Odds & Ends

Companies We Love: Proto Labs

As much as we love our new 3D printer, there are still prototypes that call for the low-to-mid-volume bounty of rapid injection molded parts. One company that’s stood out in this space is Proto Labs, both for their speed (parts in as little as a day) and for their impressive quoting system (upload a model to get a detailed insta-report with prices, design recommendations, and even an animated 3D simulation of how plastic will flow into your mold).

On top of that, Proto Labs is also great about providing tips on designing for injection molding, as you can see on their website and YouTube channel. If you skim through a few of these videos, you might notice that they feature some very elucidating sample parts, which Proto Labs actually sends to its customers as design references. What I’m getting at here is that Proto Labs gives us awesome free toys.

This one is our favorite. It covers just about all the basics of how a mold works.


Here’s what it looks like inside. Can you guess the shape of the part that would come out of this mold?


Did you guess right? Bonus points if your mental image also included the sprue.


Here’s a top view. Advanced: Can you guess what the real mold that was used to make this model mold looks like?


Here’s the cube that’s featured in some of the YouTube videos.



The faces give examples of surface finishes, as well as some tips on how to design features like bosses on an injection molded part.


This next sample continues on to demonstrate more advanced molding techniques, such as bump offs, molded text, and off-angle bosses.



Finally, here’s Proto Labs’ current sample, which gave them justification to use the words “protogami,” “kaleidocycle,” and “flexagons” all in the same paragraph.


It provides more examples of different materials and surface finishes with the removable black panels. Recently, this sample came in quite handy when Chet gave an internal talk on designing living hinges and snap fits.


Looking forward to seeing what’s next! ‘Tis the season for in-mold decorating?