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Protolabs Network’s Advanced Software Integration Offers Streamlined Collaboration

March 12, 2024
The rebranded network unites internal digital factories with a global network of supply partners.

Protolabs, a digital manufacturer, has revamped its Protolabs Network service to leverage global manufacturing partners, providing enhanced capabilities and pricing options. This rebranded service integrates the company’s internal digital factories with a network of more than 250 supply partners to cater to customer needs across the entire product life cycle—from innovation and prototyping to production and end-of-life support. 

Addressing the question of specific software tools and systems used to facilitate collaboration within the Protolabs Network, Lucca Mazzei, strategic growth officer at Protolabs, said the company does not rely on commercial packaged software. Instead, Protolabs has developed proprietary software to automate various aspects of digital manufacturing. This homegrown software is streamlined to eliminate friction in the process and enable direct connections with customers for swift issue resolution. 

READ MORE: Q&A: Protolabs Rebranded Manufacturing Partner Network Expands Capabilities

Protolabs’ network offering is integrated into its proprietary software, Mazzei says, which enables advanced tools and technologies to be used across the internal digital factories and the partner network. “The collaboration between both our factory and network technologies allows us to use the best solutions available in each across the larger business,” he said.   

For instance, Protolabs leverages its Design for Manufacturing (DfM) analysis tools from its digital factories for the network, while applying advanced geometry analysis to better match orders with manufacturing partners’ capabilities, Mazzei explained. Artificial intelligence is also part of the network. “We are also able to use the network’s advanced AI capabilities for our digital manufacturing process,” Mazzei said. 

READ MORE: Additive Manufacturing Innovations Drive Industry Forward

As for the specific CAD/CAM/CAE software used by Protolabs, the company’s website highlights the compatibility with a range of professional-level CAD software packages such as SolidWorks, PTC Creo, IronCAD and Siemens NX—all of which support a model-based definition (MBD) approach to product design. Protolabs facilitates the creation of 3D models through numerous CAD programs, allowing users to export files directly to the platform for manufacturing. The company also employs machine learning algorithms to compare customer CAD models to millions of previously manufactured parts, generating on-demand quotes and manufacturing custom parts. 

Through a combination of proprietary software, industry-standard CAD tools and advanced technologies, Protolabs has been able to effectively utilize digital platforms and systems to enable collaboration between its digital factories and the global network of suppliers, helping to ensure an integrated and efficient manufacturing resource. 

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