In recent years, manufacturers have been looking for reliable prototyping and small-batch manufacturing options. As manufacturing evolves, companies seek quick turnaround services for their production parts.
According to Allied Market Research, the digital manufacturing industry is expected to experience significant growth over the next decade (market size of up to $1,370.3 billion by 2028).
But as more and more manufacturing solutions are offered, the need for competitive pricing is increasing. And product designers consider pricing as one of the most critical factors.
One of the services that have gained significant attention from product designers is Protolabs. Founded in 1999, the company is revolutionizing the digital manufacturing industry by providing unparalleled speed and convenience.
While their service may seem like a viable option, one question often arises: Why is Protolabs so expensive?
In this blog post, we will delve into the factors contributing to Protolabs’ pricing, exploring both the advantages and drawbacks of using their services.
What is Protolabs?
Protolabs (formerly known as The ProtoMold Company) is a manufacturing company that provides rapid manufacturing for prototypes and low-volume production using injection molding, sheet metal, CNC machining, or 3D Printing.
In addition to its headquarters in Maple Plain, Minnesota, Protolabs operates multiple production facilities across the United States, enabling the company to serve customers nationwide.
Protolabs also has many manufacturing plants in Europe, including Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
Hence, their worldwide production network allows them to deliver custom parts to 60 countries at very short notice.
The company aims to open more production facilities in Europe and Japan in the next decade.
Their service quality has made it a popular alternative for firms looking to swiftly and efficiently bring new items to market. Customers come from a variety of industries, including aerospace, automotive, electronics, medical, and consumer products.
Protolabs was founded by Larry Lukis in 1999. The initial idea of founding Protolabs was to reduce the production time of injection-molded plastic prototype parts.
Instead of traditional machining, Lukis developed complex software that could provide instructions to the machines, drastically reducing the production time of different prototypes.
Protolabs has several subsidiaries, including Hubs, Rapid Manufacturing, Alpha Form, and more, covering a manufacturing space of around 1 million sq. ft.
So What Exactly Does Protolabs Do?
Proto Labs, Inc. is a technology-driven online manufacturing company specializing in prototype and short-run manufacturing of unique parts. The firm provides various quick-turn services, including CNC machining and injection molding.
Firstcut, Proto Labs’ CNC machining service, uses modern CNC machines to swiftly and effectively create high-quality components.
Protomold, the company’s injection molding business, employs cutting-edge machinery and materials to create unique plastic parts with tight tolerances and consistent quality.
Here’s how Protolabs’ digital manufacturing fits into the product design cycle:
- Ideation and Concepting
- Product Development
- Introduction and Growth
- End of Product Life
Proto Labs’ user-friendly web platform lets clients submit their 3D CAD models and obtain fast quotations for their parts.
In addition, the firm gives design input and assistance to clients in order to help them optimize their designs for manufacturability and decrease the possibility of mistakes or faults in the final product.
What Makes Proto Labs Different?
Protolabs claim to be the fastest digital manufacturing company for prototypes and on-demand production parts. You can get personalized quotes for your customized parts in hours by uploading your CAD models to the system.
Let’s discuss why Protolabs differs from its competitors:
Short Turnaround for Manufacturing:
Protolabs’ quick-turn services allow for rapid production of custom parts. This supports multiple design iterations in a shorter time than traditional manufacturing methods. Customers can refine their designs by testing multiple prototypes to produce a better final product.
Nowadays, companies look to launch their products faster but don’t want to compromise on their development quality for that.
By providing fast turnaround times and high-quality parts, Protolabs helps accelerate product development. This can be a significant competitive advantage in industries where time-to-market is critical.
Automated Design for Manufacturability (DFM) analysis:
Protolabs provides a comprehensive DFM analysis with every machining and molding quote, highlighting potential design issues and possible solutions.
This helps customers optimize their designs for manufacturability, reducing the risk of errors or defects in the final product and improving overall quality.
Customers may also seek advice from Protolabs’ experienced design engineers to get more insights about their design.
Protolabs can produce over 70,000 machined parts per month using CNC machining services and 4.4 million molded parts per month using injection molding services.
Protolabs offers a range of pricing options for its manufacturing services, depending on each customer’s specific needs and requirements.
The company provides personalized quotes based on various factors, including the part’s shape, complexity, the desired production volume, and the selected manufacturing technology.
Thanks to Protolabs’s proprietary software and fixturing processes, the pricing does not include any upfront non-recurring engineering costs (NRE) for CNC machining processes.
Here are some pricing benchmarks for Protolabs services:
- 3D Printing: Pricing starts from $95
- Sheet Metal: Pricing starts from $125
- Molding: Pricing starts from $1,495
- Machining: Pricing starts from $65
You can directly upload your part on Protolabs by clicking here and get an instant customized quote depending on the complexity, volume, and materials.
