Protolabs launches new CNC Flexible Lead Time option to boost supply chain capacity

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Protolabs is looking to boost supply chain capacity in the UK and help customers manage costs with the launch of a new CNC Flexible Lead Time option.

The service will give clients in the aerospace, automotive, electronics, medical and prototyping markets the opportunity to choose a manufacturing solution for the shipping of parts from 6 to 12 days after an order when using its e-commerce platform.

This latest introduction is in addition to its standard delivery of just 3 days and as little as 1-day for expedited projects.

David Ewing, Product Manager for Protolabs’ CNC machining service, said: “We are known in the market for rapid delivery of prototypes and finished parts. While our competitors measure delivery of CNC machined parts in weeks, we take just days, and this is ideal for those needing rapid prototyping or have an urgent deadline to meet. 

“However, not every order requires such a rapid response, so our new CNC Flexible Lead Time option allows customers using our e-commerce platform to upload their CAD files and see how changing their delivery date alters the price.

“It means we have given them even more control over production and greater flexibility at a time when the supply chain is stretched. They now have more freedom to achieve the balance between meeting their own budgets and client deadlines by working to turnaround times that are best for their project.”

The software platform, which forms the basis of the customer quoting and ordering experience, also provides a free design for manufacturability analysis to check the CAD before production. It highlights features that are impossible to machine, but also areas where a redesign or change could save the customer money.

Ewing continued: “Our new lower-cost machining option still has a faster shipping time than most competitors can achieve, but our high quality remains completely unaffected by this speed – the only variable is the delivery time, and that delivery time is guaranteed.”

Protolabs uses both 3-axis milling and 5-axis indexed milling for rapid prototyping and low-volume production of end use plastic and metal components, whilst live tooling capability combines lathe and mill capabilities to produce parts with cylindrical features from metal rod stock.

Customers upload their CAD onto the company’s e-commerce platform where they can easily add threaded features, including key and coil inserts within their interactive quote. When the quote is returned, a 3D display will show which thread types are possible for each feature.

The Telford-based digital manufacturer stocks more than 30 engineering grade plastic and metal materials that are suitable for various applications and industries, including plastics like ABS, polycarbonate nylon and PEEK and metals such as aluminium, stainless steel, magnesium and copper.

It also provides extensive services in 3D printing (for both plastic and metal parts) and injection moulding, featuring plastic injection moulding, liquid silicone rubber moulding, overmoulding and insert moulding.

To find out more about Protolabs’ CNC Flexible Lead Time option, please visit