Dylan Lundberg | Protolabs

 In Being an Engineer Podcast


Being an Engineer - Buzzsprout



Who is Dylan Lundberg?

Dylan Lundberg is a manufacturing & R&D engineering manager at Protolabs, where he and his team manufacture prototypes and low-volume production parts using 3D printing, CNC machining as well as injection molding & other manufacturing processes. Meanwhile, Dylan serves as Team manager and leader of an engineering team dedicated to Research, Development, and Manufacturing.

Aaron Moncur, host


labs, proto, parts, mold, prolapse, injection molding, design, engineer, tolerances, automation, pivotal labs, business, geometries, software, company, manufacturing, create, people, hubs, 3d printing
Presenter, Aaron Moncur, Dylan Lundberg

Presenter 00:00
Hi, everyone, we’ve set up this being an engineer podcast as an industry knowledge repository, if you will, we hope it’ll be a tool where engineers can learn about and connect with other companies, technologies, people, resources and opportunities. So make some connections and enjoy the show.

Dylan Lundberg 00:18
At the end of the day, we want to create an environment where you know, not only you’re getting the speed, but you’re getting the quality, and it makes sense such that you know, there’s just no reason why you go somewhere else.

Aaron Moncur 00:45
Hello, and welcome to the being an engineer Podcast. Today we’re speaking with Dylan Lundberg, who is a manufacturing and r&d engineering manager at proto labs, where he and his team manufacture prototypes and low volume production parts using 3d printing, CNC machining and injection molding and other manufacturing processes. Dylan, thanks so much for joining me today on the show.

Dylan Lundberg 01:08
Oh, thank you, Aaron. This is great. All right.

Aaron Moncur 01:11
So tell me how did you find your way into Protolabs? I think pretty much every design engineer out there has heard of proto labs, you folks are pretty ubiquitous at this point. How did you make your way into the company.

Dylan Lundberg 01:24
So I was working for Bosch that I’m sure everyone else has also heard of, for my kind of my first three years out of school. So I’m a mechanical engineer by schooling. And I kind of found a good gig that I at the time thoroughly enjoyed. One of my peers at Bosch had kind of hit the highway for Protolabs that at the time, you know, this was eight years ago, so Protolabs are still kind of small, and I hadn’t even really heard of them, you know, I kind of associated Protolabs with 3d printing at the time. And that association still comes through, I think, but one of my peers joined Protolabs , and, you know, they’re kind of throwing feelers my way, because it was, you know, the, the water was boiling, you know, it just felt like a company that was gonna really take off a lot of good things going on a lot of innovation happening. You know, and personally, I love design engineering, I love innovation, I love invention. And at the time, I really didn’t know what, you know, prolapse brought in those regards, I thought they were a quick turn manufacturer, you know, what am I going to do at a manufacturing company, you know, am I going to lose some of my appetite for these other things that I enjoy. And so, but, you know, it didn’t treat me enough. So I reached out, and I learned more about the company, and really what they were trying to do, and I was hooked really quickly, because it was far from kind of just a manufacturing company. You know, proto Labs is truly trying to reinvent manufacturing in a lot of ways to kind of deliver the value props that are let’s does, you know, the speed, and the quality, etc. And so it was, it was from there. And after that the interview process that I thought it was kind of a perfect fit, and I joined the group, so

Aaron Moncur 03:11
Awesome. What was it that hooked you about Protolabs, you know, you said that you weren’t so sure, at first, but pretty quickly, you decided, yeah, this is this is where I want to be.

Dylan Lundberg 03:20
It was the the, you know, one of the core values Protolabs is the innovation piece. You know, I didn’t manufacturing engineering is intriguing, you know, process engineering is intriguing. But at the time, especially, as mentioned, I was really big into kind of design engineering and creating systems and really turning things on their heads to promote efficiency. And I didn’t have a great understanding of what purlins was. But as I learned that poor Labs was far from just a 3d printing manufacturer, you know, where I eventually got heavily involved in is their, their quick turn injection molding business and their CNC business, and the way they have to deliver the products within those services. It’s far from just manufacturing, as I mentioned, you know, the processes of the background required nothing but invention. So I really get to wet my, you know, design, engineering, appetite, and, you know, for the first half of my career at proto labs, you know, and I’ve been here a little over eight years, you know, was basically design engineering. So, you know, put two and two together, you know, what, what does the design engineer do it in a manufacturer, and it’s the fact that, you know, all of these backend processes that we utilize to deliver, you know, our product, our inventions, you know, they’re their trade secrets, it’s, it’s, you can’t just take off the shelf ideas, and kind of do what we do.

