Proto Labs Inc.'s CTO Reveals Its R&D Strategy

In the following video, 3-D printing specialist Steve Heller asks Proto Labs (NYSE: PRLB  ) Chief Technology Officer Rob Bodor about the company's future plans from a research and development perspective. On a high level, Proto Labs intends to build out the breadth of services it offers with the same emphasis on speed that's always been core to its strategy.

A transcript follows the video.

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Steve Heller: From an R&D perspective, just talking about the future, where is Proto Labs going to be most focused?

Rob Bodor: Our [Proto Labs'] strategy is really around building out new processes so that we can bring to market, to our customers, the same kind of speed, reliability, and scale in more and more manufacturing technologies. Recently we [Proto Labs] launched liquid silicone rubber and metal injection molding, which are two examples of new ways that we can make parts for people.

I'm very excited about the splash we're [Proto Labs is] making with metal injection molding -- our MIM service -- right now at AD&M this year. I think we're really revolutionizing the MIM market by being able to provide parts in 5-10 days in stainless steel, through a MIM process starting with molds ...

Heller: MIM is metal injection molding, correct?

Bodor: Yes. This is a molding process for making stainless steel parts and steel parts, and we're able to do that starting at $1,495 for the mold and with very low prices, so that all of a sudden we [Proto Labs] can become competitive with machining at very low quantities; sometimes 20 part volume, we can already be a cheaper option. You get that molding economy in these hard metals, that you could never get anywhere else.

Heller: Are you starting to compete a little bit with the foundry business at all, like metal casting and all that, or not so much?

Bodor: Yes, in some ways we do. Now, the advantage to metal injection molding is that it's a net shape process so unlike ... in foundry, you often have to do secondary machining.

Heller: I see, so it comes out as a finished product.

Bodor: It comes out as a finished part.


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