Manufacturing Services

Get prototypes and low-volume production parts in as fast as 1 day with our industrial 3D printing, CNC machining and injection moulding services.

3D Printing

A 3D object is built from a CAD model, usually constructing the part by depositing layer upon layer of material. Protolabs offers five 3D printing services.

  • Stereolithography
  • Selective Laser Sintering
  • Direct Metal Laser Sintering
  • Multi Jet Fusion
  • PolyJet & 3D Printed Silicone

CNC Machining

Computer numerical control machining, or CNC machining, is the process of taking a blank piece of material and following a precise set of programmed instructions, to subtractively remove material from the block, until only the final product remains. Protolabs offers;

  • CNC Milling
    • 3-axis
    • 5-axis
  • CNC Turning

Injection Moulding

The process of heating resin and injecting it at pressure into a mould cavity, which then solidifies and sets, before being ejected. Protolabs offers;

  • Plastic Injection Moulding
  • Liquid Silicone Rubber Moulding
  • Overmoulding & Insert Moulding

Which rapid manufacturing Service would be best suited for my project?

 

What your part is made from, the quantity and the function of it, might affect which service you need to use. Protolabs offer a wide array of rapid manufacturing services to help support you with a range of project requirements.

When producing a new part, certain questions can help you narrow down which service is best for you. For example; a part that needs to be made from metal would immediately rule out Protolabs' injection moulding service. Whilst a part needed for production runs would rule-out our CNC machining and 3D Printing services.

  • Which rapid manufacturing service is best for the quantity of parts I need?

    A good rule of thumb is 3D printing is typically a cost-effective option up to 50 parts, CNC machining is economical up to about 200, but our single-cavity moulds can typically produce up to 10,000 parts. It's worth talking to an expert if you're uncertain of the best process for your project, especially if scalability is a concern. You can phone and speak to someone on +44 (0)1952 683047.

  • Which material is best for my moulded/machined/3D Printed part?

    If you are undecided on which material to use please refer to our comparison guide and/or check out our matrix and charts below. If you need more in-depth support, please refer to our materials matter whitepaper or contact us on +44 (0)1952 683047.
    Once you have decided on a material, this can help narrow down which services you might use.

  • Can I get my manufactured part quickly?

    All of Protolabs' services have an emphasis on speed, but our CNC services offer the quickest turnaround, so time is less of a factor than you think. However, please see the matrix below to see if the speed of a service might affect which service you choose.

  • How can I reduce costs of my manufactured part?

    An entrepreneur, small business or start up with limited funding for prototypes will most likely find 3D printing or, if its possible with the part geometry, machining, to be the best option in terms of cost. In contrast, a company with a more substantial budget might find injection moulding to be more cost-effective.

    We also have tips available on how you might try to cut on costing;
    Tips to Reduce Injection Moulding Costs
    How to Reduce CNC Machining Costs
    6 Ways to Cut Costs with Industrial 3D Printing

The comparison guide below might help you decide which would be the best service for you.

 

 
  SL SLS DMLS MJF PJ & 3DS CNC M CNC T PIM LSR OM & IM
Plastic Part - - -
Elastomeric Part - - - - - - -
Metal Part - - - - - - -
Prototyping
Low-Volume Production/ Bridge Tooling & Pilot Runs - - - - - - -
Speed 1-7 Days 1-7 Days 1-7 Days 1-7 Days 1-7 Days 1-3 Days 1-3 Days 1-15 Days 1-15 Days 1-15 Days
Material Options ABS-Like
PC-Like
PP-Like

PA 12 White
PA 11 Black
PA 12 40% Glass Filled
PA 12 Carbon

Metals PA 12 Black Digital Photopolymers
3DP Silicone
30+ Plastics & Metals 30+ Plastics & Metals 30+ Plastics Elastosil Options & Digital Photopolymers 30+ Plastics

  SL SLS DMLS
Manufacturing Time* 1 to 7 days 1 to 7 days 1 to 7 days
Quantity 1 to 50+ parts 1 to 50+ parts 1 to 50+ parts
Benefits/Applications • Small, complex geometries
• Several finish options
• Early prototyping
• Greater durability over SL
• Functional prototypes
• Internal geometry and holes
• Full strength, 98% dense
• Internal geometry, holes
• Functional, end-use parts
Material Selection • ABS-like
• PC-like
• PP-like

• PA 12 White
• PA 11 Black
• PA 12 40% Glass Filled
• PA 12 Carbon

• Aluminium
• Maraging Steel
• Titanium
• 316 Stainless Steel
• Inconel
Max. Part Size • Normal Res: 736mm x 635mm x 533mm
• High Res: 247mm x 247mm x 250mm
• Micro Res: 127mm x 127mm x 63mm

• PA 12 White 676mm x 367mm x 564mm
• PA 11 Black 269mm x 320mm x 406mm
• PA 12 40% Glass Filled 269mm x 320mm 406mm
• PA 12 Carbon 490mm x 490mm x 740mm

