Protolabs launches polypropylene 3D printing service in Europe

Advanced manufacturing company Protolabs has announced the launch of its polypropylene 3D printing service for customers in Europe.

This widely-used and versatile material will now be available as part of Protolabs selective laser sintering service to deliver prototypes with the same material properties found in end-use polypropylene parts.

“Until recently you could only use 3D printed polypropylene-like materials that mimicked this plastic, but they did not have all of the same properties and were not as durable,” Andrea Landoni, 3D printing product manager for Protolabs explained. “Now that we can produce a prototype in polypropylene, design engineers can develop and test it in an application using the same material that it will be manufactured from. The product design can then be quickly reiterated and retested until they have the perfect solution, before committing to tooling.”

Protolabs, which currently produces around 100,000 3D printed components every month, says 3D printing in polypropylene will open up new design possibilities for complex geometries such as honeycomb structures or internal channels which could not be achieved with other manufacturing technologies. Protolabs does however note that there are certain application areas where CNC machining or injection moulding may still offer the best solution. Having all three manufacturing capabilities for this material available in-house will allow the company to offer customers advice on which technique is best for their application.

Andrea concluded: “In an age where speed to market really counts, Protolabs can significantly reduce the lead time for a new product or part from initial concept right through to final manufacture. With this new service, we can help manufacturers get new polypropylene products to market weeks or even months earlier than before.”

Last month, Protolabs expanded its additive manufacturing capabilities with the addition of Carbon’s Digital Light Synthesis (DLS) to its fleet and also recently announced a range of secondary and post-build processes to enable the additive manufacture of metal end-use parts.

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