3D Printing News Sliced: Proto Labs, Optomec, ARMI and Strandbeest

In today’s Sliced 3D printing news digest: ColorPod, the 3D Pioneers ChallengeOptomec, id.arts, Proto Labs, Joint Mitnor, 3Diligent, ARMI, University of Florida, Sculpteo and Strandbeest.

ColorPod demos full color 3D printed busts

A new video from Aad van der Geest, founder of VDG Spitstechniek, shows how the ColorPod full-color FDM upgrade can be used to make 3D printed busts.

From scan to sculpture” clip via filmpjeslader on YouTube

At a fraction of the cost of other full-color 3D printing alternatives, the clip serves as a teaser to what is possible with material know how and a lot of ingenuity.

Winners of the 3D Pioneers Challenge announced

The second edition of 3D printing design competition 3DPC has celebrated the work of seven designers from across the globe.

In addition to getting their designs noticed by industry partners including Stratasys and Autodesk, each of the winners received a share of €15,000 ($17,800) and exclusive prizes from MakerBot and designreport.

Winning entries include a metal 3D printed skateboard truck by Philipp Manger, and the Palmyra Rebuilt project from Eric Geboers and Matteo Baldassari.

Jury comment on Project T.O.S.T. (Topology Optimized Skateboard Trucks): " It´s so lightweight, that even Marty Mc Fly could hover on it." Image via 3DPCJury comment on Project T.O.S.T. (Topology Optimized Skateboard Trucks): ” It´s so lightweight, that even Marty Mc Fly could hover on it.” Image via 3DPC

Optomec publishes 3D printer materials recipes

To help customers make the most of new additive manufacturing techniques, Optomec has released a catalogue of material recipe sheets.

Available for both LENS and Aerosel Jet methods, the examples provide detailed parameters of what to expect from the respective materials and inks.

A GE Turbine blade with 3D printed strain sensors. Photo via Optomec.A GE Turbine blade with Aerosol Jet 3D printed strain sensors. Photo via Optomec.

Designers use 3D printing to create a vision of the dream kitchen

Japanese design firm id.arts demos FDM, SLA, SLS, and inkjet 3D printing techniques in a miniature kitchen model.

With added textures and post processing, the finished product has a hyper-real quality, and is developed for clients with a keen eye for detail.

Detail of 3D printed worktop in id.arts model kitchen. Photo via id.artsDetail of 3D printed worktop in id.arts model kitchen. Photo via id.arts

Proto Labs adds HP MJF to its services

Rapid manufacturing service provider Proto Labs (NYSE:PRLB) is speeding up its 3D printing capabilities with a HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer.

The company is the latest in a line of North American companies to offer the technology to its customers.

A Multi Jet Fusion 3D printed camera shutter. Photo via HPA Multi Jet Fusion 3D printed camera shutter. Photo via HP

University of Chicago researchers use 3D printing to envision fluid dynamics 

A team of researchers studying fluid dynamics, applying to the likes of airplanes, boats and tornados, have made a discovery using a 3D printed model of a helical vortex.

3D printed helical vortex from he University of Chicago. Image by William Irvine3D printed helical vortex from the University of Chicago. Image by William Irvine

Conclusions show “that helicity can remain constant even in a viscous fluid and provide an improved basis for understanding and manipulating helicity in real flows.”

A full paper on the study can be read online in Science Magazine.

Joint Mitnor cave to reopen with 3D printed fossils

The Joint Mitnor cave in Devon, England, is set to reopen August 12 2017.

Ransacked by thieves in 2015, the site has been refurbished with 3D printed replicas of the fossils it used to contain. The models were created using CT scanning techniques and gypsum casting, so they look and feel faithful to the original remains.

3D printed fossil replicas in Joint Mitnor. Photo by Charlie Bird3D printed fossil replicas in Joint Mitnor. Photo by Charlie Bird

3Diligent releases Complete Guide to Metal 3D Printing

Digital manufacturing service 3Diligent has released a 13 page report detailing leading metal additive manufacturing technologies.

Featuring the likes of Boeing and GE the document provides 3Diligent’s perceived overview of the “State of Professional and Industrial 3D Printing”.

ARMI liquid silicone 3D printing used to model cancer cells

In an interview with Fox News, associate professor Thomas Angelini has revealed new developments in 3D printing research at the University of Florida.