Aaron Moncur 04:56
Okay, and so I want to be sensitive, of course, to the fact You do have a lot of trade secrets. So if any of the questions I ask prod to foreign to those trade secrets, just you know, let me know. And that’s, that’s cool. We’ll skip those. I am curious. What does a design engineer do at proto labs? Because I’ve had that same thought, you know, to me as well, it seems like proto labs, they’re a manufacturer, they turn parts around really quickly. So what, what does the design engineer spend eight years doing at proto labs? And don’t feel like you have to get into any like, nitty gritty specific details, but is it? Is it a lot of like, like tooling design, and and like process design and automation? That kind of thing?

Dylan Lundberg 05:39
Yeah, I think all the above, you know, there’s a recent quote, and I don’t know it verbatim, but you know, Elon Musk was talking about Tesla, and how the most impressive product that they create is kind of the factories that they build. And I would kind of draw very similar parallels to proto labs, you know, how we have to manufacture those parts and the scale and speed at which we deliver required design engineering solutions to go do that. And so when you when you think of the quantity and how quickly that has to happen, you know, standardization is absolutely key. So a lot of fixturing. And tool selection and tool use, you basically are standardizing the internet, right? You know, you’re taking an upload, no matter what it could be from Aaron, or one of his, you know, guys that pipeline, and in 30 minutes, regardless of what that part may look like, it could be machine getting created. So

Aaron Moncur 06:39
amazing. Amazing. All right. Well, I’m super curious about how proto labs got started. I mean, I’ve read a little bit. I can’t remember the founders name. But he was basically a software guy, right, and wanted to bring injection molding into the 21st century with with automation. Can you speak a little bit about what did proto labs look like in the beginning? In fact, maybe it was first cut in the beginning. I know the name changed at some point. But what did that? Where did printer labs start? What did it look like in the early days? And how did that evolution happened? Yeah, so

Dylan Lundberg 07:12
actually, the first company was proto mold. And it’s kind of the classic tale of the frustrated engineer, and the founders name was Larry Lucas. And so he was a frustrated engineer, but he happened to be a super ambitious entrepreneur, already, he had, he had started, you know, at least a couple other companies, you know, not nearly as successful as eventual pro lives. But you know, he certainly already had that spirit. And so I think the tail goes is his frustration, he was on some sort of printer company that he had started required plastic parts. And he was frustrated that just how long it took to get injection molded parts. And, you know, he was very diverse in computer programming, and he thought there was a legitimate problem to go attack. And so he started creating a solution to where a lot of the front end time it takes to get a mold started. He wanted to automate with software. So the design challenges, you know, what you go through for, and imagine this in 1999, far less tools than what we have today. But imagine in 1999, what had to be done to design a mold. And so he wanted to leverage software to, you know, place ejector pins, you know, all the mold geometry, within automation is what he started to create. And then it just kind of blossomed from there.

Aaron Moncur 08:38
Nice. It was called first cut at some point, right? I’m not imagining they’re not

Dylan Lundberg 08:43
imagining it. So personal was the first one. And then, you know, they expanded the business, I can’t remember exactly what year but to start including the CNC business, so first cut is was the moniker for the CNC side of the business. And then, when the merge happened, that kind of all became pro lives.

Aaron Moncur 09:02
Got it. Okay, cool. So when he, Larry wasn’t

Dylan Lundberg 09:10
Larry Lucas,

Aaron Moncur 09:11
when Larry first founded the company proto mold back back in the day, was there already an existing shop that he just purchased? Or did he really build this from the ground up? It

Dylan Lundberg 09:22
was basically from the ground up. And, you know, someone may call me out for being wrong at some of these things. But I think it was sort of a garage startup that eventually eventually led to you know, him leasing a building in Maple, plain Minnesota. That would, which was actually the building until, you know, six months ago, I was working out of the for most of my career as kind of the original plant one they called it and just expanded and so right down the road from that original plant, one warehouse that you know, he had a couple presses and a couple mills and you know, a few software nerds Um, they eventually built this, you know, pretty impressive headquarters. Also in Oakland, Minnesota, where it is today.

