RAPID was founded in 2001 by Jay Jacobs, out of the desire to get sheet metal parts from manufacturers to his customers in a timely manner. Jacobs worked in 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing until 1999, when he became a manufacturer’s representative. Accustomed to getting quotes in hours and parts in days from his previous employer, Jay was surprised to have to fight to get a quote in less than 2 weeks, with finished prototypes taking typically 4 to 6 weeks to reach the hands of his customers. Jay saw an opportunity to create a sheet metal shop that focused strictly on prototypes, with a desire to make quantity one. Employing the business principles of the quick turn, additive manufacturing SLA service bureau world he knew, he could eliminate the delay for quotes. With dedicated machines and 3D CAD data to further streamline the process, he could eliminate long queue times. Jay found a small sheet metal shop (Russell Sheet Metal, whose owner was retiring) in Nashua, NH. With the help of his family and friends, his local bank and his and his wife’s life savings, he purchased it.
On September 14, 2001, Rapid Sheet Metal opened its doors. After a post-9/11 industry recession and gradual recovery, RAPID began to see a rise in business. RAPID recognized that a punch press was an inefficient way to blank sheet metal parts on a prototype level, and purchased its first laser in 2004. This continued to accelerate RAPID’s growth, and in 2006 RAPID moved into a 25,000-square-foot shop a mile away. RAPID purchased a second laser and other modern manufacturing equipment, including multi-axis press brakes. Then RAPID added in-house powder coating and silk screening, two simple processes that outside suppliers could not consistently deliver within a week. By 2014, a second facility was added to focus on the demand for quick turn production of repeat, very low volume parts.
Rapid Machining was launched in 2009 to satisfy demand for prototype machined parts. Previously, machined parts had to be subcontracted out to local machining shops. RAPID purchased one of these shops, RS Machining in Hudson, NH, and implemented Rapid Sheet Metal’s business model. Rapid Machining outgrew its first two locations in four years, and moved to its current 50,000-square-foot Nashua, NH location in 2013. Rapid Machining acquired an additional 33,000 square feet in 2014, dedicated to short run production (RAMP, or Rapid Automated Manufacturing Process).
Rapid Wire Cable was launched in 2012 with yet another prototype manufacturing capability. RAPID engineers would often convert wires and connectors from their desks into the wire harnesses and cable assemblies that their prototypes needed, since there were no dedicated assembly shops for these types of parts. Rapid Wire Cable was launched to not only build these needed wire harnesses and cable assemblies, but also prototype box builds.
Protolabs purchased RAPID in late 2017, making Protolabs the world’s fastest digital manufacturing source for rapid prototype and on-demand production parts. Combined Rapid, a Protolabs Company now offers over 700,000 square feet of manufacturing space spread between 5 locations in the United States and another 9 manufacturing facilities worldwide.
As our company continues to grow and expand, our mission still stands. Provide manufacturing services at a rapid speed.