Mr. Gratzer started GRATZER! Technologies GmbH & Co. KG to bring his new invention to market as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. Mr. Gratzer claims that the speed with which the new product has been developed owes a great deal to the services of Proto Labs Ltd. Gratzer says, "there are many suppliers of prototypes and small series parts, but no one could offer us quality and speed comparable to Proto Labs. Originally, we budgeted €50,000 for the purchase of a 3D printer and made our first advances towards stereo-lithography vendors. While they could supply parts in ABS, those parts did not have the mechanical properties we were looking for. After tests they started to show cracks. It's at that point I remembered seeing an advertisement from Proto Labs, and I decided to test the FirstQuote system. I submitted our 3D CAD models and a day later we had a quote!" Mr. Gratzer says he decided to order CNC machined parts from Proto Labs' Firstcut® service because, firstly, he could specify exactly the material he wanted and, secondly, the final version of the product was still to be decided, so tooling was not yet needed. "The Firstcut service quite simply blew us away!" he enthuses. "The parts were 30 - 50% cheaper than the SLA process and were delivered within a few days. If we had stayed with SLA we would have had to wait several weeks. But, the best part," he adds, "was the quality and precision." The product consists of 5 plastic parts and a spring. The parts are very small; the entire unit weighs only 4.5 grams assembled. There are also movements within the assembly that lead to friction. At the same time considerable pressure is needed to apply the crystals. All this requires the highest part-accuracy and durability. "The Firstcut parts from Proto Labs have proved to have very suitable mechanical properties, and we were able to try different materials to get the most appropriate." Mr. Gratzer tested ABS, PA 66, POM, PEEK, PBT and plastics with glass-fibre (GF30). "In the end we decided to use ABS and POM. The testing was possible with Firstcut because of the quick turnaround and the highest level of quality." Although the parts are CNC milled, they are almost indistinguishable from injection-moulded parts. "The accuracy of +/-0.1mm, is very good. "