Aaron Moncur 10:07
Amazing. Okay, so he, his goal in the beginning was to make injection molding quicker. At this point, I’m sure it differs depending on what the part geometry is, and complexity and things like that. But, you know, generally on average, how long does it take to spool up a new injection molding project and start getting parts it prototypes,

Dylan Lundberg 10:29
that’s still the beauty of our business. So obviously, we’re we, we’ve delved into a lot of things that I’m sure we’ll head on in this podcast, but you know, whether it be injection molding, CNC machining, 3d printing, and sheet metal now, I still think injection molding, as far as the speed goes, is gonna be the most impressive, because just everything that goes into making a plastic part from a mold and turning that around in, in as fast as a day. So it certainly varies on complexity. But you know, we do do lead times as short as a day. And so if you can imagine, you know, what it takes to design a mold, send them Fitzy files to a mill cutter mold, you know, assemble that mold, get into a press and shoot parts, within 24 hours, obviously, that’s pretty spectacular. So that’s kind of, you know, obviously, not every geometry qualifies for that. But that’s what we shoot for, for simpler geometries. The standard lead time for a mold is 15 days, and then depending on the size and the complexity, you can expedite from there. But, you know,

Aaron Moncur 11:35
that’s mind blowing. Yeah. Well, I know printer Lab supports kind of all the major manufacturing processes, injection molding, obviously, machining, 3d printing, I think you guys do sheet metal now as well. Is there? Is injection molding still kind of the focus? Or is the focus all of the above? I would say, it’s

Dylan Lundberg 11:58
definitely all the above. You know, there’s certainly a synergy between the service lines, but there’s also, you know, a certain level of segregation as well, as they have their own needs and niches that they’re trying to, you know, attack within their own individual markets. Injection Molding happens to be the still the largest business, but you know, it’s, it’s really getting chased hard by our CNC machining, Business Center, 3d printing businesses, as those continue to grow, pretty fast basis.

Aaron Moncur 12:29
Okay, I interviewed one of the managers at xometry A little while back. And as I understand it, their business model, they don’t really have or maybe they do, but it’s not like their primary source of machining work, their own shop, and they mostly farm it out to different vendors throughout the world. And I think if I understand correctly, proto labs, it’s kind of the opposite where you do everything in house, is that accurate? That is

Dylan Lundberg 12:58
90% accurate. So we just recently, were there, we’re not we acquired a company in Europe called hubs. And hubs is quite similar to xometry, although there’s some subtle differences in how they operate. But the whole goal of the hubs acquisition is, you know, things that pro labs core is really good at, we can still be really good at. But if the customer wants a one stop shop to go get parts at potentially lower piece part prices, and they don’t really care about lead times as much. They can also, you know, order that from our ecommerce site, and there would be discovered associated with, you know, longer lead times. And so that’s kind of a vision of, you know, how proto labs and hubs are going to work together. But that is a clear distinction between, you know, core proto labs and xometry, we do have full control over kind of our manufacturing and the invention of our manufacturing processes, and really, you know, driving towards goals, whether it be speed or quality, etc. You know, we do have control over that, because it’s, it’s within our own domain.

Aaron Moncur 14:07
Yeah. Would it be fair to say that the, I guess the value proposition that proto labs offers over someone like xometry, or just any other machine shop out there is really the speed, right? It’s all the automation that you’ve built in the background that allows you to deliver parts really, really fast? Is that Is that accurate?

Dylan Lundberg 14:27
I wouldn’t say that’s 100% accurate, you know, where things get exciting, where, you know, from an r&d and development perspective, I work out a lot is the things that you add with speed in mind are also super differentiated. You know, when when we talk about cutting a mold in 15 days or even one day, you know, obviously that’s amazing, but you know, what if we can give you a 30 part capability study and a first article inspection and, you know, some other documentation that you may also need in that same time For him, that’s also differentiated, you know, those things aren’t like mind blowing, because everyone else has them. But if I can deliver it in a day or 15, along with my fastball down, it becomes exciting. And so that’s, that’s a lot of things, you know, you start talking about anodising and other, you know, secondary operations that you can build into our existing value prop. They’re, they’re not super differentiated on their own, but with speed, they become very differentiated.

Aaron Moncur 15:27
So is, is Pivotal Labs doing anodising.

Dylan Lundberg 15:31
So we do, certainly through hubs and hubs parts we do anodising and, you know, through secondary operations, that adds additional lead time we do do anodising I think, you know, as a sneak behind the curtain, it obviously makes sense. We’re a huge aluminum, machine shop anodising makes sense for our lab. So I would say, you know, sometime in the future here, you’re gonna see nicely colored parts coming out. Very

Aaron Moncur 15:57
cool. Very cool. That would be Yeah, a huge addition that I think tons of engineers would take advantage of. All right. What’s, what’s the culture, like working at proto labs? I mean, you mentioned core values, at least one earlier, but what are some of the other core values? And just what does the culture feel like working there?

