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Proto Labs has expanded its production facility in Telford, UK, with the recent addition of stereolithography (SL), an advanced additive manufacturing service for custom prototyping.

Proto Labs

Together with Proto Labs’ CNC machining and injection moulding services, it is now able to help designers and engineers take a product from the initial stages of prototyping through to low-volume production. 

The SL process uses an ultraviolet laser to draw on the surface of a liquid thermoset resin. Where it draws, the liquid turns to solid. This is repeated in thin, two-dimensional cross-sectional layers to form complex three-dimensional parts that are far more accurate than many other types of additive manufacturing processes currently available.

Proto Labs’ additive manufacturing service can produce parts in sizes up to 736mm by 635mm by 533mm, using a selection of thermoplastic-like materials that mimic ABS and polypropylene.

Lee Ball, Proto Labs’ operations director, said: “When compared to the commonly available fused deposition modelling (FDM) processes that are popular with hobbyists, SL offers a vastly improved level of resolution, accuracy and surface finish. SL can build parts with a layer thickness of 25 microns (0.0250mm) compared to the typical, entry-level FDM layer thickness of around 127 microns (0.127mm).”

“Fast-moving businesses demand expertise, scalability and a quick turnaround of products to stay ahead of the competition. Professional additive manufacturing will allow companies to accelerate product development and turn ideas into real products in a matter of days.”

Proto Labs’ stereolithography process offers high accuracy and a smooth surface finish on parts. It works well for prototyping very small parts and complex geometries during the earliest stages of a component’s development. 

The company is also planning to introduce selective laser sintering (SLS) and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) processes in 2016, with both technologies already having been successfully established in Proto Lab’s US locations.

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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