When I found out one of IndustryWeek’s scheduled plant tours in Raleigh for our recent conference was going to be at an on-demand 3D printing manufacturer, Protolabs, I knew what I had to do: Demand I be the tour guide. I thought of all the reasons I needed to go, from seeing all the high-tech machines to seeing cool processes such as stereolithography (SLA) up close to a recent chat with Protolabs CEO Vicki Holt. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to storm into my boss’s office like a cop show detective would to present my evidence, as evidently, I’m the technology writer and was the going to go anyway.
Once I got to the rural one-floor facility, I received another pleasant surprise. The most impressive part about the place was not the millions of dollars of 3D-printing hardware, but the people who operated them. The Minnesota-based Protolabs, which also has plastic injection molding, CNC machining and the recently acquired sheet metal services, is brand agnostic, so the company’s strength is 100% the people working there.