Dylan Lundberg 16:16
Yeah, so this is cliche, but I think it’s also accurate. You know, the number one is, the core value, and we call it kind of our foundation is the people and the values that we have, and the culture itself. And then beyond that, you know, we’re customer centric. We’re innovation driven, as I mentioned, and we have a huge emphasis on continuous improvement. And that’s another aspect that I thought was really cool about this company, we just, we have what we call GTX. You know, it’s a global technology exchange, it’s kind of internal to our company, where everyone across our different sites and our different service lines, we get together for a week, and we, we kind of have an expo where we’re just sharing cool ideas, and you know, tell them successes and just talking, you know, theoretical ideas, etc. It’s unbelievable how much improvement is going on simultaneously across like, all these different groups. You know, we try to communicate as much as possible, but you know, it’s a big company now. So you don’t know everything that’s going on. And once you get everyone in, in the same location, really talking about how much is going on, it’s pretty awesome.

Aaron Moncur 17:25
How many people are at Pivotal Labs now? I mean, what give us a sense for the size of the company?

Dylan Lundberg 17:32
Yeah, globally. So when I got to proto labs eight years ago, we are about 1500. So it wasn’t a tiny company than what I Yeah. But now I think we’re getting close to 3000. Wow. We’re somewhere between 2700.

Aaron Moncur 17:50
That’s amazing. Well, congratulations on all the growth and success there. How is the workforce split? I’m sure there are plenty of programmers. And manufacturing personnel, of course, you yourself you’re you’re a mechanical engineer, I’m sure there are technicians there as well. What is the split? Like? Is it does it feel like predominantly a software company, or predominantly a manufacturing company, or an engineering or some mix of everything?

Dylan Lundberg 18:20
Yeah, so it’s been a really cool transition. And I think we’re in kind of a transitionary phase right now. In the beginning, it was basically all software and I’ll call them nerds, I’m a nerd. So I can use that term for you freely. And I would say, naive software nerds. So a lot of the rules and boundaries that have been pushed out proto labs were done, because they didn’t know any better when they were developing some of these processes, where if you had, you know, traditional Moltex, and traditional, you know, molding engineers and, and CNC engineers, they would have been, like, not a chance in hell, that’ll never work. But because there was naivety. You know, we got away with a lot of things and kind of created a lot of the innovation in the early days. But, you know, as we’ve grown, and as we want to get into different segments, you know, we need to get kind of a better mix of kind of the traditional ways and, you know, the, the initial ways. And so, as we’ve grown, there’s been a lot more introduction of, you know, traditional machinists and mechanical and manufacturing engineers and molding SMEs and CNC SMEs to kind of pair with with our software team. So we do we have a massive software squad, between both prolapsing hubs, but now you know, each of our facilities and all the surface service lines definitely has, you know, dedicated manufacturing engineering teams and myself in part The research and development team, it’s a pretty even mix between your kind of traditional personnel. And then the majority of the workforce is still operations.

Aaron Moncur 20:12
I love when you talked about the fact that these software nerds didn’t know they couldn’t do something. So they did it. And they figured out how to make it work. That’s that’s a really interesting insight. And that’s led to some really creative innovations, I’m sure what, what is the process for innovation? At proto labs, you mentioned this global technology conference that you do, like how to new ideas bubbled to the surface and find their way in into becoming reality?

Dylan Lundberg 20:45
Yes, you know, a lot of that is just the personality you have, right? If you’re, if you’re hiring a lot of creative, innovative people, you know, they just tend to talk about creative, innovative things. And I think that’s one thing protoliths has done very well. And as we’ve gotten bigger, there’s definitely segways where you can, you know, officially submit ideas to get it reviewed by people like myself, research and development company, or some sort of analysis. But there’s, there is a lot of communication as well. So if people have ideas, whether it’s from the floor or from their software teams, you know, that’s definitely siphoned through kind of leadership and management that it’s that’s discussed for. Okay. But yeah, I think there’s just a lot of open communication, and if the idea can be justified and in as a data driven, and, you know, justified thing to chase, a kind of interview kind of your traditional MPI your new product or process and development. So,

Aaron Moncur 21:48
yeah, all right. What was prolapse? Like during COVID? Obviously, you need to be in the office to make parts. How did how did you all accomplish that?

