Showcasing Innovation in Seattle

Cool Idea! = Hot Products at IDSA's International Conference

Feb 23 2015 - 3:37pm

Minnesota-based Proto Labs says it's looking forward to showcasing the winners of its latest $250,000 Cool Idea! Award at IDSA’s International Conference in Seattle this summer.

"We hope the innovative products will spur discussion and inspire attendees to come up with their own designs to help create a better future," says Sarah Ekenberg Braun, marketing program manager at Proto Labs.

One of the Cool Idea! 2015 winners includes a design for an efficient solar panel that would generate electricity and heat water simultaneously. Arun Gupta’s Skyven Technologies will use the prize—$35,000 in Proto Labs manufacturing services—to build a full-scale plastic and metal prototype of the Cogen System that will help him find investors for a full-scale launch in 2016.

“Having this award and having them build our product for us has been huge in making sure everything is working right and that we can show it to people,” Gupta tells the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Otherwise, the most we can get are computer simulations, which are not very convincing to most people.”

Gupta applied last year and is the first winner announced this year.

Proto Labs is a custom manufacturer that uses computerized milling, injection-molding or 3-D printing technology to make customer prototypes, products and parts. Its Cool Idea! contest, which announced its first winners in 2011, is open to entrepreneurs in the United States and Europe. Proto Labs has donated $750,000 in manufacturing services to almost two dozen start-ups.

Past contest winners include a self-propelled ocean-exploring robot; a personal home robot; the Whirlwind wheelchair; and Solo Shot, a personal-tracking device invented by a surfer who wanted to make instructional selfie videos.

The 2015 Cool Idea! Award judges include some of the design and manufacturing industry’s most respected leaders: Ben Einstein, an experienced product designer and investor; Larry Lukis, founder and chair of the board at Proto Labs; Scott Miller, CEO of Dragon Innovation; Mike North, former host of Discovery Channel’s “Prototype This!”; Emile Petrone, founder and CEO of Tindie.