Top Manufacturers Awards 2014: Protofab: Process innovations increase speed, lower cost

PETALUMA -- Optimizing cycle time by "chaining macros" and using "lights-out" overnight production to produce machined prototypes and manufacture multiple production parts are just two of the process innovations Protofab has implemented to stay ahead of the game.

Part of the Protofab workflow includes lights-out manufacturing, defined as an unmanned work environment where CNC machines run from midnight to 6 a.m. following automated programs chained together using subroutines and macros that define cutter path.

On weekends, this process continues. Staff arrive only periodically to reload material and remove finished parts.

[caption id="attachment_95466" align="alignleft" width="360"] Protofab General Manager Gordon Parchman (left) and President Mike Maendl in front of one of the company's advanced CNC mills.[/caption]

"Companies have to embrace automation and robotics to increase margins and reduce, or offset, lower labor rates in other parts of the globe," said Mike Maendl, founder, president and chief resource officer of this 16-year old ISO 9001:2008-certified precision CNC machining company.

"Our 22-member staff works with large and small customers supporting quick turnaround of a diverse range of close tolerance products."

The company’s client list includes contract manufacturers as well as large Sonoma County and Bay Area OEMs such as Agilent Technologies, Centellax, Inc., LEMO USA, Inc., GCX Corporation, Southwest Microwave and Tesla Motors, Inc. of Fremont.  

In addition, Protofab (707-782-9669, serves a broad spectrum of industry categories, such as medical, biomedical, orthopedic, microwave, semi-conductor, connector fluid deposition, hardware, transportation as well as mechanical design and engineering services.

[caption id="attachment_95467" align="alignright" width="405"] Some of the many automated milling machines on the manufacturing floor at Protofab in Petaluma, an ISO 9001-2008 precision CNC machining company.[/caption]

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