Using a liquid silicone 3D printing technique, reviewed by 3D Printing Industry in May 2017, the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI) is making microscopic models of cancer cells.

Known collectively as “tumeroids”, the models will be used to test the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs and gain a better understanding of the disease.

The speeded-up liquid silicone 3D printing process from the ARMI. Clip via UF Soft Matter on YouTube

Sculpteo designer goes viral with 3D printed Strandbeest

Nicolas Raynaud is a freelance software engineer based in Montpellier, France.

Taking inspiration from Dutch artist Theo Jansen, Raynaud has gone viral on Reddit and Twitter with his version of a Strandbeest mechanism.

Gif by Nicolas Raynaud

Made using Sculpteo’s online 3D printing service, the design has since been picked up by the cloud-based rapid prototyping company, and now features in a “how to” on the company’s website.

If any of our readers have a go at 3D printing their own Strandbeest or other design projects, be sure to tweet a photo at us or share it on our Facebook page.

Stay up to date with all the latest additive manufacturing news by signing up to the 3D Printing Industry newsletter, and check out or events page here.

Featured image: Sliced logo over an original Strandbeest by Theo Jansen. Photo by Robbert van den Beld, robbeld on Flickr

Proto Labs Manufactures Solid Revenue Growth, but Shares Fall on Cautious Guidance

Continue Reading Below

Image source: Proto Labs.

Proto Labs (NYSE: PRLB) reported its third-quarter 2016 earnings before the market opened on Thursday. In light of the slowdown in the manufacturing environment, thequick-turn manufacturing service provider posted decent numbers, with revenue coming in at the top end of the company’s guidance range and adjusted earnings per share exceeding its projections.

Shares closed down 8.9% on Thursday, likely because Proto Labs provided very cautious forward guidance.

Proto Labs’ Q3 headline numbers


Q3 2016

Q3 2015

Change (YOY)


$78.2 million

$67.8 million


Organic revenue*

$74.2 million

$67.8 million


GAAP operating income

$16.9 million

$17.4 million


GAAP net income

$12 million

$12.4 million


Adjusted net income

$13.5 million

$13.7 million


GAAP earnings per share (EPS)




Adjusted EPS




Continue Reading Below

Data source: Proto Labs. YOY = year over year. GAAP = generally accepted accounting principles. *Organic revenue = revenue generated from businesses owned for at least one year.

Organic revenue excluded the $4 million contribution from Alphaform, the German service bureau that Proto Labs acquired last October. About half of Alphaform’s revenue in the quarter came from 3D printing and half from injection molding. Proto Labs acquired this business to significantly expand its 3D printing capabilities in Europe by adding selective laser sintering, direct metal laser sintering, and additional stereolithography capabilities. Prior to this acquisition, its sole European location was in Telford, England. The acquisition also gave Proto Labs a major presence in Germany, which is the largest single market for the company’s services in Europe.

Analysts expected Proto Labs to deliver adjusted EPS of $0.44 on revenue of $75.27 million, so the company comfortably beat both estimates. Of course, investors shouldn’t give too much credence to analysts’ estimates, as Wall Street is focused on the short term. However, they can be helpful to keep in mind because together with forward guidance they often help explain market reactions.

Revenue in the quarter grew, while operating income and net income contracted, indicating that both operating and profit margins contracted year over year.

Revenue results by service provided

Manufacturing Service


Change (YOY)

Injection molding (Protomold)

$46.5 million


CNC machining (Firstcut)

$21.8 million


3D printing (Fineline)

$9.9 million


3D printing organic*

$7.9 million


Data source: Proto Labs. YOY = year over year. *Excludes Alphaform’s $2.0 million in 3D printing revenue.

The fact that 3D printing is growing much faster than the other businesses is both a positive and a negative. For one thing, the company’s revenue growth wouldn’t be nearly as good without this business. However, 3D printing has a lower gross margin than the other services, which flows through to some degree to operating and profit margins.

What happened with Proto Labs in the quarter?

