Protolabs Moving into Production-Level Additive Manufacturing Work


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Protolabs has launched production capabilities for its metal 3D printing service. The new capabilities use secondary processes to improve the strength, dimensional accuracy and cosmetic appearance of metal parts. As part of the launch, enhanced inspection reporting is also being made available.

“We see it every day. The designers and engineers we work with in industries like aerospace and medtech are choosing additive manufacturing for complex components in high-requirement applications,” says Greg Thompson, global product manager for 3D printing. “These new production capabilities help them optimize their designs to enhance performance, reduce costs and consolidate supply chains, and do so much faster than ever before.”

Protolabs uses direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) technology (which is ISO 9001 and AS9100D-certified) to 3D print metal production parts. Once parts are built, several secondary options like post-process machining, tapping, reaming and heat treatments are available, along with quality control measures like powder analysis, material traceability and process validation.

The production launch spotlights Protolabs’ effort to advance in industrial 3D printing beyond prototyping. The company has joined GE’s Additive Manufacturing Network and MIT's Additive Manufacturing Consortium to facilitate this push. The company has also added capacity to support its growth with more than 25 GE Additive Concept Laser Mlab and M2 machines for DMLS production.