Dylan Lundberg 21:57
Yeah, so hats off to a lot of the operations team, of course, because they were the boots on the ground, regardless of all the development and software creation and other creation that you can do from home, you know, someone has to be pushing buttons on machines to make parts. And so there definitely was a workforce that was in our factories, continuing to turn off parts. And, you know, Cool story, whether you saw it or not, you know, perlas got great opportunity to help out with a lot of the initial, you know, COVID, face masks, and respirators, and etc. And, you know, there’s no better business to like, try to expedite those types of things to get them out to the world. And so there’s a really cool opportunity to help in that way. But for a lot of the company, you know, it turned into a hybrid or remote culture, and in, you know, some of that has retained until today, you know, in some domains that has proven to be equally or even better in success, you know, our technical operations team, work primarily remote we have, you know, probably the majority of our software developers still work remote. And so, you know, where it makes sense. People are in the factories and identifying and working on problems. But they’re also, you know, as with the rest of the world with have adopted a lot of remoteness as well,

Aaron Moncur 23:25
yeah. All right. So the people who could work from home work from home and those who really had to be on the floor, were on the floor. Yep. Well, I, I love working with proto labs, we’ve been using proto labs for many years now. Because the company makes it so easy for us to get parts, right. I don’t have to make a drawing, which is a big deal. I feel like making drawings is kind of a waste of time in some situations. And I know most engineers don’t enjoy creating drawings. We like creating the CAD, that’s fun, the 3d stuff, the creation, but then the drawings is like, just documentation. And why do we have to do that? Anyway, we don’t have to make a drawing to get parts from proto Labs, which is just amazing. And we all love that. Can you tell me what happens? I mean, to the extent that you’re able to share, when when we hit that submit button, what happens behind the scenes that that makes it so easy for us to get parts?

Dylan Lundberg 24:22
Yeah, so I’ll totally agree with you on the drawing since but at some point during product development, you know, drawings and at least requirements sharing is a necessity. But in terms of your question, it really started with Larry and kind of that vision of, you know, a paperless and kind of the digital threat, right? It’s, you know, how do you turn an upload into a NC file for the mill and how do you trigger the next operation? Everything in our lives truly is digital, you know, it’s not kind of just a marketing ploy. Each and every process as a flows through, it has kind of a digital marker and the majority of the time your your CIP, just, you know, along with the mold or part going from Operation operation, you know, digital triggers are getting set. And so that’s a huge play in how these things are standardized and at scale and can be as quickly performed as they are. It’s because you know, we created the infrastructure to execute it in that way.

Aaron Moncur 25:29
Yeah. All right. Well, I’m going to take just a real short break here, share with the listeners that Team pipeline.us is where you can learn more about how we helped medical device and other product engineering or manufacturing teams, develop turnkey equipment, custom fixtures and automated machines to characterize, inspect, assemble, manufacture, and perform verification testing on your devices. And we’re speaking with Dylan Lundberg today. So Dylan, obviously Pivotal Labs has massive benefits and huge value to add to engineering teams. Can you talk a little bit about what are some of the limitations of the proto labs process? I mean, in what situation? Might a customer consider working with a more traditional machine shop over proto labs?

Dylan Lundberg 26:14
So obviously, it’s a constant pursuit of mine to make you know, my answer to this question, the hard answer, right. But the reality is, you know, when you’re, it’s kind of the trifecta that you can only satisfy two and it’s, you know, speed and quality and cost. And so we have to focus on a couple of those in prolapse, you know, our current mentalities that we’re focused on and speed and quality. And so at the end of the day, if you’re looking for the cheapest supplier possible, you know, prolapse probably isn’t going to be the best bet. You know, there’s, there’s a lot of aspects to what qualifies as inexpensive. And if you start considering, you know, development time and cost of development time, you know, that’s a whole different bag of worms. But if you’re just looking at, you know, piece per car price, and that is your biggest differentiator for what manufacturer, you’re selecting purlins may not be the right choice at the end of the day. The other thing is, you know, because we’re operating at such as a ridiculous scale, it also comes with with some limitations, and again, you know, we’re actively trying to reduce them as much as possible. But with with standardized processes and standardized tools, there may be remaining material on some geometries that isn’t ideal for your part, and maybe it just doesn’t work for you. We can satisfy those things, you know, in the future here with hubs and some of the partnerships. But if you’re looking at a core proto, proto labs capabilities, that’s what wherever you may run into problems, where you’re looking for specific things that are just our standardized tool sets may not, you know, accommodate, and you’ll get that in Canada, the DFM feedback if you are uploading part, the other thing is, and you know, and again, at least currently, if you’re looking for super tight tolerance parts, you know, we have standard tolerances, that we advertise for the for CNC meet business, and you know, this poster five, plus or minus 5000s tolerances. And then for injection molding, we have basically, you know, material dependent and part dependent inch per inch tolerances or millimeter per millimeter tolerances. So it’s difficult, and it’s, it’s a problem we want to solve eventually, but it’s very difficult to be looking at someone’s print that you hate creating Aaron, for, you know, you know, 30 to 50 different molds that come in on a day. I mean, that’s the type of scale you’re talking about, and 1000s of parts. So it’s, it’s a near impossible feat, and are, you know, that we’re looking to address, but, you know, how will you try to satisfy unique requirements on that many geometries that quickly. And so at least currently, that’s part of the limitation, if you’re looking at super tight tolerances, or special requests that we may not offer through secondary ops or partnerships. You know, we may not just have the solution yet for you.

