HP, known for its industrial as well as office (2D) printers, has embraced the industrial opportunities in Additive Manufacturing and introduced its own line of end-part worthy industrial 3D printers. The company is positioning its 3D printers in comparison to methods of mass production such as injection molding, focusing on the integration of AM into industry 4.0. Their technology and business decisions are geared towards two major aspects: the production of high-value mass customized end parts and reaching an economic break even point for short and mid runs. Here are 5 examples of HP’s actions in the last year towards a growing AM ecosystem.
The Voxel and the Technology
The first step was developing the technology. The HP 3D printer, released last year, is based on an HP developed technology called Multi Jet Fusion, or in short MJF. The technology uses the same layer build method of other powder-based 3D printers but here instead of using lasers to solidify the material it uses a combination of material jetting, as well as jetting fusing agent and detailing agent, and a lamp producing heat (infographic of the process below). The technology aims to bring a combination of precision, speed, and reduced production costs. It can produce a voxel, which is the 3D equivalent of a pixel, at a resolution of 21 microns, about .02 mm, leading to high precision prints. The MJF’s precision is coupled with speed, 3D printing 340 million voxels per second, according to HP, that is 10 times faster than equivalent options.
The Material and the Platform
HP recognizes that reaching a wider industrial market calls for continuously developing materials that answer various requirements and reduce costs of production. In order to do so, HP launched the Open Materials Platform intended to drive material cost down and increase the economic benefits of using MJF at an industrial scale. Evonik, an international specialty chemical company introduced its new PA-12 VESTOSINT® a polyamide-based powder produced specifically for HP as the first material certified by the HP Open Platform. Evonic alongside companies such as Arkema, BASF, and Lehmann & Voss are just some of the collaborators in the platform, committed to expanding material range and innovation as an ecosystem. HP also collaborated with SIGMA DESIGN on a material development kit providing companies and researchers with a small scale mechanism for the initial testing of the adaptability of powder material for HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer. The ecosystem as a whole aspires to continue reducing costs of AM, bringing faster adoption of AM in industrial production.
MJF testbed at HP labs for printing test coupons and other parts to determine material printability
In every phase HP works with various partners creating a network of collaborators within the ecosystem: BMW, Johnson & Johnson, Jabil, Siemens, and Nike, to name a few. Jabil is one of the foundational partners, first to receive an MJF printer last year. Working in tandem with manufacturers such as Jabil which has 90 facilities across 23 countries is a declaration of intentions. HP understands that these companies have the experience needed with large-scale production and their feedback is crucial in ensuring MJF as a process of quality and efficiency. “For us, what’s powerful is the ability to produce quality parts with consistency, a high level of mechanical integrity and at speeds that allow us to define a break-even point for traditionally made parts using the HP platform”, said VP of Global Automation and 3D Printing at Jabil, John Dulchinos.
Johnson and Johnson surgical tool 3D printed on MJF
The Break Even Point and Leading by Example
After marking the market and developing the technology for it, HP has created its own case study within the company: Out of 135 customer parts that make up the MJF 3D printer, 66 were 3D printed by HP’s own factory machines. Including the 3D printed parts in the printer itself highlights the company’s objective to position MJF as an affordable and quality production method. “The reason we’re doing it is not because we can, although that certainly would be one reason. It’s because we should: it actually makes economic sense for us to print those parts; we can actually save money,” said Stephen Nigro, head of 3D printing at HP (above and up top end parts 3D printed on HP’s MJF printer). According to Stephen Nigro, a production of small plastic parts up to 55,000 parts is more economical with MJF over traditional manufacturing. Other companies are applying the technology to end and spare parts, SIGMA DESIGN, for example, is 3D printing end-parts with HP’s MJF, such as an applicator vacuum fitting (below).
The Supply Chain
The latest action HP took in AM and Industry 4.0 happened two weeks ago when HP announced it is joining forces with Deloitte. The collaboration is meant to combine the two companies capabilities in manufacturing and supply chain, accelerating the adoption of AM by companies and manufacturers. “What this is going to do is allow HP and Deloitte go into large enterprises together and help them transform how they design products and supply chain, this is the first deal of this kind in 3D printing”. said Stephen Nigro.
HP, as GE (check out company highlight), is oriented towards strengthening the broad and expanding use of AM for industrial production. Lowering production costs and providing quality 3D printed end parts are two crucial aspects of doing so, and by taking these actions HP’s shows how fast the market is growing and expected to grow.