By Brad Cleveland, Protomold
For all its power, information can be fragile stuff.
A tiny break in a thousand-mile circuit will stop it dead. A linguistic disconnect between communicators can halt its flow or corrupt its content beyond recognition. And without the right equipment—biological or electronic—it cannot be processed. In other words, for information to work, a lot of things must be in place.
At Proto Labs, our business model depends on the intake, processing, output, and use of information. Our contribution to that model—some unique and powerful software—stands on a foundation of preexisting technology. If it weren’t for 3D CAD modeling and the Internet, Proto Labs wouldn’t exist.
Early work in computer aided design (CAD) began in the 1960s in the auto and aircraft industries. More widely available packages like AutoCAD® were introduced in the early 1980s, followed by Pro/ENGINEER® in the late ’80s and SolidWorks® in the mid-’90s, to name a few. Today, most designers use some form of CAD, and more turn from 2D to 3D implementations every day. 3D CAD is the standard input for both Protomold’s injection molding process and First Cut Prototype’s CNC machining process.
The following graphs illustrate the similar, dramatic ramp-ups experienced by 3D CAD, Web sites and Proto Labs US customers from 2003 to 2007.
The dramatic ramp-ups experienced by 3D CAD
Early computers relied on networks to connect “dumb” terminals to centralized mainframes. In the early 1960s, as dedicated networks grew, computer scientists began exploring the possibility of developing interoperability among networks. A major milestone in that process was the introduction
of the Internet Protocol Suite, which allowed existing networks to implement a standard and communicate with one another regardless of their individual designs and internal protocols.
TCP/IP became the ARPANET standard in 1983, but the real beginning of the World Wide Web as we know it today came in 1993 with the introduction of the Mosaic graphical browser (which was, in fact, funded through then-Senator Al Gore’s High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991). Mosaic was eventually superseded by Netscape Navigator, which, in turn, gave way to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and various competing browsers. By making the Internet a user-friendly, global resource, the Web enabled Proto Labs to provide customers with massive amounts of information, and interactive overnight quotes and design analysis, and offer quick-turnaround injection molding and CNC machining direct from 3D CAD models.
About the Author
|Brad Cleveland, President and CEO
The Protomold Company, Inc.
1757 Halgren Rd.
Maple Plain, MN 55359 – USAPhone: 763 479 3680
Fax: 763 479 2679
|Brad Cleveland has been the president and CEO of The Protomold Company, Inc. since November of 2001. Prior to Protomold he was cofounder and vice president of AeroMet Corporation, a laser additive manufacturing company and subsidiary of MTS Systems Corporation.Protomold®, a Proto Labs service, is the world’s fastest source for custom injection molded parts. The company fills a unique niche in the manufacturing of plastic parts, using a combination of advanced, proprietary software and sophisticated equipment to produce prototype and low volume runs of custom injection molded parts. The material properties of Protomold’s real molded parts surpass those of parts produced by additive prototyping processes. At the same time, delivery is faster and costs are lower than those associated with traditional injection molding.|
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