Aaron Moncur 29:09
So we talked a little bit about the proto labs pricing, which mostly was at low quantities, that was the context in which we’re speaking. Tell me a little bit about production pricing at proto labs.

Dylan Lundberg 29:21
Yeah, I’ll actually clarify that a bit. When I was referencing that we may not be the right place to go if you’re just solely concerned about cost. That is probably actually more associated with our high quantity pricing. I would say because of the automation and standardization, you’re probably not going to find a better price point, you know, between the one and 10 quantities. It’s just when you’re getting into you know, the 10s of 1000s and hundreds of 1000s. You know, we may become less competitive.

Aaron Moncur 29:53
Got it? Yeah, in in prolapse defense. I will say that maybe Apart costs are a little bit higher, but they’re not a lot higher, you know, it’s not a huge difference. And also, in the rare situations where maybe the tool set that printer Labs is using is not able to remove all the material, it’s usually a very small amount of material. In fact, in some cases, I just said, yeah, go ahead and make it that way. And then I’ll get a Dremel. And I’ll just kind of grind out what what I don’t need. And they’re very good about telling you, this is exactly the area where there’s going to be some material left. So it’s pretty clear. They’re pretty clear notifications to the user. If that even is an issue. Going back to the the tolerances that you were talking about plus or minus five thousandths of an inch is pretty typical tolerances for any machine shop. I’ve always wondered. Now, that’s your your stated tolerances. Yes, of course. But you’re using CNC machines. What unofficially, of course, right? Because Officially, the tolerances are plus or minus five, but unofficially, are they typically better than that? But you know, what, what? What could we expect? You know, if on average?

Dylan Lundberg 31:07
Yeah, obviously, that’s probably a little bit of a conservative value. But you’re just you’re just taking into the all the variables that could contribute to the tolerance. Right. And, you know, without going into all the details, it’s the specific tools and the to aware and the specific machine. It’s and are the mills capable? Our is our toolset capable is if everything if all the ducks were in a row for CNC machining business could could in theory, could we hold a one thorough tolerance on specific geometries? Yeah, of course, we probably could. But you know, when we’re making as many parts as we do, and you just have some variability that, once again, we looked at try to reduce on a daily basis. That’s the conservative value. So I think on average, if you were, you know, making your parts, you know, that three to five range is probably pretty accurate.

Aaron Moncur 32:00
Got it? Okay, great. All right. Well, what are some of the hidden challenges that proto labs deals with that are completely invisible to users like me?

Dylan Lundberg 32:11
Going back to the problems of scale? And I think, you know, if you don’t, and most people wouldn’t, if you don’t understand, like, how many different geometries and how many unique and in quantity parts for loves making, you’d be baffled by a response of like, What do you mean, you can’t do that unique operation? For me? What do you mean, you can’t assure that for me, because, you know, a typical machine shop, or, you know, I’ll reference a malt shop, there could be your, your mom and pop mold shops may make, you know, three to 10 molds in a year. And as I mentioned earlier, we can make three to 50 molds in a day. And so to be able to handle a specific mold very specially for somebody is the challenge. And so, you know, we, we try to be, at least with kind of our standard outputs, adequate generalists in some of those regards. So, it’s the cons that may come with using proto labs, where the concessions that they have to make who cares, you know, I’m getting my, my mold of 15 days, or I’m getting my pardon in three days. But, you know, that’s the challenge. And so, you know, that’s the, you know, a lot of the stuff that’s on our plate is how can we handle a lot of these special requests, we want to be able to say yes, everywhere, and, but we have to be able to do it repeatedly and reliably, and you know, not set ourselves up for failure. So, that definitely is a challenge is, is kind of the, when we start to stray from kind of a non standard output. How do we execute it successfully?

