ABB reports very satisfactory first experience with Protomold

Written by: Proto Labs Ltd | Published:

ABB SACE was seeking to expedite the prototyping and development phase of new product development, so that new and improved products would reach customers more quickly. To do this they recently collaborated with Proto Labs to make prototypes of the FORMULA and Tmax XT moulded-case circuit breakers.

PROTO LABS recently collaborated with a department of multinational company ABB, to make prototypes of the FORMULA and Tmax XT moulded-case circuit breakers.

Proto Labs prototyping services are valued by both small, and also large businesses. One of the company's customers in Italy is ABB, an industrial brand name known around the world.

ABB SACE is a division of the multinational ABB and produces devices and systems for low voltage distribution and automation. Mr. Edoardo Scola is project leader for developing new machinery in ABB SACE's R&D department. On a recent project to design the company's latest range of moulded case circuit breakers, Mr. Scola used Protomold, a Proto Labs service, to make various parts for the Formula and Tmax XT models.

Proto Labs came to Mr. Scola's attention thanks to an advertisement in the trade press. After reading the company website, he decided to use Protomold, who not only produce individual injection-moulded protoype parts, but can also supply relatively small batches of production injection moulded parts much faster than conventional suppliers.

Proto Labs offer two services: Firstcut® produces CNC precision-machined one-off and low-volume prototype components, and Protomold provides rapid injection-moulded parts in batches from 10-off to 10,000-off. Both operations employ powerful computers and proprietary software to help designers to optimise a part for production, meaning that even customers with absolutely no manufacturing experience can still use the company's on-line, automated ordering system, ProtoQuote®.

The Protomold online ordering process is available in 5 European languages, including Italian and is designed to be straightforward and easy to follow. Designers who upload a CAD model receive a ProtoQuote® in a matter of hours, which gives an accurate price and details of areas where a design can be improved for manufacture. Before ABB ordered its first injection moulded parts from Protomold, Mr. Scola also consulted Mr. Lucio Calabrese, Proto Labs' account manager for Italy.

"The Protomold online quoting system is very straightforward," he says. "It's also very easy to work with Lucio Calabrese; he is always available and is extremely capable. His assistance was a great help for ABB SACE in making this project a success."

ABB SACE was seeking to expedite the prototyping and development phase of new product development, so that new and improved products would reach customers more quickly. The ABB R&D department had tried almost all the conventional rapid prototyping technologies (stereolithography, mechanical processing, etc.) before discovering the Protomold process. "Rapid prototyping can provide a model of the part," says Mr. Scola, "but the materials with which the parts are made do not permit satisfactory functional testing." As well as testing mechanical characteristics, ABB also needed to test a new part at elevated temperatures. "If we can create parts in the production-intent resin, we can perform much more accurate tests before the finished product goes into production."

Once the tests had been conducted and the design had been finalised, the company also used Protomold to provide the first production parts. "The production solutions offered by Proto Labs are fast and reliable," says Mr. Scola. "The one-day delivery option has allowed us to solve "crisis" situations; to test and validate new designs. The parts the company delivered were of the highest quality: these characteristics clearly distinguished Proto Labs' service and were important and decisive when we chose them over alternative suppliers to make the production parts. Proto Labs provided parts at prices that met our budget, and were able to guarantee us the tight tolerances on even small working parts. As for aesthetics, the Protomold parts gave us the same finish as we would expect from a full production run."

Click here to find out how rapidly Proto Labs can deliver your prototypes and low-volume production parts.


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