Protolabs celebrates 20th anniversary, inaugurates 12th global manufacturing plant

Leading digital manufacturing company Protolabs celebrated its 20th anniversary yesterday with the inauguration of a new facility in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. Occupying 215,000 square feet, the new plant speciliazes in providing CNC machining services. It is the company’s 8th factory in U.S. and the 12th in the world, accompanying other sites in Northern, Central and Southern Europe.

“We are truly living in an on-demand consumer economy and that’s no different for manufacturing,” said Protolabs President and CEO Vicki Holt.

“Our customers are hungry for manufacturing partners that can see their products through ever-shrinking life cycles, and Protolabs is uniquely positioned to serve our customers’ needs from early prototyping to on-demand production.”

Producing 4 million parts per month

Protolabs was founded in Minnesota in 1999 by Larry Lukis, former Chairman and CTO of the company. At this time, the company developed an automated workflow to expedite the production in injection molding. Now the company has grown to encompass automated production processes for CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, and additive manufacturing.

As part of this expansion, the company acquired New Hampshire-based quick-turn sheet metal and CNC machining specialist Rapid Manufacturing Group, LLC in 2017 in a deal valued at $120 million. The company also recently invested over $4 million to expand its CNC and injection molding capacity at its facility in Telford, UK.

In the past 20 years, Protolabs’ expansion has added more than 1 million square feet of manufacturing space. Across all 11 technologies the company provides, it serves more than 45,000 product developers. Collectively, the company’s facilities house more than 1,000 machines, and produces on average almost 4 million parts per month.

CNC machines inside Protolabs' facility in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. Photo via Protolabs
CNC machines inside Protolabs’ facility in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. Photo via Protolabs

Additive manufacturing at Protolabs

In 3D printing, Protolabs has capabilities for SLA, Polyjet, DMLS, SLS and MJF technologies. The company is a founding member of GE Additive‘s Manufacturing Partner Network (MPN) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Center for Additive and Digital Advanced Production Technologies (ADAPT).

For North America, all 3D printing requests are dealt with by the company’s facility in Raleigh, North Carolina. Spanning approximately 77,000 square feet, this plant operates over one-hundred 3D printers, including 3D Systems’ Vipers and, of course, HP Multi Jet machines. The company’s latest facility, in Brooklyn Park, houses nearly 300 milling machines and lathes and has been deemed the “centerpiece” of Protolabs’ 20th year.

“Protolabs has exceeded my wildest dreams,” said founder Lukis on its 20th anniversary. “The company was born out of personal frustration that manufacturing parts took months, when it could take days or even minutes. There needed to be a way to make it easier and faster for product developers to get prototype parts and accelerate development cycles.”

“Protolabs has achieved that goal and made advanced manufacturing technologies accessible for everyone, from makers to startups to Fortune 500 companies.”

Protolabs President and CEO Vicki Holt cuts the ribbon at the opening of the new Brooklyn Park facility. Photo via Protolabs
Protolabs President and CEO Vicki Holt cuts the ribbon at the opening of the new Brooklyn Park facility. Photo via Protolabs

A recent demonstration of Protolabs manufacturing capabilities was seen on the red carpet at the 2019 Met Gala in New York. Working with GE Additive and fashion designer Zac Posen, the company produced a series of dresses worn by British model Jourdan Dunn, Indian film actor Deepika Padukone and Canadian actor Nina Dobrev.

For the second year in a row, Protolabs is also sponsoring the design competition and manufacture of the official 3D Printing Industry Awards trophy.

Vote now in the 2019 3D Printing Industry Awards.

For more regular 3D printing updates subscribe to the daily 3D Printing Industry newsletter, follow us on Twitter, and like us on FacebookFind talent for a project, or advance your career in 3D printing – join 3D Printing Jobs to apply and advertise.

Featured image shows Protolabs’ CNC machining facility in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. Photo via Protolabs