Protolabs expands 3D printing capabilities with new £10.5m facility 

Digital manufacturing company Protolabs has invested £10.5m in the construction of a new 3D printing facility. 

Built to accommodate a growing demand for Protolabs’ technology, the 5000 square meter factory in Putzbrunn, Germany will increase the company’s production capacity by 50 percent. 

“When a finished design enters our online ordering platform, it goes through a short feasibility check by our expert design team and then on to be printed. The new facility will give us the capacity to speed this process up even more to real time,” said Bjoern Klaas, Vice President and Managing Director of Protolabs Europe.

Construction has not yet finished on Protolabs' new European HQ, but the company is continuing its expansion with a new site in Germany. Photo via Protolabs.
Construction has not yet finished on Protolabs’ new European HQ, but the company is continuing its expansion with a new site in Germany. Photo via Protolabs.

Protolabs in the 3D printing industry 

Headquartered in Minnesota, Protolabs provides digital manufacturing services and specializes in the production of custom prototypes and low-volume parts. A recent surge in customer demand for complex components in high-requirement applications has led the company to focus on moving from prototyping into production

Protolabs launched its “production-ready” metal 3D printing service in June 2019 with this in mind. The Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) service aims to integrate industry-appropriate quality inspection procedures with the production of high-performance metal 3D printed parts. 

Building on its 3D printing capabilities, the company also announced it will introduce GE Additive’s X-Line 2000R 3D printers into its equipment portfolio by summer 2020. Protolabs will receive four Concept Laser M2 systems as part of the deal, allowing its customers to produce large-format parts due to the systems’ 50mm x 250mm x 350mm build volumes. 

Protolab’s latest expansion follows the £5m invested in redeveloping its European headquarters in Telford, UK. The new building, set to be operational later this year, will house at least 50 additional CNC machines and a further 20 additional injection molding presses. 

A strong Q1 financial performance will aid the company’s continued growth. The digital manufacturer posted $115.1 million in gross revenue for the first quarter of 2020, an increase of 1.5 percent over Q1 2019.  While the COVID-19 pandemic did cause a decline in economic activity, this was offset by orders for injection molded parts that have become necessary in fighting the disease. 

A CNC machining plant at Protolabs. Photo via Protolabs.
The new facility will house a CNC Machining Center, including all the company’s existing machines in Munich (pictured). Photo via Protolabs.

The new additive manufacturing facility 

Despite the unstable economic climate, construction of the new site has already begun. The initial shell is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2020, with the building set to be fitted with machinery in phases, beginning in May 2021. 

Protolabs plans to move all production departments from its current facility in Feldkirchen near Munich, to the new one in Putzbrunn. Its existing technology will be supplemented by 25 further systems, including a new CNC machining center.

The premises will include a 5-axis milling machine to finish 3D printed parts for high-end applications, and automated finishing, coloring and painting systems. Moving site will also allow Protolabs to optimize its work processes and hire additional employees. This will not only support the company’s trade with the UK but enable the company to produce certified medical devices under ISO 13485. 

“Our expansion plans in the UK and Germany show that our concept of digitalisation and automated processes is in line with the spirit of the times and the requirement to support our customers in bringing products to market in the shortest possible time,” said Klaas. 

The nominations for the 2020 3D Printing Industry Awards are now open. Who do you think should make the shortlists for this year’s show? Have your say now. 

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Featured image shows construction getting underway at Protolabs’ new site (From left) Michael Meier (Protolabs), Edwin Klostermeier (Mayor of Putzbrunn) and Daniel Cohn (Protolabs). Photo via Protolabs.