Why is Protolabs So Expensive?
A lot of customers find Protolabs services high-priced.
Here are the reasons why Protolabs follow a premium pricing structure that’s affordable to only a handful of companies.
Fastest Digital Manufacturer for Prototypes & Production Parts
Fast production speeds require big budgets. While this speed can be a significant advantage for customers, it can also contribute to higher costs.
Protolabs is the fastest digital manufacturer due to their investment in advanced technology and streamlined processes.
Cheaper options can take weeks or even months to deliver your products. But thanks to state of the art production facilities of Protolabs, they can manufacture and deliver parts in days at your doorstep.
Protolabs’s investment in technology and expertise is reflected in its pricing structure, which may be perceived as more expensive than other manufacturing options.
Customers should consider these potential time savings when evaluating Protolabs’ pricing and the overall value of the company’s services.
Advanced Proprietary Technology
Protolabs’ proprietary technology includes advanced online software systems for automated quoting and design analysis, as well as state-of-the-art equipment and materials for CNC machining, injection molding, sheet metal, and 3D printing.
Protolabs is known for its ability to produce high-quality custom parts with tight tolerances down to ±0.001 in (0.020mm). This level of precision can only be achieved through the use of advanced equipment, materials, and automated processes.
A Wide Selection of Products & Materials
Protolabs offers a variety of production materials depending on your custom needs. They have invested in 137 commercial-grade plastics, 22 metals, 31 elastomers, and liquid silicone rubbers.
Each material is unique in its appearance, costs, manufacturing characteristics, and physical properties.
However, this flexibility and choice often come at a higher cost than more limited manufacturing options. Customers should carefully consider their budget and specific needs before choosing a material to work with Protolabs.
You can explore more about Protolabs’s materials and their properties by reading through this link.
Protolabs has been a well-reputed manufacturing company for years. The company has built a reputation as a leader in the digital manufacturing industry by gathering positive reviews, maintaining quality standards, and investing in their equipment.
This is the reason that customers are willing to pay a premium for Protolabs’s services. They know their proven track record of delivering high-quality parts and rely on Protolabs’s exceptional customer service.
Protolabs’s headquarters and production facilities are located in the United States, which may result in higher costs for customers located in other parts of the world.
There can be associated shipping costs, taxes, and supply chain costs that add up in their pricing structure to make it expensive if you’re living in other than the United States.
For customers located outside the United States, exchange rates can impact the cost of working with Protolabs. If the customer’s currency is weaker than the U.S. dollar, then the cost of the parts will be higher when converted into their local currency.
US labor costs are higher, so Protolabs may need to pay higher wages, which can be reflected in its pricing structure, making it a more expensive option compared to some competitors.
Protolabs’ commitment to quality is further demonstrated by the fact that their production facilities are ISO 9001:2015 and AS9100 certified.
These certifications are a testament to the company’s dedication to meeting and exceeding industry standards for quality management, and they provide additional reassurance to customers that Protolabs’ services are of the highest quality.
Protolabs’ services may be perceived as more expensive than other manufacturing options due to the fact that the company does not outsource its production to third-party manufacturers.
The company maintains complete control over its production processes – from start to finish. By keeping everything in-house, the company can ensure that its products meet the highest quality standards and can make any necessary adjustments to the process quickly and efficiently.
In-house production can also reduce the risk of errors or defects in the final product. This can be particularly important for critical applications, such as aerospace or medical devices, where the cost of failure can be extremely high.
So the next time you’re looking to order some manufacturing parts from Protolabs, note that their services may only sometimes be the most cost-effective option for your projects.
Pros & Cons: Are Protolabs Parts Worth It?
Advanced Proprietary Technology
Protolabs uses Advanced Proprietary Technology to accelerate the process of manufacturing custom parts for their clients.
This technology involves automated design analysis, instant quoting with the help of uploaded part design, and on-demand low-volume production.
Protolabs uses a highly automated manufacturing process that allows them to produce parts quickly and efficiently. The state-of-the-art automated systems send instructions to the mills and presses that produce the custom parts.
Operations Designed for Low-Volume Manufacturing
ODLM (Operations Designed for Low-Volume Manufacturing) is a production process specifically designed for small quantities of custom parts, making it cost-effective and efficient for low-volume manufacturing.
This enables Protolabs to provide high-quality, precise parts to customers in a short time frame.
Marketing and Sales Strength
Protolabs take pride in implementing Go To Market strategies for its products. Throw any complex design on their way, and they will be ready to handle it like a breeze.
Deep Industry Knowledge
Protolabs’s engineers are experienced in designing products for different industrial sectors, including medical, automotive, aerospace, and electronics. They know the required manufacturing standards for each industry.
As mentioned above, Protolabs are one of the most expensive manufacturing services out there. They are aiming to optimize for high speed, not the manufacturing costs.
