What's a reasonable amount of time to wait for machined plastic prototypes? How does one business day sound. That's how long it takes for The Protomold Co.'s new First Cut Prototype division to turn around most parts once you've uploaded your CAD file and placed an order on the First Cut website. Some larger orders may take up to three days. But that's still pretty darn fast. "For the kind of parts we make, no one is faster," says Brad Cleveland, president and CEO of Protomold Inc. For the time being, First Cut's "kind of parts" are plastic, smaller than 10 x 7 x 3 inches, and with geometries capable of being produced on three-axis milling machines. The company can supply parts in a range of plastics–including polycarbonate, ABS, acetal, nylon, polypropylene, high-density and polyethylene. Protomold launched First Cut only a few months ago and has yet to roll out web-based quoting tools as sophisticated and automated as Protomold's ProtoQuote system for injection molded parts. But First Cut is moving in the same direction as Protomold over the coming months, according to Mark Kubicek, First Cut's vice president of operations. He adds that First Cut also has the the potential to expand to larger parts, metals, and five-axis machining in the future. More on the Protomold and First Cut's behind-the-scenes automation technology can be found here.
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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