Both are divisions of Proto Labs, Inc.
They share core technologies but apply them differently. They also share some staff and facilities.
- Firstcut makes CNC machined plastic parts directly from 3D CAD models in as little as one day.
- Protomold makes injection molded prototypes and short run production parts, also from 3D CAD models, in as little as one day.
Both provide parts made directly from the customer’s 3D CAD model, reducing the likelihood of errors. Proprietary software automates tool-path generation to decrease lead times and reduce costs.
Since both systems offer very rapid turnaround, the primary deciding factors will be the quantity of parts needed and the complexity of your design.
- It does not currently support undercuts.
- Parts can be made from most thermoplastics that are available in sheet stock.
- The process is generally most cost effective for producing between one to ten parts.
- It supports up to four side actions per mold.
- Parts can be molded using most injectable thermoplastics.
- The cost-effectiveness of the process typically begins where Firstcut’s CNC machining leaves off, at 10 or more parts. In production applications, it has been used for runs of tens of thousands of parts.
Protomold’s rapid injection molding and Firstcut CNC machining both offer a much wider selection of resins than the additive processes do. They also produce parts that are significantly stronger and have smoother finishes than can be made using additive processes.
- Firstcut provides interactive, web-based quotes through the FirstQuote™ online quoting engine at www.firstcut.com.
- Protomold provides interactive, web-based quotes through the ProtoQuote® online quoting engine at www.protomold.com.
- Both systems accept direct upload of customers’ 3D CAD models in native IGES, STEP, SolidWorks, ProE, Parasolid, ACIS, and AutoCAD formats.
- Both return a detailed quote, typically in one business day or less. If there are problem areas in the submitted design, both quoting engines provide detailed information on the problems and suggested solutions.
Yes. You can either submit the same 3D CAD model to both divisions, or you can talk to a sales representative, who will help with the submission.