Aaron Moncur 33:52
Okay, how do humans work with the automation at Pivotal Labs? I mean, is it just a bunch of humans that are pushing go on the machines? Or what is that split between automation and manual procedures? Yeah,

Dylan Lundberg 34:08
so across the different service lines, that definitely looks different, you know, I’ll hit on injection molding here. It’s definitely all play together. You know, there’s a lot of automation in kind of the the mold design and mold creation that, you know, Larry worked on initially, right. But there is a mold designer that’s, you know, walking through this process, but a lot of the automation is working hand in hand to expedite the majority of these processes. And then you get out to the milling floor, and it’s very similar, you know, cool things that you know, my team and other teams have have created that allow standardization and automation to play with a very low quantity of operators, such that it becomes a button pushing and, you know, simple loading exercise instead of, you know, your traditional machines. Maybe setting a single mill, you know, again, I’ll go back to the quantity thing, you know, typical mill shop may have a machinist babysitting one or two molds that they have to machine. Could that even be possible even financially? Like if you’re making 50 a day? Of course not. So obviously, there’s a lot of standardization and automation that plays with our operators.

Aaron Moncur 35:26
Okay. Any pro tips that you can share about how users can get the most from their proto labs experience?

Dylan Lundberg 35:35
So one of the huge value props that proto labs came up with out of the gate, and people still use it a lot today is the automated DFM design for manufacturability feedback that we have on our webpage. And it’s just to give good feedback for for users. But when when leveraged, to satisfactory levels, if you’re satisfying the DFM or are okay with the DFM that poor labs provides, whether it be for mold making or CNC machining, things can really flow through like butter, like if you have a very if you’re making a mold, and you really put the work upfront to have a very good mold design. And it’s leveraging our DFM and reaching out to our applications engineers to maybe work through some of those moldability advisories to really hone in on your design. And you’re not just kind of ignoring those advisories. You’re setting everyone up for success. And, you know, if your design is good, it will, it should work like magic to prolapse. And the same goes with the CNC side of it, if you’re good at them all the VFm feedback and you kind of have a sense of reverse engineering in your mind the toolset that, you know prolapse leverages, if you’re considering all those things, and you’re using proto labs, as a partner, and you know, the limitations, things can be very successful. So I think that’d be the pro tip. But I would also say, you know, when you have questions, we have a lot of SMEs on site. You know, we’re not just an E commerce giant, we have a really personal relationship with a lot of our customers too. So just reach out.

Aaron Moncur 37:24
Yeah, we molded some parts there several years ago, but I was I was kind of surprised and pleased with the process. Because being used to the CNC set or proto labs, we upload a part and, you know, week later, we get our parts back or sooner. And there was never much with any human interaction with the the mold design, we actually did a couple of design reviews with, with humans, you know, not just getting the feedback from the website, which was helpful. But we had typical design reviews where we all got on a web meeting, and we shared our screen, and people commented and gave feedback and told us specifically this part right here, you need to, you know, add some clearance there or increase the draft or whatever it was, and it was very much like doing a design review with you know, any vendor, which in a good way, but it was it was refreshing to get that personal touch in addition to all the automation,

Dylan Lundberg 38:20
right, I think I mean, that’s, that’s a huge differentiator between, you know, CNC machining and injection molding and 3d printing, right, it’s there, there has to be that personal touch. I think a challenge for proto Labs is how to get that upload to be not only manufacturable, but you know, successfully manufacturable in the least amount of time as possible. So with our CDs, we call it the consultative design process. And so they design reviews, you know, how do we double down on that? And what additional automation can we bring in, bring into ecommerce to make that happen as quickly as possible? Because we still want to be the we know, injection molding is a different beast, especially, you know, as we get more complex and requirements get higher and higher over the years, which they certainly have. And so we still want to deliver on our value prop. So we have to the upfront work is very important.

Aaron Moncur 39:18
All right. You’ve touched on this a little bit, but maybe let me give you one more opportunity. If anything comes to mind. What are a few things that most engineers don’t know about proto labs that they should?

Dylan Lundberg 39:29
Oh, one interesting thing is, I think, in this individual service lines, even though we advertise across the board on our website, it seems to be obvious. We have advertised that order CNC machining, but they have no idea. We do injection molding or 3d printing. And we have a lot of customers that do 3d printing, and they have no idea that we do injection molding. And so the most obvious one is, you know, use us for all of the above like there’s a lot of synergies there. There’s a lot Got a good transitions, from 3d printing to injection molding, when you need to go to a higher scale? We’ve definitely seen that on numerous occasions. And the same goes for CNC. Yeah, I think that’d be the biggest one.

