Ahead of our webinar session this week, we spoke to Saleem Shariff, Proto Labs' Lead Customer Service Engineer about why 3D printing isn't a one-size-fits-all manufacturing solution, building scale models for the Museum of Modern Art in New York and what they're doing to help guide today's product designers.
Proto Labs expanded its 3D Printing service offerings last year – was there a big demand from the industry? What’s the response been like so far?
We have found over time that our customers prefer a single manufacturing base where they can obtain parts from conceptual stage to production parts. Proto Labs reacted to its customers’ demands and acquired Alphaform, a 3D printing specialist, to accelerate Proto Lab’s presence in the 3D printing industry. This service, along with the well-established CNC machining and injection moulding allowed Proto Labs to offer customers a complete manufacturing and support solution, with consistent speed and quality.
What other technology does Proto Labs offer?
Proto Labs offer the following technology: CNC-machining, CNC-turning, rapid injection moulding including liquid silicone rubber. The 3D printing offering includes stereolithography (SL), selective laser sintering (SLS) and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS).
How does additive manufacturing fit in with the other technologies available? Is it more of a stepping-stone to other processes like machining or are customers wanting to use it for final parts?
The inclusion of 3D printing, along with our other services complement one another. It enables our customers, regardless of where they are in their project time-cycle, to have parts made from the early stages in 3D printing or CNC machining/turning, through to low/high volume parts made through injection moulding. Depending on the project in question, the 3D printed parts could be used for actual use, or for testing, it depends on the project and application. As an example – one of our customers in the US used Proto Labs 3D printing services to build scale models of pyramids for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Sometimes customers come to us with a CAD model, unsure what is the best way to manufacture their parts. Through our DFM analysis tools and experienced support team of designers and engineers, we help them work out what is the best manufacturing pathway to fulfil their goals. Proto Labs believes there is no such thing as a “good or bad” manufacturing method. It’s all about what the customer needs for their specific projects and where they are in the product life-cycle.
Are there any other technologies Proto Labs has its eye on that we could see implemented in the future?
Proto Labs are always looking for opportunities that enhance the values and service offered to its customers. We continually expand our offering, so it’s worth signing up for our design tips and events to be kept in the loop.
How does Proto Labs help steer its customers product design cycle?
Proto Labs offers a fantastic support network to all of its customers, from dedicated Account Managers, Customer Service Engineers, through to free educational tools. With this at the
forefront, we aim to provide all our customers with as much information and guidance as possible to help them decide the best way to progress their projects. We like to help designers and engineers challenge common misconceptions on costs and timescale of various manufacturing processes. As an example, one of our customers found that injection moulding can be used for both prototyping and production stages of production of their drone. Fast turnaround and flexibility of tool design, and modification played crucial role in the shift from 3D printing of Nylon 12 parts to having them moulded in Nylon 66, improving their strength.
What advantages does Proto Labs have in helping guide today’s product designers with their design strategy?
Proto Labs unrivalled support and proprietary software give product designers the reassurance that their project is in safe hands. From the speed of quoting through to the quality of final product, Proto labs offers its customers full support throughout the entire process.
This week, Proto Labs will host a webinar with TCT “From Design to Delivery – Streamlining Your Product Development Cycle” – why should people sign up?
It’s a great opportunity for engineers to see how they can adapt their design strategies when considering manufacturing methods available and working out what’s right for their project. Keeping the end goal in mind and adapting decision making throughout the project life-cycle, to really take advantage of the services presented. The webinar will help engineers map the best route to manufacture, by considering some simple key questions. At the end of it they will be equipped with tools to reduce the “trial and error” steps and speed up their project, while cutting costs.
TCT will host Proto Labs' "From Design to Delivery" webinar on 21st July at 10am GMT. It's completely FREE and all attendees will each receive two free design aids to assist their manufacturing projects. REGISTER HERE FOR FREE.