Industry’s need for speed has reaped dividends for Protolabs, with sales rising to £60 million across its European operations.

“We have grown quickly as customers recognise the advantages of using our digital manufacturing capabilities for rapid prototypes and on-demand production parts,” explains Stephen Dyson, special operations manager. “Talking to our clients, we realised that if they needed to anodise an aluminium part it was often difficult for them to source and then manage a supplier. They not only have to do all the research and then raise a separate purchase order, they often find that the supplier only accepts orders for large quantities of parts.”

He continues: “Keeping the entire production process with a single supplier makes perfect sense for manufacturers. It means they can get their finished parts shipped in a matter of days and our technical team can advise them through the entire process, right from initial design of the part to the best approach for the final anodising.”

Anodising applies a thin, protective coat to the part, forming an oxide layer. The process is used to create a barrier against corrosion, increase abrasion resistance and produce decorative effects through enhanced surface finish (a dye can be applied if requested).

Protolabs currently offers two levels of anodising. For parts needing protection against a harsh environment the company provides hard anodising to ISI 10074, whereas if an aesthetic finish is required, then decorative anodising to ISO 7599 is available. The service is suitable for parts manufactured from aluminium 6082 and 7075. All of the components are sealed as part of the standard process, unless they are due to be painted after anodising, in which case the company’s technical team will advise the customer.