What's Changing by Service Line: Injection moulding
Protolabs’ new digital quoting platform is an exciting customer experience. It’s a completely new digital manufacturing platform that brings much more in functionality and reduces significantly the time it takes to get your products to market.
In this series of articles we’ll be exploring what’s changed by service line in the new platform. We’ll look in summary and in detail into what you can expect as you upload your CAD models, go through the quote and analysis of your parts, and place your order.
In this particular article we’ll take a look at the new platform for when uploading parts for injection moulding – Protolabs’ world-leading service for rapid prototypes and end-use production parts.
Sign In / Sign Up
‘My Account’ will no longer be available with the launch of our new platform. Legacy users will be able to login using their existing email and password. All previously placed orders will be available in ‘order history’ and quotes placed from 30 days prior to the new platform launching will be visible in ‘project 0’. Users who have uploaded/ordered previously but hadn’t setup a password, will be asked to create one at registration. As with legacy customers, all orders ever placed and all quotes placed from 30 days prior to launch of the new platform will be visible.
When you are signed into the new platform you will find it is a simple interface containing information around material management, including forms for customer supplied materials. It’s really easy to search for parts, plus you can organise current and archived projects.
As well as material management and forms for customer supplied materials the platform also contains options around tool ownership, from basic rights to full ownership of the moulds. Tool ownership is a key element in our move toward on-demand manufacturing (ODM), but more on that later!
In order to upload a CAD within the new platform it’s necessary to have an account, if you don’t already have one. Also, any injection moulded part re-orders from legacy moulds are possible, as long as the tools are still usable.
But what’s really useful here is you can now upload multiple parts in a single step. And you can now manage uploads in groups so you can clearly distinguish the various parts and their revisions – effectively giving you project management capabilities. You can even share uploads with colleagues, which is part of the forward quote functionality.
Specific to CAD uploads for injection moulded parts, the overmoulding and insert moulding options are more visible and user-friendly. Also, mould life is clearly communicated between prototyping and ODM, and there’s a clear visualisation if you’re choosing multi-cavity tooling.
We accept these file formats:
- IGES (.igs)
- STEP (.stp)
- SolidWorks (.sldprt)
- PTC Creo (.prt)
- Parasolid (.x_t and .x_b)
- ACIS (.sat)
- AutoCAD (.dwg, 3D only)
- Autodesk Inventor (.ipt)
- CATIA (.CatPart)
- Compressed folders (.ZIP) can contain any combination of the above model file types
There are a number of new elements within the quote configuration that speed up and simplify the process. For example, it’s now possible to rename parts as you go through revisions to the design. This is a useful detail when managing your project as previously renaming parts could only be done on request. Customers can also easily duplicate their part order should they need it in various colours. Again, previously this had to be done on request, so the swift automation here really speeds up the process. Also, if there are several part quotes in a project and one is holding up the order, it’s possible to remove that part and create a separate order with it. This helps ensure you get all parts created and shipped as quickly as possible, while making use of the quote batch functionality.
Revision control is easy as everything is tracked and stored, so earlier design versions are accessible. There’s clarity on the design decisions, too, with the forward quote functionality allowing visibility for multiple users. Collaborators can adjust turn time, materials, finishing, and other options to see the real-time pricing impact.
What’s more, the engineer can do all the technical work then pass it on to their purchasing department for them to complete the order.
Finally, there is support available to assist you in the technical quote configuration. This is accessible at login and consists of a ‘help centre, tool tips and live chat.
The design analysis functionality in the new system is a more comprehensive tool, but it’s simpler and easier to use. There’s more transparency with your parts, and more communication so you know exactly the status of your parts.
One of the key changes is colour indicators. Your parts can have many statuses as they progress through the configuration, analysis, review, and approval stages. Each of these statuses has a corresponding colour code. Ultimately, the goal is to get your parts to the ‘Ready to Manufacture’ status, which is Green.
White - Needs Configuration: All newly uploaded parts begin with a white status. These parts need to be configured and, if necessary, sent for analysis.
Grey - Manufacturing Analysis in Progress: Parts with a grey status are currently being analysed by Protolabs to identify manufacturing limitations, lead times, and pricing. You'll receive an email from us when all the parts on your quote are ready for review.
Green - Ready for Manufacturing: Green status parts have completed analysis and quoting, and do not require additional review or approval. You may checkout once all parts on a quote have reached this status.
Yellow - Review and Approve: Parts with a yellow status are almost ready for manufacturing. We just need you to review the manufacturing analysis to approve advisories, accept gate and ejector layouts, and/or choose your threading options. Once approved, your parts will change to green status.
Red - Revisions Required / Unable to Manufacture: Unfortunately, we are unable to manufacture parts with a red status. Please review the manufacturing analysis to learn how you may modify your part design to match our manufacturing capabilities. Please contact us to review with our application engineers.
Black - Expired Quote: Parts with a black status have expired pricing. Please resend for quoting.
Part analysis in the new system categorises the issues that need addressing so that the process of part design can be more easily managed, for example under ‘texture’, ‘radius’ or ‘gate’. Also, all parts within a quote group are easily visible and accessible so multiple fixes are more easily managed.
It’s worth noting that gate and ejector layout needs to be approved during the analysis stage to prevent conflictions and delays when ordering. All information around these approvals are registered in the system, even down to who gave the approval.
It’s really simple to navigate between the parts. There’s no clicking in and out of quotes to view different parts, with all advisories and ‘next steps’ visible and accessible.
Order and Checkout
The confirmation and ordering process includes a production part calculator. It’s an easy to use, interactive price curve graph that shows cost variations dependent on mould life and the number of parts required – for prototyping or on-demand manufacturing (ODM). You simply select the point on the graph and it updates your order accordingly. This is an incredibly useful tool because you get live and exact pricing based on variables, all following approval of your parts so pricing remains accurate.
The new system also shows the interactive graph for up to 20,000 moulded samples. If going for a much higher ODM volume, 500 samples will be shipped initially, but checkout will provide the ability for you to arrange the remaining parts’ delivery. Mould life and tool ownership is key here, as there are now the options for up to 2,000 shots or for more, plus tool ownership on all ODM projects.
Also, it’s now possible to choose a delivery date through the ‘receive by’ calendar functionality where you see the cost increase or decrease accordingly. This is a useful time-saving tool for cost management. The system will also break down shipment cost per part order, with no hidden charges at all.
Shipping outside the UK and the EU will require the completion of a questionnaire, but this is a simple task that our Customer Service Team can support you on.
It’s really simple. Instead of 4 pages on the previous system, now it’s just 4 items on a single page. You can include your own reference number on an order and the page won’t time out so you won’t lose what you’ve inputted.
Finally, you’ll be able to forward your quotes to colleagues. It means you can get multiple people to edit and confirm just prior to order.
The format of all identifications have changed in the new system – they will appear differently on the label, specifically the part ID, the quotation ID, the sales order ID, the production ID, the shipment ID and the purchase order number.
Also, if you’ve ordered a certified vendor material, it will be clearly labelled on the bag which certifications go with which parts.
For ODM parts, when ordering you will be emailed a copy of your mould development process report to support your quality processes – another great feature of our ODM offering.