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Vending machine company Atena is using Proto Labs’ Protomold rapid injection moulding service to change the way it develops new products and to bring them to market faster and with less capital investment.

Atena, a specialist in the design and production of vending machines for use in hotels, restaurants and cafés, has recently invested in four 3D printers, which have proved useful in the conceptual stages of new custom designs but are not able to produce parts with the desired mechanical characteristics — essential during the testing and pre-production phase.

The main problems solved by using the Protomold service from Proto Labs are the reduced delivery time of the finished parts and their accuracy. Previously, Atena would use traditional mould makers and then later commission injection-moulding companies to make the production parts. However, this process could take as long as two to three months.

Each part a customer uploads to the Proto Labs website is analysed by patented software to produce a Protoquote, which contains suggestions on improving the part to make it easier, faster and more affordable to manufacture. A customer can upload as many parts as he or she likes, free of charge. Only when the design is finalised and delivery options are specified does the customer finally submit the order.

Atena has already made several parts for its machines using the Protomold service. Its latest is the body of a peristaltic pump for the dosing of fluids. Atena loaded the CAD model on the Proto Labs website and after a couple of minor corrections to ease manufacturing, Proto Labs produced and delivered an order of 100 pump bodies — enough for Atena to finish the development of the new system.

Key benefits of product application

  • The Protoquote online quotation system allows Atena to optimise the design of parts in order to get the best piece at the best price.
  • Atena said Protoquote is simple and extremely effective, with the process of loading the 3D CAD model very straightforward.
  • Proto Labs offers additional technical help and support to customers using its Protomold service for the first time.
  • Atena said that having a local contact in Italy who could offer advice and guidance has allowed the company to resolve a few important issues and reduce the costs of the parts before it submitted the order.
  • Proto Labs has solved some of Atena’s most pressing problems, including reduced delivery times and control of costs.
  • Atena’s projects with Proto Labs have all been very successful, with the company now Atena’s main supplier for injection-moulded parts.
  • Atena describes the parts it has received as ‘excellent’ and said the Protomold service has ‘changed its world’.

Proto Labs

Proto Labs delivers fully functional prototypes in production-intent materials to dramatically cut the cost and time normally associated with product development. This empowers designers and engineers with the means to rapidly develop, test, and get their products to market first in an ever-competitive global market place.

Proto Labs delivers fully functional prototypes in production-intent materials to dramatically cut the cost and time normally associated with product development. This empowers designers and engineers with the means to rapidly develop, test, and get their products to market first in an ever-competitive global market place.

Protomold delivers injection-moulded parts from moulds manufactured utilising state-of-the-art high-speed CNC machining technologies. Parts can be moulded using almost any engineering-grade resin and are ideal for prototyping, bridge tooling and low-volume production.

First Cut satisfies the need for functional prototypes much earlier in the development cycle for quantities of 1–10+. Because First Cut delivers prototypes in engineering-grade resins and aluminium they will have real material properties and improved surface finishes. In other words, they will be functional.

When you submit your 3D CAD model, Proto Labs’ powerful super-compute cluster creates an interactive quote giving pricing options and where appropriate, suggesting changes to improve manufacturability. You simply interact with your quote online, tailor options such as material and delivery to your requirements and with every change, the pricing information automatically updates. This built-in ‘what-if’ analysis enables last-minute project refinements to be accommodated at the click of a button.

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