Protolabs launches new service to meet demand

A digital manufacturer has launched a new service in response to growing demand from customers looking for a single-source solution.

Protolabs, which employs over 430 people at its state-of-the-art facility in the Telford, is now offering aluminium anodising as part of its on-demand production service that starts with initial part design and moves through to a finished protected or decorative part – all from just one supplier.

Industry’s need for speed has reaped dividends for the high-tech manufacturer, with sales rising to £60 million across its European operations.

“We have grown rapidly as customers recognise the advantages of using our digital manufacturing capabilities for rapid protypes and on-demand production parts,” said Stephen Dyson, special operations manager at Protolabs.

“Talking to our clients, we realised that if they needed to anodise an aluminium part it was often difficult for them to source and then manage a supplier. They not only have to do all the research and then raise a separate purchase order, but often find that the supplier only accepts large quantities of parts in an order, which isn’t great for low volume runs.

“Keeping the entire production process with a single supplier makes perfect sense for manufacturers. It means they can get their finished parts shipped in a matter of days and our technical team can advise them through the entire process, right from the initial design of the part to the best approach for the final anodising finish.”

Anodising applies a thin, protective coat to the part forming a protective oxide layer. It is used to create a barrier against corrosion, to increase abrasion resistance and to produce decorative effects through enhanced surface finish. It can then be dyed if requested.

Protolabs saw significant growth across its UK and overseas business in 2018, tapping into global trends around customisation and shorter product life cycles.

Thanks to a combination of design, analysis, bespoke production software and in excess of 100 CNC milling, CNC turning and plastic injection moulding machines, not to mention a state-of-the-art 3D printing facility in Germany, means the company typically turns jobs around in between three to 15 days.

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