3D Platforms

Protolabs expands manufacturing capabilities and pricing options through a digital network of manufacturers

Digital manufacturing service provider Protolabs has announced plans to enhance its manufacturing capabilities and pricing options for CNC machining, injection molding, and 3D printing services. The company aims to achieve this by leveraging its digital network of manufacturers, Hubs.

This strategic move will enable customers to access advanced capabilities, minimize part expenses, and scale up their part quantities. The expansion primarily targets offering cost-effective parts for large-scale production, without compromising on low-volume, on-demand manufacturing services. As a result, customers can benefit from a wider range of options and flexible solutions that cater to their unique manufacturing needs.

“Never before has the industry seen a digital manufacturing model quite like this. Protolabs has combined the speed and quality of a service bureau built from the ground up with a highly vetted distributed network of global manufacturers,” said Alex Cappy, Vice President and CEO of Hubs. “We’re pushing the envelope further than ever before to provide a truly seamless service at Protolabs.”

Digital factories in action. Image via Protolabs.
Digital factories in action. Image via Protolabs.

New manufacturing capabilities unleashed

Protolabs has provided a comprehensive breakdown of the additional options that are now available through its manufacturing network. With regards to CNC machining, customers can now take advantage of tolerances that can reach as low as +/- 0.001 inches (0.020mm), along with a range of part sizes that vary from 40 inches (1,000mm) to 0.02 inches (0.5mm). Moreover, plating, anodizing, and chromate coating are now available in larger quantities.

As for injection molding, the network now has the capability to undertake high-requirement molding projects that involve larger and deeper parts (for instance, 47.24 inches x 27.56 inches x 11.81 inches; 1,200mm x 700mm x 300mm) as well as more intricate parts. In addition to Protolabs’ six other plastic and metal additive manufacturing technologies, customers can now access Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printing through the network for the rapid prototyping of cost-efficient parts.

All of the above manufacturing capabilities are now accessible to customers through protolabs.com for CNC machining and directly via hubs.com for expanded injection molding and 3D printing FDM options.

“Over the past few years, we’ve talked with thousands of customers around the world,” said Rob Bodor, President and CEO at Protolabs. “Many still require quick-turn parts to support their new product innovation or to address supply disruptions. However, a common sentiment in many of these conversations has been the need for cost-efficient parts for volume production at a time when many have reduced budgets. Our digital network addresses that need.”

Protolabs factory. Image via Protolabs.
Protolabs factory. Image via Protolabs.

3D printing capabilities advanced by manufacturing networks

Prototyping company Quickparts became a member of the Roboze 3D Parts Network, established by Roboze, an industrial 3D printer manufacturer. This development was expected to bolster the local production of customized parts worldwide by leveraging industrial 3D printing systems and novel materials. According to Quickparts, it installed the first Roboze solution, ARGO 500, at its Seattle headquarters, where it will be used to cater to aerospace and industrial companies throughout the United States.

“As industry experts, we have followed Roboze from the beginning and were immediately impressed by how the company and its technology have grown over the years. We needed to expand our systems to more quickly meet our customers’ needs to produce end-use parts accurately and with high-performance polymeric materials. Roboze proved to be the best choice in terms of versatility, quality, and repeatability,” said Ziad Abou, CEO of Quickparts.

Powder bed fusion (PBF) 3D printers provider EOS, launched its Contract Manufacturing Network (CMN). The network linked established AM production partners with end-users, enabling them to produce high-quality parts quickly and reliably. Initially, the network comprised seven partners, including FKM, Erpro, Volum-E, Pankl, Materialise, Oerlikon, and Hasenauer & Hesser in EMEA. EOS’ Contract Manufacturing Network expanded on the services it already provided through its partner networks. Customers requiring dependable AM partners instead of producing their own parts can contact the network for aid, which includes services from rapid prototyping to small series volumes of up to 1,000 parts.

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Featured image shows Protolabs factory. Image via Protolabs.