On demand manufacturing

Protolabs partners with RS Components to offer new end-to-end 3D printing service

Protolabs, a leading digital manufacturing service bureau, has announced a partnership with electronic component supplier RS Components to offer a new comprehensive 3D printing service.

The new ‘Design and Manufacturing Solution’ will allow RS Components’ engineering and design customers to design parts through the company’s DesignSpark CAD software before moving straight to manufacturing with Protolabs’ 3D printing facilities. As such, the all-in-one service encapsulates all stages of the additive manufacturing workflow from design to delivery.

Bjoern Klaas, Vice President and Managing Director at Protolabs, Europe, said, “Our speed and excellence in digital manufacturing, rapidly creating even the most complex parts in a wide range of plastics and metals, means RS Components customers can enjoy a complete start-to-finish service; a broad offering that supports clients in all fields across the industrial sphere, giving them even more choice.”

Protolabs 3D printing facility in Morrisville, North Carolina. Photo via Protolabs.
Protolabs’ 3D printing facility in Morrisville, North Carolina. Photo via Protolabs.

End-to-end 3D printing with DesignSpark

DesignSpark is a free-to-use 3D CAD software developed by RS Components and Ansys. Initially launched back in 2013, the program is designed to enable quick and easy product development and iteration without the user having to learn complex traditional CAD software. With STL file generation functionality, the 3D design program also integrates well with the 3D printing workflow.

Once a part is designed in DesignSpark, customers will be able to upload their model straight to Protolabs’ established e-commerce platform. There, it will be analyzed for manufacturability, quoted, and 3D printed – all in one seamless process. Prototypes 3D printed via the Design and Manufacturing Solution can be fabricated in as little as a day (shipped within 1 – 15 days) and are guaranteed to be in accordance with predetermined functional requirements.

Owing to the extensiveness of Protolabs’ facilities, customers will be able to make use of a whole host of polymer and metal 3D printing technologies. This includes Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Stereolithography (SLA), Multi-Jet Fusion (MJF), PolyJet (3D printed silicone), and Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS).

The Design and Manufacturing Solution 3D printing service will initially be available to UK customers only, but will be expanded to the wider European market in due course.

Mike Bray, a Group Lead at RS components, added, “In a rapidly evolving engineering space, having access to services that can facilitate the fast provision of prototypes or parts that are suited to a wide variety of applications can provide a real competitive edge. At RS, our mission is to help customers maximize the opportunities around Industry 4.0, both educating them on the latest technology innovations and making them accessible. Our partnership with Protolabs supports that mission perfectly.”

DMLS parts by Protolabs. Photo via Protolabs.
DMLS parts 3D printed by Protolabs. Photo via Protolabs.

The need for on-demand manufacturing

On-demand manufacturing bureaus such as Protolabs provide a hassle-free route to additive manufacturing for companies that aren’t quite ready to invest in a 3D printer of their own. For many projects, outsourcing the 3D printing of prototypes is often the most cost-effective way of developing a product, and with developments like the RS Components partnership, this is more streamlined than ever.

Earlier this summer, metal and carbon fiber 3D printer manufacturer Markforged announced plans to set up an Australia-based service that’s dedicated to producing food-contact components. The company will work with the Australian Meat Processor Corporation (AMPC) and office printing firm Konica Minolta to establish a workflow for rapidly 3D printing spare meat processing parts on-demand.

Elsewhere, in the UK, Yorkshire-based 3D printing consultancy AME Group recently launched its new 3D printing service bureau, AME-3D, following a £750,000 investment from NPIF-Mercia Equity Finance. The capital injection is the first major investment in AME Group’s 20-year history and will enable the company to hire new employees, acquire additional equipment, and launch two new brands, the first of which is AME-3D.

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Featured image shows Protolabs’ 3D printing facility in Morrisville, North Carolina. Photo via Protolabs.