Protolabs survey reveals the ‘need for speed’ still dominates manufacturing

A survey of industry professionals at a trade event has revealed some of the key challenges and opportunities facing manufacturers across Europe.

Factory in Telford
Factory in Telford

Telford-based digital manufacturer Protolabs – one of the world's fastest digital manufacturing source for custom prototypes and low-volume production parts – staged the survey at the recent Moulding Expo 2019 in Stuttgart, which brings together more than 700 exhibitors and thousands of experts from across the continent.

Protolabs asked attendees three key questions about innovation and the future of production to gain an expert insight into the injection moulding industry and the changing nature of low-volume production.

The first question asked how often they faced challenges in developing new products, with more than two-thirds revealing they often ran into difficulties – another 10 per cent saying problems occurred frequently.

Dirk Rathsack, Protolabs’ vice president of sales for the EMEA region, said: “The result here shows that manufacturers need access to a streamlined product development process. With numerous challenges hindering a product’s journey to market, it could be that design engineers are not taking full advantage of rapid injection moulding technologies.”

Visitors were then asked what the most important factor was in selecting the manufacturing process – material, speed or output quantity. A total of 44 per cent highlighted speed as the key issue.

Mr Rathsack added: “With numerous iterations often required in order to bring a part to full manufacture, rapid injection moulding is a key facilitator. Increasingly, companies have to be first to market in order to stand a chance of succeeding.”

The final question asked professionals where they thought the key hub for low-production manufacturing globally was, with Europe coming out firmly on top with three-quarters of the responses.

Mr Rathsack added: “Despite the tremendous advancement of the manufacturing sector in Asia, the result here clearly shows that Moulding Expo visitors still value Europe highly as a manufacturing resource. Perhaps this means European manufacturers are embracing digital manufacturing and customisation quicker than the other regions?”

The technology-enabled company uses advanced 3D printing, CNC machining and injection moulding technologies to produce parts within days, with the result being an unprecedented speed-to-market value for product designers and engineers worldwide.

At Moulding Expo 2019, it discussed how the manufacture of injection moulded parts can help to reduce development risks and limit overall manufacturing costs.

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