However, Protolabs’ pricing is transparent and upfront, with instant online quotes available for customers. This allows businesses to easily compare pricing with other manufacturing services and make informed decisions about their production needs.
Is Protolabs Good Quality?
After performing research and examining customer feedback, you can be confident that Proto Labs’ services are of high quality and match its clients’ expectations.
Engineers at Protolabs have a great eye for detail and work hard to guarantee that your components are machined to perfection.
Proto Labs provides a multitude of teaching materials on topics like design, complexity, material selection, and fast prototyping, among others. These papers are simple to grasp and keep you up to date on industry trends.
One of the reasons Proto Labs has earned a reputation for excellence is because of their competent and enthusiastic engineering staff. These engineers are committed to improving your design and saving you money while yet offering excellent customer service.
Who Are Proto Labs Competitors?
Protolabs vs. Fictiv
|Company Name||Proto Labs||Fictiv|
|Services||Rapid prototyping and low-volume production services using 3D printing, CNC machining, and injection molding.||Digital manufacturing platform that connects customers to a network of manufacturing partners for CNC machining, 3D printing, injection molding, and sheet metal fabrication.|
|Headquarters||Maple Plain, Minnesota, USA||San Francisco, California, USA|
|Industries Served||Aerospace, automotive, medical, consumer products, and more.||Robotics, healthcare, automotive, aerospace, consumer electronics, and more.|
|Certifications||ISO 9001:2015, ITAR registration, and AS9100D.||AS9100D, ISO 9001:2015, IATF 16949:2016|
Protolabs vs. Xometry
|Company Name||Proto Labs||Xometry|
|Services||Rapid prototyping and low-volume production services using 3D printing, CNC machining, and injection molding.||On-demand manufacturing services, including 3D printing, CNC machining, injection molding, sheet metal fabrication, and more.|
|Headquarters||Maple Plain, Minnesota, USA||Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA|
|Industries Served||Aerospace, automotive, medical, consumer products, and more.||Aerospace, automotive, medical, consumer products, and more.|
|Certifications||ISO 9001:2015 and AS9100D certifications, and ITAR registration.||ISO 9001:2015, ISO 13485:2016, and AS9100D certifications, and ITAR registration.|
Protolabs vs. Autodesk
|Company Name||Proto Labs||Autodesk|
|Services||Rapid prototyping and low-volume production services using 3D printing, CNC machining, and injection molding.||CAD software and design tools for a variety of industries, including manufacturing.|
|Headquarters||Maple Plain, Minnesota, USA||San Rafael, California, USA|
|Industries Served||Aerospace, automotive, medical, consumer products, and more.||Architecture, engineering, construction, manufacturing, and more.|
|Certifications||ISO 9001:2015 and AS9100D certifications, ITAR registration.||No manufacturing certifications, but provides software that can help companies achieve certifications.|
Protolabs vs. Hubs
|Company Name||Proto Labs||Hubs|
|Services||Online 3D printing, CNC machining, and injection molding services through a network of manufacturing partners.|
|Headquarters||Maple Plain, Minnesota, USA||Amsterdam, Netherlands|
|Industries Served||Aerospace, automotive, medical, consumer products, and more.||Consumer products, automotive, aerospace, healthcare, and more.|
|Certifications||ISO 9001:2015 and AS9100D certifications, ITAR registration.||ISO 9001, AS 9100|
Protolabs vs. Kemal
|Company Name||Proto Labs||Kemal|
|Services||Rapid prototyping, Injection molding, CNC machining, Sheet metal, 3D printing, Mold Design for many industries.|
|Headquarters||Maple Plain, Minnesota, USA||Dongguan, Guangdong, China|
|Industries Served||Aerospace, automotive, medical, consumer products, and more.||Consumer products, energy, robotics, electronics, automotive, aerospace, healthcare, and more.|
|Certifications||ISO 9001:2015 and AS9100D certifications, ITAR registration.||ISO 9001-2015, IATF 16049:2016, DIN-2768-fine, and DIN-2768-medium|
Should I Manufacture Parts With Protolabs?
You should definitely try out Protolabs if it fits your budget and requirements. It’s one of the well-reputed manufacturing companies leading the production sector with its high-quality and precision parts.
They also have no minimum order quantity, so you can order as many or as few parts as you need.
It may be helpful to compare Proto Labs with other manufacturing companies and consider factors such as lead time, quality control measures, pricing, and customer service before deciding.
While pricing is an important factor when choosing a manufacturing partner, it is not the only factor to consider.
Protolabs pricing is high for sure according to many aspects – But that doesn’t mean that they are not worth considering for your manufacturing needs.
Ultimately, the decision to work with Proto Labs or any other manufacturing company will depend on a variety of factors specific to your needs and priorities.