May 17, 2016
Today at the RAPID 3D print show, HP unveiled its first proprietary 3D printing product: the HP Jet Fusion 3D Printing Solution. Calling it “the world’s first production-ready commercial 3D printing system,” HP says the new Multi Jet Fusion product is part of its journey to bring disruptive manufacturing solutions to market.
As HP has said previously, the device will deliver superior quality parts up to 10 times faster and at half the cost of current 3D print systems. It will also print functional parts at the individual voxel level, HP said, a 3D printing first. During a pre-briefing call, Alex Monino, Head of Marketing and Go-to-Market for HP’s 3D printing business, indicated that HP has plans for a marketing campaign centered around the “voxel” concept.
Two versions of the solution at first
Designed for model shops and 3D print service bureaus, the HP Jet Fusion 3D Printing Solution comes in two monochrome versions, at least at first: the HP Jet Fusion 3D 3200 Printer and the HP Jet Fusion 3D 4200 Printer.
The 3200 device is ideal for prototyping, while the higher-end 4200 device is intended for prototyping and short-run manufacturing needs. During a pre-briefing call with industry analysts on May 12, Ramon Pastor, Vice President and General Manager at HP, noted that the 4200 features advantages like additional memory, advanced control (e.g., tools to control elasticity), a fast cooling module to improve end-to-end speed, and less expensive supplies.
Both versions come with compatible tools including design software, an HP Jet Fusion 3D Processing Station with Fast Cooling, and various materials. Pastor highlighted that the processing unit recycles unused powder, and like the printer is controlled by software.
HP is taking orders for the systems at www.hp.com/go/3Dcontactus. The HP Jet Fusion 3D 4200 Printer will be commercially available in late 2016 (Monino mentioned October during his pre-briefing call), while the HP Jet Fusion 3D 3200 Printer will be delivered in 2017. Pricing for the HP Jet Fusion 3D 3200 Printer starts at $130,000, while pricing for the full solution (the printer plus the processing station) starts at $155,000. HP has not yet disclosed the price of the 4200 device, though Monino indicated that the most advanced configuration would fall in the low $200,000s. As shown in the graphic below, HP is emphasizing the build speed and affordability of the units compared to competitive models.
Open materials and software platform
As HP has already announced, its 3D printers are built upon an open platform that allows HP and certified partners to develop new materials and applications for the devices. So far, HP has collaborated with partners like Arkema, BASF, Evonik, and Lehmann & Voss to create materials; it is also working on a 3D material app store that will facilitate the purchase of material. To start, customers will be able to purchase two types of nylons—reusable HP PA12 and PA11. In the near future, Pastor said, partner companies will be announcing their own compatible materials—including elastomers. At this point no metal is planned for the technology, Pastor said—just a wide range of plastics as well as ceramics.
HP has also worked with software partners like Siemens, Autodesk Netfabb, and Materialise to simplify the design-to-print process. According to HP, the HP Jet Fusion 3D Printing Solution is the first 3D printer that’s fully compliant with the 3MF 3D printing file format, which HP helped develop along with other leading 3D print companies.
HP has also worked with partners like Nike, BMW, Johnson & Johnson, Jabil, Shapeways, and Protolabs to develop its 3D print offering. In the press release announcing the new solution, HP mentions BMW’s involvement with 3D printing. The company was a “pioneer and early adopter” of 3D print technologies, and has been using them for prototyping in concept cars and series-like approval builds. According to Jens Ertel, Head of BMW Group Additive Manufacturing Center, the company sees major potential in HP’s technology for its future roadmap toward serial part production and personal customization. During the analyst call, Pastor noted that feedback from Shapeways helped HP determine the initial post processing station was too small; consequently, it made it bigger. HP is always learning from customers, he said.
Pastor also told analysts that HP will be leveraging IT value-added resellers to sell its 3D print solutions. One reason for this choice is they are familiar with many of the applications that are used in the 3D printing space. They will sell the hardware, fulfill the materials and parts, and service the devices.
Over time, HP plans to expand its portfolio of materials, enable color (and full-color) printing, and give customers the ability to transform part properties at the voxel level. For instance, customers will be able to print objects containing sensors, invisible traces, and codes that enable the tracking of information, increased security, and increased safety. The sensors, for instance, can communicate when a part is about to experience an issue, prompting technicians to replace it before the issue occurs. HP also expects that up to 50 percent of HP Jet Fusion 3D Printer parts will be produced with HP Multi Jet Fusion technology going forward. HP expects to become the market leader in its chosen segments, spurred by the many advantages it believes it provides customers.
HP first announced plans to enter the 3D printing market in 2014. Since then, it has been working with internal materials scientists as well as partners to craft a commercialized 3D system that achieves its core goals of quality (precision and strength), affordability (acquisition and running costs), and flexibility (support for various materials, applications) via its proprietary Multi Jet technology. The fruits of this labor will be on display at the end of the year, when the first 4200 product and compatible material hit the market. With its entrance into the 3D printing market, HP aims to “drive the next industrial revolution” alongside channel partners. While it is clear HP has many success factors in its favor, it also has the monumental task of capitalizing on the $12 trillion manufacturing opportunity in a smart, vertical-focused way.
HP’s leadership in productivity stems from its wide print array, which significantly reduces build time and enables production of monochrome and color objects. Given development in single pass production printhead technology, however, we are likely to see other vendors (using polyjet or jet binding technology) create larger arrays that will compete with HP technology. HP will have to keep innovating at a rapid pace to expand its market reach. Other technological innovators (e.g., Stratasys and 3D Systems) are consistently diversifying their product portfolio and breadth of materials, while technological heavyweights like Canon and Ricoh are also entering the market. The upcoming drupa show will likely include additional innovation from new vendors (e.g., Massivit and Highcon) that are looking to expand their market appeal beyond traditional page printing.
3D printing and deposition is an industry segment where innovations in core technologies and materials science are evolving at a rapid pace—a pace that at times seems unimaginable. As this technology evolves, many manufacturing industries are able to offer new solutions to old problems, or new products that simply did not exist beforehand. We will continue to watch this space, and track innovations and the impact they have on end users as well as the growing distribution channels.
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