Your masterclass in product design and development


Protolabs’ Insight video series

Our Insight video series will help you master digital manufacturing.

Every Friday we’ll post a new video – each one giving you a deeper Insight into how to design better parts. We’ll cover specific topics such as choosing the right 3D printing material, optimising your design for CNC machining, surface finishes for moulded parts, and much more besides.

So join us and don’t miss out.

Most Recent Insight Videos


Insight: Automotive Industry

The automotive industry is facing a period of unprecedented opportunity and change, due to evolving customer demand and the effects of regulation. Against this backdrop digital manufacturing exists to help deliver what is needed rapidly, with advancements in materials technology, industrial 3D printing and other manufacturing technologies. In this video we explore how digital manufacturing is able to provide support for the sector, looking closely at possibilities around geometry, lightweighting and material options – with a specific focus on copper and polypropylene.


Insight: Aerospace Industry

The aerospace industry is going through major disruption at the moment. Covid-19 and challenges around emissions targets are all having financial and operational impacts, but ongoing challenges around safety and testing mean digital manufacturing is a vital resource for engineers in the field. In this video we look at how digital manufacturing can support, specifically looking at what role 3D printing plays in aerospace and what materials are available with the technology.


Insight: CNC Machining Design

CNC machining is a great option for many types of project, but you need to be aware of what using the technology means for your design. In this week’s Insight video we look at both CNC milling and lathing, we look at features such as holes and threading, wall thickness, and how to test that your design is suitable for this process.


Insight: 3D Printing Highlights

Our Insight video series will help you master digital manufacturing. This week's video is a highlight of our previous Insight videos with a focus on 3D Printing. Covering topics such as designing for MJF and SLS, DMLS, Polyjet, and more.


Insight: CNC Machining Highlights

Our Insight video series will help you master digital manufacturing. This week's video is highlights of our previous Insight videos with a focus on CNC Machining. Covering topics such as internal and external threading, hole placement, live tool CNC turning and more.


Insight: CNC Turning

The line between CNC milling and turning can sometimes be very confusing, so deciding which machine is the best fit for producing your part can be complicated. In this video we look at when you can – and should - make cylindrical parts using a lathe, considering shape, size and engraving your parts.


Insight: Ejector Pins

Ejector pins are the silent helpers of the injection moulding world. They’re utterly vital to the process of creating parts, but if all goes well, they leave barely a mark on them. Sometimes this is not the case and there can be a bit of evidence left behind. In this video we talk about how design and position can minimise this kind of thing, considering shape and specific qualities of the part.


Insight: Complex Features in Moulding

Plenty of parts we build need complex detail if they’re going to do what we want. In this video we go through some of the more complex features, including clips, pickouts, gears and internal bayonet features, to show you how to make them work with a bare minimum of fuss. 


Insight: Moulded in Clips

Every time an injection moulded clip gets used, the material it's made from suffers a little bit of stress as it bends and then snaps back into place. This video looks at stress on plastic clips and how material choice, arm length, hook size, and draft can contribute to the effectiveness of a clip.


Insight: Core and Cavity Placement

When designing for rapid injection moulding, one of the main goals is producing quick and clean parts. In this video we will talk about core and cavity placement, or rather placement of the outside enclosure and the inside. We’ll discuss considerations such as designing for holes, tabs or strips sticking up from the part or spanning an internal hole and surface texturing.


Insight: Bump Offs

Bump-offs are a clever technique used when creating a part with some kind of undercut, but when still wanting the simplicity of a straight-mould pull. Normally these undercuts would catch on the mould during ejection, however, this video gives tips on materials to use, and how to design your part to ensure these parts work effectively, without the use of side actions.


Insight: Injection Moulding Highlights

Our Insight video series will help you master digital manufacturing. This week's video is highlights of our previous Insight videos with a focus on Injection Moulding. Covering topics such as Cosmetics, Insert moulding, overmoulding multi-cavity moulding and more.


Insight: Multi-Cavity Tools

Multi-Cavity tooling can increase production and reduce part costs, however, it is not as simple as copying the CAD file of a single cavity mould over and over. Thermal variations can lead to part issues such as sink and deformation. This video gives tips on how to avoid this.


Insight: Optical LSR

Optical LSR is starting to replace glass in many optical applications, including lens covers and light pipes. In addition to its performance-enhancing characteristics, optical LSR has several positive traits that simplify design and moulding. This video looks at the process of producing optical LSR parts, the benefits of the material and why exactly it is becoming a replacement for glass.


Insight: Choosing A Manufacturing Source

This can be one of the most important decisions you make on a project, and can easily make the difference between glowing success and not-so-glowing failure. You’ll need to be certain the option you pick fits your needs exactly, whether you want someone to handle your project as a one-off or plan to develop a long-term production relationship with them.