• Normal Res: 350mm x 250mm x 300mm
• High Res: 250mm x 250mm x 300mm
• Micro Res: 71mm x 71mm x 80mm (Ø100 x 80 mm)
Min. Feature Size • Normal Res: 0.25mm for the XY draw plane (0.406mm for the Z build direction)
• High Res: 0.13mm for the XY draw plane (0.406mm for the Z build direction)
• Micro Res: 0.07mm for the XY draw plane (0.2mm for the Z build direction)
0.75mm • Normal Res: 1.0mm
• High Res: 1.0mm
• Fine Res: 0.5mm
Resolution/ Layer Thickness • Normal Res: 0.1mm
• High Res: 0.05mm

• Micro Res: 0.025mm
0.1mm • Normal Res: 0.05-0.06mm
• High Res:0.03mm-0.04mm
• Fine Res: 0.02mm
Tolerance • For parts that are built in High Resolution (HR): The tolerances for well-designed parts are in the X / Y direction ± 0.05mm plus an additional ± 0.001mm / mm; In Z direction ± 0.13mm plus additional ± 0.001mm / mm.
• For parts that are built in Normal Resolution (NR): The tolerances for well-designed parts are in the X / Y direction ± 0.1mm plus an additional ± 0.001mm / mm; In Z direction ± 0.13mm plus additional ± 0.001mm / mm.
• For parts that are built in Micro Resolution (MR): The tolerances for well-designed parts in the X / Y direction ± 0.05mm plus an additional ± 0.001mm / mm; In Z-direction ± 0.13mm plus additional ± 0.001mm / mm.
Typically, expected tolerances on well-designed parts are +/-0.2mm, plus +0.002mm/mm Typically, for well-designed parts, with a designated build direction, tolerances of +/- 0.1 mm to +/- 0.2 mm + 0.005 mm/mm are expected and achieved
Equipment Vipers, iPros and Projects. sPro 140 and sPro 60 EOS and Concept Laser 3D

Manufacturing times are dependent on quantity requirements. We might deliver your parts in partial shipments in order to get them to you as quickly as possible.

  Milling Turning
Manufacturing Time* 1 to 3 days 1 to 3 days
Quantity 1 to 200+ parts 1 to 200+ parts
Material Options 30+ grades of plastic and metal Aluminium, stainless steel, steel alloy, steel mild low carbon
Max. Part Size

3-axis

• 254mm x 178mm x 95mm
• 254mm x 356mm x 44mm*
• 559mm x 356mm x 19mm*
• 559mm x 356mm x 32mm**
*These part sizes can only be milled from two sides, and in ABS, acetal, aluminium 6082 and 7075.
**This part size can only be milled from two sides, and in Aluminium 6082

5-axis

• 66mm x 73mm x 99mm

• 75mm (diameter) x 228mm (length)
Min. Part Size/ Resolution 6.35mm x 6.35mm x 6.35mm 0.76mm to 4mm (diameter) x 1.27mm to 6.35mm (length)
Finish • Plastic - As-machined
• As-machined, deburred, or deburred with a light bead blast.
• Aluminium - Edges broken with visible toolmarks, edges broken with light bead blast, or sharp edges with visible toolmarks
• All Other Metals - Edges broken with visible toolmarks or edges broken with light bead blast 

Manufacturing times are dependent on quantity requirements. We might deliver your parts in partial shipments in order to get them to you as quickly as possible.

  Plastic IM LSR OM & IM
Manufacturing Time* 1 to 15 days 1 to 15 days 1 to 15 days
Quantity 25 to 10,000+ parts 25 to 10,000+ parts 25 to 10,000+ parts
Material Options 100+ grade of thermoplastic resin Standard, optical and medical grades of LSR 100+ grade of thermoplastic resin and LSR
Max. Part Size 480mm x 770mm x 101mm (from parting line) 304mm x 203mm x 100mm 203mm x 406mm x 152mm
Finish PM-F0, PM-F1, PM-F2, SPI-C1, PM-T1, PM-T2, SPI-B1, SPI-A2 PM-FO, PM-F1, SPI-C1, SPI-A2 PM-F0, PM-F1, PM-F2, SPI-C1, PM-T1, PM-T2, SPI-B1, SPI-A2

Manufacturing times are dependent on quantity requirements. We might deliver your parts in partial shipments in order to get them to you as quickly as possible.



Choosing a Rapid Manufacturing Process

Each manufacturing process comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. From 3D printing to CNC machining and injection moulding, this white paper is a highly technical look at the various rapid manufacturing processes. Weigh the benefits of each so you can focus on a process best suited for your project.
Rapid Prototyping Processes

How is Protolabs different?

 

  • We work only from 3D models, not drawings
  • We provide interactive online quotes rather than manual quotes that can take days or weeks
  • We perform in-process quality checks versus traditional first article inspections
  • We're ISO 9001 and ISO 13485 certified and we welcome quality audits
Protolabs Product Life Cycle
Product Life Cycle

Research and Development

Looking for a manufacturing process we don’t offer? Let us know. Our R&D division, Protoworks, was established to research, develop, and market-test new accelerated manufacturing processes for prototyping or low-volume production.
Research and Development