HP‘s done it again. So far the company has always kept its word on the necessary steps it intends to take to ignite the next industrial revolution. It punctually delivered (just in the nick of time) its multijet fusion 3D printer at the end of 2016. It spent the next year building up its distribution network and material supply through key partnerships. It promised it would deliver a full-color 3D printer in 2018 and this time it did so with plenty of time to go. In fact, HP delivered two new 3D printer classes, the Jet Fusion 300 and the Jet Fusion 500 (see the video).
The first presentation took place as a global online briefing by Stephen Nigro and Ramon Pastor, respectively President and General Manager of HP 3D printing. Mr. Nigro went over the past achievements and reiterated the overall vision. HP intends to use 3D printing to pick a sizable chunk of the $12 trillion (roughly) global manufacturing market. It will do so by digitalizing manufacturing (as it digitalized 2D printing). Moreover, it will democratize manufacturing by reducing the cost of both 3D printers and 3D printing materials (as it reduced the cost of nylon 12 from $80 to $50 and soon $30 per kg).
Democratization by Full Color Jet Fusion
A popular movie from the 90’s, Pleasantville, used the contrast between black and white and colors to show how much more fun and free a colored world is. The consensus in the 3D printing industry has always been that affordable, reliable full-color 3D printing could open up a new and a new level of business for AM. HP has identified a number of segments where affordable full-color 3D printing would open up new opportunities (see slide below). As it expands its product portfolio, HP is evolving its global 3D printing reseller program – the HP Partner First 3D Printing Specialization program – including a variety of new options provided to partners selling HP’s Jet Fusion 3D printing solutions. Mr. Nigro also clarified that the company is more ready than ever to reach out to these new targets. This, along with the fact that current HP resellers can easily add a new product to their line up.
Especially if that new product is going to cost less than half than the current MJF production systems (4200 series). Priced between $50 and low $100K, the new systems will come in four version. The 300 series will be able to produce parts in black and white, with a 4 agent configurability (the agent is the material that HP mixes with the powder and the binder to change the properties of the materials at a voxel level). In this case, the agent is used for coloring every single voxel (by the way, an MJF voxel measures 25 x 25 x 80 micron). The 340 and 380 models will be available with two different size build volumes (roughly 20 x 28 x 27 cm and 20 x 35 x 27 cm, respectively).
The 500 series systems are the full-color system with an 8 agent configurability which can reproduce millions of colors. The Jet Fusion 380 and Jet Fusion 580 models have the same build size configurations as their 4-agent counterparts, with the top of the line Jet Fusion 580 system running into the low $100Ks.
The HP Jet Fusion 300 / 500 3D printers will launch with a new material, HP 3D High Reusability CB PA 12. Parts using this material will have mechanical properties similar to the HP 3D High Reusability PA 12 material from HP’s industrial solutions. HP will work with its growing materials ecosystem to grow the material breadth and drive costs down. The Jet Fusion 300 / 500 series will ultimately support similar materials as the Jet Fusion 3200/4200/4210, and also support unique materials that enable color or other voxel-level capabilities.
The Power of Color and Software
In 2014 Stratasys showed off its first full-color polyjet 3D printer at SolidWorks World. The system was somewhat ahead of its time. It was too costly and – perhaps more importantly – its materials were too expensive. Once again HP showed it did its homework. When it launched its production systems is closely studied what was done right and what was done wrong by SLS system manufacturers like EOS and 3D Systems. Now it has learned from the Stratasys experience with full color and the SolidWorks partnership is certainly something that Stratasys has done right.
HP and Dassault Systèmes will align future technology roadmaps to ensure that users have access to the latest design tools integrated with HP’s voxel-level technology, as well as design tools for new materials. This roadmap includes upcoming releases of the SolidWorks portfolio to support the full-color capabilities of HP’s newly released Jet Fusion 300 / 500 series of 3D printers (read the full press release).
In answer to my own question during the online briefing, Mr. Pastor also confirmed that HP intends to fully leverage the upcoming 3MF file format for voxel level full-color creations. Both HP and Dassault are Both companies are strong supporters of the 3MF standard to ensure reliable exchange of color information for 3D printing. They will continue to test, validate, and support 3MF for their solutions to assure the accuracy of information exchange across the manufacturing workflow.