HP finally unveils world-first production-ready 3D-printing system

Ultimate goal is to disrupt injection molding

HP jet fusion printer

At long last, HP (Palo Alto, CA) has introduced its 3D printers for industrial applications that have been the subject of much speculation. On May 17, the company presented what it calls the world’s first production-ready commercial 3D-printing system. The HP Jet Fusion reportedly will produce parts up to 10 times faster and at half the cost of current 3D printers.

The two HP printers coming on the market target business customers and are designed to create prototypes as well as larger batches of items such as small clamps, reports Fortune. They are priced at $130,000, or $155,000 if customers want extra post-processing software and other tools. The 4200 model, which can be used to print 3D objects in bulk, will retail for over $200,000 depending on the configuration, writes Fortune.

HP CEO Dion Weisler has stated that an eventual goal for the company is to develop 3D-printing technology that can rival injection molding. Although current printers are not suited for mass production at the scale of injection molding, the company is pursuing development of its technology that, if successful, would redefine disruptive in the plastics processing world.

The system prints functional parts at the individual voxel level, which HP describes as the 3D equivalent of a 2D pixel in traditional printing. “Parts are fused together almost at the molecular level, and that helps give them a spectacular strength," Alex Monino, HP 3D printing Marketing Director, is quoted as saying in Computerworld. "Imagine the possibilities of this in the world of the Internet of Things, where not only every product is connected but every part in every product is connected."

HP’s 3D-printing technology, which uses nylon and other conventional materials and will be able to print with polyethylene at a future date, was developed with input from partners that include Nike, which hopes to offer custom-printed athletic shoes in its stores; BMW, which plans to integrate the printers for the production of automobile parts; and Johnson & Johnson (J&J), which announced its collaboration on the same day that HP introduced the printers.

That collaboration is focused on using 3D-printing technologies to create better healthcare outcomes at reduced costs, said J&J in a news release. The companies plan to combine their scientific, clinical, material science and technological expertise to develop products and solutions that can be manufactured quickly and customized to the needs of an individual patient or consumer.

Initially, the collaboration will focus on personalized instrumentation and software for patient-specific healthcare devices. J&J predicts that 3D printing will lead to innovation in orthopedics, eye health and consumer products, among other sectors. 

3D-printed mesh
Mesh part printed with HP Jet Fusion system.

“Combined with advances in data mining and software, 3D printing could enable distributed manufacturing models and patient-specific products, therapies and solutions that deliver better outcomes, better economics and improved global accessibility,” said Sandra Peterson, J&J Group Worldwide Chairman.

“Advances in 3D-printing technology have the potential to break historical paradigms of healthcare delivery in ways that are not feasible with traditional manufacturing processes,” said Stephen Nigro, President of HP’s 3D-printing business. “Together with Johnson & Johnson, we have the potential to create opportunities and innovations in healthcare to improve patients’ lives that neither company could develop alone.”

Speaking to Computerworld, Monino noted that, because HP’s system will be able to use conductive materials to 3D print electronics within parts, healthcare products such as orthotics or medical implants could have embedded wireless RFID chips. This technology could, for example, inform physicians or physical therapists in real time on how well the product is performing or even how well a patient is doing.

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