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Contest Promises to Transform Paper Dreams into 3-D Reality

A Minneapolis manufacturer knows the designer's challenge firsthand: How do you turn a design concept on paper into a real-life product? It solved the problem for itself with a new prototyping system. And now the company wants to pay it forward with a $100,000 design contest that will help one or more innovators make the leap from paper to 3-D product.

The Cool Idea! Award is being sponsored by Proto Labs, a provider of Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines and injection-molded parts, to give product designers the opportunity to bring innovative products to life. Proto Labs will provide $100,000 worth of prototyping and short-run production services to award recipients.

Unlike award programs that honor products or designs after their creation, the Cool Idea! program will help designers take their product part or idea from a 3-D Computer Aided Design model to its first-run production stage by utilizing company's proprietary CNC machining or injection-molding services.

Program applicants must clearly demonstrate the benefits of their product to the end-user and why they believe it qualifies as a cool idea.

"We're extremely excited to launch the Cool Idea! Award because we know there's a singly cool idea at the foundation of every innovation that changes our lives for the better," said Brad Cleveland, chief executive of Proto Labs, which began business in 1999. "In fact, the success of our company is due to a cool idea that made quick-turn injection-molded prototypes a reality. We're eager to propel the cycle forward by supporting the next generation of innovators who may otherwise lack the resources to get their ideas to market."