Aaron Moncur 40:16
Okay, well, what’s what’s next for proto labs? I mean, five years from now, what can we look forward to that? Proto labs doesn’t currently offer maybe anodising? is crossing fingers, maybe that’s one thing and anything else?

Dylan Lundberg 40:29
Yeah. So we hit on it quite a bit here. But you know, the concessions that someone has to make, they go into prolapse, and whether it be like, we may not have offered energizing the past, you may not have wanted to make 3 million parts for me in the past, you may not make steel tooling in the past, you know, we want to eliminate all those concessions. At the end of the day, we want to create an environment where you know, not only are getting the speed, but you’re getting the quality, and it makes sense such that, you know, there’s just no reason why you go somewhere else, you know, that’s the type of mentality we’re really chasing, why would I go somewhere else, when I can, you know, get them all that fast, and I’m perfectly satisfied with my parts, and that the you know, the upfront process was incredibly slick. But then, you know, at a higher level, you know, production is certainly, you know, where we’re we’re also starting to dabble, you know, proto hurdle labs, you know, five years ago, actually, I’ll say, when I started, on the injection molding side, there was a debate whether we wanted to keep making parts for our customer, because they, you know, they kept wanting more, and we’re like, well, we don’t want to tell you about breasts, we can make more prototype molds. And it was at that time about, you know, probably six or seven years ago that we made a conscious decision to open up a whole new injection molding plant that was dedicated to production jobs, you know, it’s wall to wall filled with presses for production, because, you know, customers were satisfied enough with our parts as prototypes, why not make more production quantities? And so as we further dive into the production space, and it’s, it’s massive, you know, that’s what’s intriguing. And again, it goes back to, why would I go anywhere else. So that’s what we want to create. It’s satisfying those those production needs and requirements that may not have been necessary for prototype. It’s a different world. And you know, that’s also a cultural challenge. In the very early days, because it was so differentiated and because it was so fast, you know, there was basically zero metrology on the floor is like, make apart, make sure it looks like the part shift the part. It didn’t make sense to go anything beyond that, and customers related just because they’re, you know, getting old art in as quickly as it was. We’re past that, you know, there’s, there’s a lot more competition. And you know, people are leveraging us for end use parts. We want to be able to satisfy them for all their needs. So whatever that may entail, and there’s a nice laundry list of projects under my belt, you know, that’s kind of where we’re heading.

Aaron Moncur 43:11
That’s an exciting vision. I can’t wait to see how that unfolds over the next several years. Well, Dylan, this has been really awesome. Thank you so much for spending some time with me. How can people get in touch with you or just in touch with proto labs in general?

Dylan Lundberg 43:27
So for labs, obviously, you can go to the website. We have people ready to chat all the time. You can personally reach out to me at Dylan Gatlinburg for live.com. Actually feel free if you have questions. Other than that, you know, Pearl, other context that we’re live should be fairly easy.

Aaron Moncur 43:49
Great. Great. All right. Well, Dylan, thanks again. I really appreciate it. Anything else that you want to share that we haven’t touched on already?

Dylan Lundberg 43:57
Just thanks for having me on. This has been great. And I know, we’ve covered quite a bit.

Aaron Moncur 44:04
Great. All right. Well, thank you so much. Thanks, sir. I’m Aaron Moncur, founder of pipeline design and engineering. If you liked what you heard today, please share the episode. To learn how your team can leverage our team’s expertise developing turnkey equipment, custom fixtures and automated machines and with product design, visit us at Team pipeline.us. Thanks for listening

We hope you enjoyed this episode of the Being an Engineer Podcast.
Help us rank as the #1 engineering podcast on Apple and Spotify by leaving a review for us.
You can find us under the category: mechanical engineering podcast on Apple Podcasts.
Being an Engineer podcast is a go-to resource and podcast for engineering students on Spotify, too.
Aaron Moncur and Rafael Testai love hearing from their listeners, so feel free to email us, connect on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and subscribe on Apple Podcast and Spotify!

About Being An Engineer

The Being An Engineer podcast is brought to you by Pipeline Design & Engineering. Pipeline partners with medical device and other product engineering teams who need turnkey equipment such as cycle test machines, custom test fixtures, automation equipment, assembly jigs, inspection stations and more. You can find us on the web at https://teampipeline.us

You’ve read this far! Therefore, it’s time to turn your headphones up and listen now to this episode to learn all these. Don’t forget to tell your friends who might like this too!

Gluing FixtureCycle Test StationCatheter Tip Deflection Fixture

Angel MartinezAngel MartinezAngel Martinez



Recommended Posts

Start typing and press Enter to search