Proto Labs Inc. has acquired another manufacturing facility and will use it to spearhead growth in its CNC machining business. The project also will create more space for injection molding and mold making.
The company bought an existing building in Brooklyn Park, Minn., and is renovating and expanding it, said Rob Bodor, vice president and general manager for the Americas, in a phone interview. In addition to upgrading electrical, internet and environmental systems, the company is building a 50,000-square-foot addition for the 152,000-square-foot facility. Brooklyn Park should be fully operational by the end of this year.
Bodor said investment in the Brooklyn Park operation is significant but he did not provide financial details. The company spent about $15 million when it bought, renovated and equipped a similar-sized building in Plymouth, Minn., about four years ago.
"We are excited about the growth we've experienced in machining," Bodor explained. Proto Labs machines stock shapes of several dozen engineering polymers like polyetheretherketone and polyetherimide as well as metals such as aluminum, copper, brass, stainless steel and titanium in its rapid prototyping and on-demand production of components for diverse industries.
Proto Labs will move most of the CNC machining centers from its Plymouth operation into Brooklyn Park. Bobor said that will free up more space for injection molding and mold building in the 170,000-square-foot Plymouth facility. Plymouth now houses more than two dozen injection presses. About half the presses injection mold liquid silicone rubber. Most of the LSR presses are Arburg models.
The Maple Plain, Minn., company has been on a high-growth arc for several years. In the past 12 months it has bought more than 75 CNC mills and 25 injection presses for its U.S. plants. Proto Labs has several facilities in Europe and recently added 25 CNC mills and six injection molding presses at its Telford, England, operation. Globally, the company boasts more than 1,000 injection molding machines, CNC mills, lathes, press brakes, laser cutters and 3D printers.
"We helped over 35,000 product developers last year and this added capacity will provide the scale to continue serving companies from innovative startups to Fortune 100 companies and everyone in between," Bodor said.
Machining services alone grew more than 27 percent in 2017 to over $100 million in sales.
Proto Labs says the economics of on-demand production are possible because of continued digitization of manufacturing processes. It claims significant supply-chain benefits are available when clients procure parts from a supplier using a digital approach. Projects can reach the market in as short as one day while development costs and risk are minimized.