Increasingly, various markets are using 3D printing to produce parts in a production capacity. This trend is one of the reasons behind Protolabs recent announcement that it will offer low-volume production manufacturing using Carbon’s M2 3D printer. Says Rachel Hunt, 3D printing Marketing Manager, Protolabs, “We wanted to be able to meet our customers production application needs. Carbon fills a nice role in that it suits our low-volume applications from our customers across many industries, including industrial, medical, and aerospace.
As a technology agnostic company, Protolabs works to serve multiple industries with various needs, both in prototype and production. “We currently offer Stereolithography, Selective Laser Sintering, Multi Jet Fusion, PolyJet, and Direct Metal Laser Sintering, and we can turn parts in as fast as 1 day” says Hunt. “Carbon really fills a sweet spot for us as they are producing advanced materials on machines that print parts even faster. When customers need certain mechanical properties or surface finishes, Carbon is going to be the best solution for their parts.” The materials Protolabs will use on the Carbon system are the RPU (rigid polyurethane) and the FPU (flexible polyurethane) material. Protolabs is an approved member of the Carbon manufacturing partner network.
As mentioned, Protolabs already offers stereolithography. Carbon’s technology is a variation of stereolithography. Known as DLS (Digital Light Synthesis) technology, it is enabled by Carbon’s CLIP™ process. CLIP is a breakthrough technology that uses digital light projection, oxygen permeable optics, and programmable liquid resins to produce parts with excellent mechanical properties, resolution, and surface finish. Parts printed with DLS are more like injection-molded parts. DLS produces consistent and predictable mechanical properties, creating parts that behave consistently in all directions.
The RPU material can be used across a range of industries, including consumer products, automotive, and industrial. This material is stiff and strong, with ultimate tensile strengths of 45 MPa. It elongates 100% before breaking.
The FPU material has high impact strength, a long cycle life, and good surface finish. It will withstand repetitive stresses, making it suitable for tough enclosures, hinging mechanisms, and friction fits. This material behaves similarly to injection-molded polypropylene with moderate stiffness and impact strengths of 40 J/m. It elongates over 280% before breaking under 29 MPa of stress.
Protolabs is extremely well-versed in stereolithography. “Our expertise comes into play because we’ve produced billions of stereolithography parts ,” notes Hunt. And so, our folks can quickly evaluate parts, see which printing technology would best fit the customer need, and help guide the customer into the right technology and the right material. The addition of Carbon 3D printing equipment is really just rounding out the portfolio so our customers have the best, broadest selection. It’s a combination of the mechanical properties they’re going to get in the parts along with the expertise we bring as parts are oriented, supported, built, and finished.”
And best of all, you will still receive your Carbon made parts in the standard 3-day turnaround time that Protolabs offers.