  • The number of unique product developers and engineers served increased 14% year over year to 14,271.
  • The average revenue generated per developer/engineer declined 3.9%.
  • Gross margin was 57.2%, a decline from 59.4% in the third quarter of 2015, but up from 56.4% in the second quarter of 2016. The 80-basis-point sequential improvement is attributable to improved margins at Alphaform and improved execution in the injection molding and CNC machining businesses. The sequential improvement was particularly notable because it occurred while the company was completing its moves into new facilities in North Carolina and Japan. The year-over-year decline is largely due to the acquisition of Alphaform/product mix — 3D printing has a lower gross margin than the company’s other services.
  • GAAP operating margin was 21.7% compared to 25.7% for the third quarter of 2015. Adjusted operating margin was 25%.
  • Cash generated from operations was $19.6 million.
  • The company accelerated the geographic launch of its overmolding process (which bonds two different materials together), which initially launched in September, and also launched 5-axis machining, a CNC offering.
  • Worth noting, but occurring just after the quarter ended, the company opened its new 3D printing facility in Cary, North Carolina, on Oct. 7. The 77,000-square-foot facility triples space devoted to 3D printing, and consolidates all 3D printing operations in one facility. Proto Labs expanded into 3D printing and beyond its Minnesota base in the U.S. via its 2014 acquisition of North Carolina-based FineLine Prototyping.

What management had to say

CEO Vicki Holt acknowledged the current challenging macroeconomic environment, but expressed optimism about the long-term outlook for the business:

There is uncertainty in the market right now due to the election in the United States and Brexit in Europe and that uncertainty is impacting the economy. Our business is not immune to that impact. While the current economic environment is challenging, we are focused on our internal processes, in both sales and operations, to position ourselves as economic conditions improve. We remain very optimistic about the outlook for Proto Labs. We are fortunate to serve a large, underpenetrated market with a unique value proposition, unsurpassed service and quality for customers, and the commitment and employee talent to successfully execute our strategy for profitable growth.

Looking ahead

CFO John Way provided Proto Labs’ fourth-quarter guidance on the analyst conference call as follows:

Metric Q4 2016 Guidance Q4 2015 Results Change Using Midpoint of Guidance (YOY)
Revenue $70 million to $75 million $73.66 million (1.6%)
Adjusted EPS $0.36 to $0.44 $0.50 (20%)

Data source: Proto Labs. YOY = year over year.

Going into the earnings report, analysts expected Proto Labs to earn $0.49 per share on an adjusted basis on revenue of $79.88 million in the fourth quarter. Both expectations are beyond the upper range of Proto Labs’ guidance, which is surely why the market sent shares tumbling on Thursday.

Holt and Way acknowledged on the call that the company was being “cautious” on guidance. There are three basic reasons for this: the lack of good visibility into market conditions, softer-than-anticipatedorders thus far in October, and the fact that the fourth quarter has historically been hard to project.

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Go on a tour of secretive 3D printing labs at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Aug 18, 2016 | By Alec

While the 3D printing world does sometimes see those fairy tale events where a bunch of guys in a garage pioneer a fantastic idea, the 3D printing innovations of tomorrow are increasingly coming out of huge laboratories. And no 3D printing lab in the world is bigger or more successful than the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), where huge numbers of scientists are working on improving all aspects of 3D printing in a several specialized 3D printing labs. While normally a semi-secretive institute closed to the public eye, the LLNL just shared a behind-the-scenes look at three of their labs. A perfect opportunity for taking a tour of the LLNL labs and a closer look at their latest tech innovations.

As you might know, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is actually affiliated with the University of California and based in Livermore. While we in the 3D printing world obviously best know the lab for its 3D printing innovations, it’s actually a huge organization employing thousands of scientists working on countless innovations. Among others, they have built some of the world’s fastest supercomputers, has put five new elements on the periodic table and are even working on tech that can deflect asteroids.

But it’s hardly surprising that the LLNL is not completely open about their work. Founded back in 1952, it even started out as a nuclear innovation lab, before branching out into so many other fields. But it’s still largely funded by the Department of Energy and working on numerous defense projects (such as airport security innovations and cyber spying prevention), so it’s understandable that the LLNL is only partially accessible for the public.