Insight: Material Options for CNC

The amount of material options out there for CNC is pretty huge. So to narrow it down to the best material for your part you need to consider your part’s application, the service you will be using and whether it will be used for prototypes. This video will give you some considerations for narrowing down your material options when designing a machined part.


Insight: 3D Printing Inconel

In this video we look at Inconel. Inconel is a superalloy, it can cope in extreme environments where other metals would struggle or even not cope at all. This video looks at its properties, benefits, limitations and applications.


Insight: 3D Printing Polypropylene

In this video we look at Polypropylene. Polypropylene is a thermoplastic addition polymer made by combining propylene monomers. One of the most commonly produced plastics in the world and its use is increasing rapidly. A recent breakthrough means it can now be 3D printed using selective laser sintering. This video explores what this means in terms of design and how it could substantially reduce your product development time. 


Insight: 3D Printing for Industrial Parts


In this video we look at the various additive manufacturing technologies – outlining how they work. But we focus on how to approach 3D printing with production in mind.


Insight: Tips for Designing Multipart Assemblies

In this video we look at multipart assemblies. We will give you tips on how to make the process less painful, discussing options such as symmetrical parts, self-mating parts, family tools and many more.


Insight: 3D Printing Living Hinges

In this video we look at 3D Printed living hinges. We look at why it is worthwhile 3D printing living hinges and how best to make them work with some useful design considerations.


Insight: Material Properties

In this video we look at material properties and considerations when designing your part. Focusing on the four groups that most characteristics fall into; mechanical, physical, thermal and electrical.


Insight: Prototyping with Polyjet

In this video we look at prototyping with Polyjet, one of the few industrial 3D printing technologies that allows the use of multiple materials in a single build. We look at the process itself and the advantages and disadvantages when using it for prototyping your part.


Insight: Mastering Complex Machined Parts

In this video we look at complex machined parts, focusing on the five key things you need to keep in mind when creating a particularly complex part: hole placement, grooves, threading, milled text, and corners.


Insight: Elastomeric Manufacturing

In this video we look at liquid silicone rubber, or LSR, focusing on the advantages of using LSR from a manufacturing process, and on the characteristics of the material itself. We also look at other materials, such as TPE and TPV, which are ideal for use as grips for tools and medical devices – or for providing an interesting aesthetic for your overmoulded part.


Insight: DMLS - Direct Metal Laser Sintering

In this video we begin by explaining how direct metal laser sintering, or DMLS, works. We look at the considerable advantages of the technology, but also its limitations. We look at how you can tweak your part design in order to get around some of the potential problems, such as overhangs, curved shapes, and lettering – all presenting issues that can usually be addressed with some handy tricks.


Insight: Injection Moulding - Don't be too Sharp

In this video we look at smoothing out radii in injection moulded parts, and all the factors that need addressing to ensure manufacturability. We look at part geometry, wall thickness, how to apply radius at different areas of the part. And we also look at the injection moulding process itself – how the molten plastic moves through the cavity, how that should impact your CAD, and material considerations to ensure the best functioning part.


Insight: Selective Laser Sintering - Fully Functional Parts with SLS

In this video we look at selective laser sintering, or ‘SLS’ for short. We look at how the technology works; what it delivers that other additive technologies cannot; the materials available and their characteristics within the process. But we also look at some of the limitations and what you can do to get around potential problems, to make sure the technology will meet your needs.


Insight: Insert Moulding - Adding Durability and Strength

In this video we look at insert moulding and how it can add durability and strength to a part. We look at specific applications where your part may need extra strength; specific thermoplastics that can be used for insert moulding; the problems with plastics that require very high moulding temperatures. We also look at what your supplier may offer, in terms of inserts for the moulds, and what you should be asking of them to ensure you get the job done right.


Insight: Overmoulding - Key Elements to Consider

In this video we look at materials and their compatibility for the bonding process in overmoulding. If the design itself won’t lock the two parts together, then a strong chemical bond is required. We also look at the functionality requirements of the part (an overmoulded part is often for grip, such as on a hand tool or surgical equipment); and the aesthetic requirements (colour considerations and materials that match a company’s brand).



Insight: Medical Applications

In this video we look at what you need to consider when choosing the right manufacturing partner. We also look at the various options for rapid prototyping of medical devices: injection moulding, CNC machining and 3D printing – the advantages and disadvantages of each. Getting through the regulatory gates is a key goal in the medical product development process, and this video aims to help you get started down the right track.


Insight: Plastic Injection Moulding - Improving Part Design with Uniform Wall Thickness

In this video we begin by explaining the importance of ‘uniformity’, in terms of sinking, warping, and essentially non-functioning parts. We then look at what this means for designing a functional and cosmetically accurate part. Considerations include spans, corners, bosses, and wall height, so we look at what clever changes can be made to the design to overcome problems relating to wall thickness.


