One of the world’s fastest digital manufacturers has launched a Critical to Quality (CTQ) inspection service for its on-demand injection moulding, whilst maintaining its rapid dispatch times.

Protolabs, which operates from a state-of-the-art facility in Telford, will continue to offer unmatched production speed – as little as one day from CAD upload to the shipping of parts.
 
This new service will save design engineers days or even weeks of time for the delivery of quality assured parts.
 
A key aspect behind this rapid reporting and delivery is the company’s revolutionary new software platform, which creates a digital thread as soon as a customer uploads their CAD into the system.  
 
Working within the new platform, the client simply submits a print of their model and uses red circles on their design to highlight up to five features where dimensions and tolerances are critical.
 
They can also use a blue circle to indicate additional features they want measuring for reference – these are not critical to the part, but will still need reviewing.
 
Engineers from Protolabs will then review the model and email an Inspection Statement of Work, which will highlight if any of the features circled as critical have issues with tolerances and mouldability.
 
If there are no issues, the order is issued to meet the customer’s delivery schedules without delay, whilst, if there is an issue, the client will be notified and will need to liaise with engineers to decide on what steps to take.
 
After completing the mould development process, Protolabs will inspect the first three shots from the tool using a coordinate measuring machine (CMM). This will measure the critical features highlighted in the CAD and provide a First Article Inspection (FAI) Report.
 
Using the same CMM, the company will then inspect a further 30 parts from the order, taken at equal intervals from the production run, to produce the Critical to Quality inspection report.
 
Lee Ball, General Manager at Protolabs, commented: “Traditionally, manufacturers have thought of this level of reporting as an extra stage to the process, which can either add time to the production or be completed in their own metrology labs when they receive the order.
 
“The good news for them is we that we include these critical quality inspections without it impacting on the production and delivery times of their injection moulded parts.
 
“This can make a huge difference in the race to get our customers’ products to market first, saving days and in some cases weeks of time. We can complete customer orders from CAD upload, through design for manufacturability and quoting to delivery of the CTQ assured parts in as little as a day. In comparison, most other suppliers will take weeks.”
 
The new service is available as part of Protolabs’ on-demand manufacturing service, which allows engineers to control the complete development and production of their parts from their own desktop.
 
Even if a design needs altering, they are not waiting for the supplier to come back to them as they have full visibility of the process.
 
Lee went on to add: “Our on-demand manufacturing service puts all the control with the customer – it’s like having their own production line controlled from their desktop. If everything runs smoothly then rapid production and dispatch is assured, but even if there is a problem – having such visibility and control – allows them to resolve the issue without delay.
 
“Modern automation is about far more than robotics; it’s about having visibility and control of the process itself. We have extended this so that customers have real time production visibility down the supply chain.”