That’s quite unfortunate for us in the 3D printing world, as LLNL is one of the biggest developers when it comes to additive manufacturing and we doubtlessly only see a fraction of the innovations they are working on. Fortunately, the LLNL just pulled back their curtains a bit more with two behind-the-scenes looks, one of their National Ignition Facility (featuring the world’s largest laser) and another of three of their 3D printing labs. Together with an overview of some of LLNL’s latest innovations, and you get a pretty good idea of what they are working on.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnqOFmC2n8s]

What they revealed were labs and studies that reflect the priorities of the 3D printing industry as a whole. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lawrence Livermore’s premier 3D printing focus is on the manufacturing of whole metal parts. In fact, two of the three showcased labs are focused on metal. To illustrate their work, LLNL showcased a rocket engine 3D printed in just eight days, in a single part. “It’s a manufacturing marvel that illustrates the game-changing potential of 3D printing. […] It’s not a simple part. Channels run the length of the bell-shaped opening, curved throughout the body, something that would’ve been impossible with traditional methods,” the LLNL says. While not only much more efficient than existing alternatives, it also cost just $10,000 to build – far cheaper than industry standards.

That is, in a nutshell, what metal 3D printing can bring to numerous industries, and the LLNL is clearly pushing that innovation. Earlier this year, we already saw how the LLNL launched the Accelerated Certification of Additively Manufactured Metals Initiative, which seeks to improve metal 3D printing and encourage its widespread adoption across various industries. The research-based approach will use a combination of physics models, data-mining technologies and uncertainty analyses to optimize 3D printed metal parts and speed up the certification process.

What’s more, their efforts seem to be paying off. Among others, the LLNL already revealed that they discovered what causes the tiny, porous flaws in 3D printed metal structures – paving the way for certifiable and reproducible 3D prints. And just last month, the LLNL revealed a laser design breakthrough using a powder bed SLM 3D printer, one of only four of its kind in the world. Not only does it give them unprecedented control over part development (such as recognizing what areas need additional stiffness), this 3D printing setup also features a ‘feed-forward’ system that makes it far easier to locate flaws and certify parts. While still under development, it’s a huge step towards mass production 3D printing.

But the Lawrence Livermore team is also seeking to break open material conventions in another 3D printing lab. For if there’s one thing that is hampering the 3D printing revolution, it’s that the technology is currently largely limited to existing materials that also used in conventional manufacturing. LLNL researchers are therefore working hard to develop materials with properties that otherwise do not exist in nature. Materials that, for instance, feature unnatural microstructures that guarantee a fantastic strength-to-weight ratio – perfect for defense, aerospace and transportation applications. Back in June, the LLNL already revealed successes with lightweight elastic materials whose cellular structures can be manipulated through 3D printing.

But unique and functional combinations of plastics, metals, ceramics and inks are also regularly produced in that same LLNL lab. Just over the past few months, LLNL has already succesfuly developed 3D printed foam with unprecedented thermal insulation and shock-absorption properties, 3D printed baking soda that can capture harmful CO2 emissions, and a 3D printed polymer that turns methane to methanol. Functional 3D printed materials are thus just around the corner, and a lot more innovations are forthcoming. Just a few weeks ago, the LLNL signed a deal with Giant Leap Technologies to explore the 3D printing of opto-microfluidic structures for solar panels.

Top to bottom: 3D printed foam, baking soda, and liquid smoke.

Of course, such developments go hand-in-hand with unusual 3D printing processes that are adapted to suit these unusual materials. Earlier this summer, the LLNL revealed that direct ink writing 3D printing had been adapted to 3D print graphene aerogel, which can improve the energy storage capacity of batteries and ultra-light supercapacitors. A similar process was used for 3D printed ‘liquid smoke’ aerogel, an extremely low-density solid that exhibits a low thermal conductivity. Back in 2015, LNLL optical engineer Bryan Moran also pioneered a new SLA 3D printing technique called Large-Area Projection Micro-Stereolithography (LAPµSL), which uses UV light to create 3D objects that are larger and more detailed than previously possible with regular micro-SLA tech.

Bottom: The LAPµSL 3D printer

The list certainly doesn’t stop there. The LLNL isn’t even just about inanimate objects and metal, as they are also working on 3D bioprinting innovations – having already successfully 3D printed human cells that can self-assemble into blood vessels – crucial for keeping other organs and tissue alive. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory thus cannot be seen as focusing on just one specialism, as they are exploring and pushing the limits of 3D printing as a whole. But especially when it comes to metal 3D printing an material innovations, revolutionary changes are about to come out of the LLNL labs.

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