Insight: CNC Machining Cutting Costs

In this video we look at CNC machining costs and how to cut them. We look at what could potentially be compromised in the design, such as sharp edges and perfectly square corners – what can be altered in the design to avoid costly electrical discharge machining and slow material removal rates. We also look at walls and features within the part, and how to keep your design as simple as possible in order to keep those machining costs down.


Insight: Secondary Services

This video looks at some of the additional services that suppliers should provide you with to help meet project requirements. This includes the types of quality inspection reports, post production operations, drilling and tapping holes and threads and part finishes.


Insight: DMLS & CNC Machining - Working Together

CNC machining and DMLS are both incredibly useful processes. By utilising both, it can allow for greater flexibility in part design and can even save time and money. This video will help you understand the shared strengths and inherent differences between both processes, and how to best use them to your advantage.


Insight:​ Injection Moulding Cosmetics – Cosmetic Defects And How To Avoid Them​

As with any manufacturing process, injection moulding comes with its own set of design guidelines, and design engineers who understand these best practices will increase their chances of developing structurally sound and cosmetically appealing parts and products.


Insight: Measure Up For Success - Detailed Measurement And Inspection Reporting

Measurement and inspection services are offered by most suppliers on injection moulded parts. These services range from part approval quality documentation to detailed dimensional reports. The speed in which you receive these depends on part complexity and production volume.

This week's video discusses what to ask when talking to your supplier about their report offerings - and things you can do to support the process with a well-designed part.


Insight: DFMA - Design For Manufacture Analysis

Automated design for manufacturability or DFM analysis, software that can quickly provide feedback on the manufacturability of your parts and can also highlight potential issues or areas of the design detail that could benefit from simple changes.


Insight: Copper – For 3D Printing And CNC Machining

Copper is a vital material in engineering and it's role, particularly in industries such as automotive, is certainly growing. Until recently if you wanted a copper part the only option was to have it CNC machined, but now there is another option available. For more complex geometries, DMLS can be a more suitable method of creating parts.

This week's video looks at copper and aims to help you understand when it's best to turn to CNC machining or 3D printing.


Insight: CNC Threading - For Milled And Turned Parts


At the most basic level there are two types of machined threads - internal and external. But when considering threads for your part there are a number of factors to ponder, such as:

  • size of threads in UNC, UNF and metric
  • maximum depths
  • whether the thread can be added before or needs to be added after manufacturing
  • inserts and how they affect hole diameter and depth etc.

This week's video looks at the key details, to help you learn what's possible when it comes to CNC threading.


Insight: Fine Detail - 3D Printing Fine Resolution Features

Most 3D printed parts require normal or high resolution detail. But for very precise features - and we're talking detail at hundredths of millimetres - we move into the realm of micro resolution. Materials with this level of resolution come with both advantages and limitations, so this video will help you make the most of prototyping such intricate components.


Insight: Surface Finishes - What Is Best For Your Part?

When considering a surface finish for your part, there are several things to factor in. These include:

  • the material you are using
  • the end-use of your part
  • whether or not your part is at the production or prototype stage.

This video looks at these factors in detail to help you determine the best choice in surface finish.


Insight: Draft - Improving Part Mouldability

Draft is a vital part of injection moulding design. If ignored you run the risk of poor cosmetic finish, warping and the chance that your part may not eject smoothly from the mould. This video talks about draft and how you can use it in your part design for a more mouldable part.


Insight: Anodising - Protecting And Finishing Your Aluminium Part

Anodising produces aluminuim oxide on the surface of the metal. It is the 2nd hardest substance known to man - only diamond is harder - which is why anodising can protect your part against abrasion and corrosion. This video talks about anodising and why you may want to use the service for your metal parts.


Insight: Injection Moulding Costs

Everyone wants to save money on manufactured parts. This video will list ways in which injection moulding costs can be reduced, whether it be cutting unnecessary features or incorporating undercuts.


Insight: Designing Parts For 3D Printing Using MJF

Multi Jet Fusion is a relatively new technology that will open up new opportunities for you.
Making it possible to produce functional nylon prototypes and end-use parts in as fast as 1 day. This video looks at the Multi Jet Fusion process and what it can offer you.


Insight: CNC Part Design - Optimising With Machining In Mind

CNC Machining is a great way to make parts and prototypes quickly and cost-effectively. As with any service there are considerations to be aware of when designing a part. This video will support you in designing your best part with CNC in mind.


Insight: Bridging The Gap Between Prototyping And Production

Speed to market is key in most businesses. When prototyping a new product, you want to ensure you make it to market before your competitor. This video looks at the concept of bridge tooling and how it can support you in your transition from prototyping to production.

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