, metal and liquid silicone rubber parts within days.
The result of this? An accelerated speed of product to market, and this has become an integral part of Protolabs business model.
Dyson told The Manufacturer: “Most companies and manufacturers who are designing want to reduce the entire development life-cycle as much as possible.”
He continued: “Yes they want concept models, and then maybe a short run production, but most of the businesses now want to bring those development cycles down, from years to months to weeks, to make sure they can get their product to market as quickly as possible.”
What can rapid digital manufacturing offer?
Accelerated product development, reduced costs, and an optimised supply chain.
Dyson continued: “We get products through the initial concept stage and into pre-production, but we also help companies identify the most efficient way to manufacturer something.
“Ultimately, we reduce the risk of not getting a product to market and reduce development costs. Reducing development costs is really important and that is what we concentrate on across the five main industries we serve; aerospace, automotive, medical, industrial automation and general electronics and the computer industry.”
Dyson explained that they manage to execute this effectively because of their highly trained team and advanced machines. He explains that sourcing skilled engineers is difficult however and requires internal training and support.
Protolabs are a business that accomplish tasks quickly and problem-solve for their customers. This has enabled them to become a world-leader in the manufacture of custom prototypes and production parts, and accelerate the development of products.
The company has a digital-first mind set and this has enabled a flexible and effective production process. Protolabs has aligned itself to its customers’ demand creating products to suit the volume and intricacy that is required.
Case study: Black Panther
PepsiCo and Marvel Studios designed 3D printed packaging for the Black Panther movie premiere earlier this year.
Five cans representing each of the movie’s main characters were produced, with 3D printed Black Panther masks fitting onto the corresponding can.
The project was manufactured by Protolabs on their multi jet fusion machine.
In order to produce this complex design without 3D printing, there would’ve needed to be 250 parts manufactured in total.
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