When it comes to 3D printing, the technology is only as good as the materials it uses. For all the bells and whistles of the latest hardware introductions, they’re nothing without provable materials behind the actual production. The critical nature of materials innovation is certainly not lost on HP, which just last spring finally unveiled their long-trumpeted Multi Jet Fusion technology — which they developed with a keen eye to materials science and collaboration. While a 3D printer capable of speeds ten times those of other technologies proved to be an exciting one for the 3D printing world, at the heart of that is the materials input and, beyond that, the partners working toward this goal as the MJF platform employs an open materials marketplace designed to, as HP explains, “accelerate the creation of production-ready 3D printed parts.”I’ve been along for the ride with HP since last year’s tour of the Barcelona development facility and official introduction at RAPID, as well as meeting with the team at Voxel Vision events held at IMTS and formnext. This week I am reporting from Corvallis, Oregon, the long-time home of innovations from HP. As I learned last night over dinner at the kickoff to HP’s two-day event for their new Open Materials and Applications Lab, the 145-acre site here in Corvallis has been home to decades of innovative work in the tech and printing world, including the development of the very first handheld calculators. This week, the company is unveiling what they call a world’s first with their new 3D Open Materials and Applications Lab, a 3,500-square-foot space dedicated to the development and testing of, and engineers’ feedback on, new materials and products for HP’s 3D printing systems.
From a dinner Tuesday night introducing a select group of analysts and journalists to the new lab to a walking tour of the extensive site on Wednesday, the event was complete with informative presentations from Sylvia Monsheimer, Global Business Director, HP-Additive Manufacturing, at Germany’s Evonik, and Kara Noack, Market Development Manager – Additive Manufacturing, BASF, as well as members from the HP executive team, led by Tim Weber, Global Head of 3D Materials and Advanced Applications and General Manager of the Corvallis site, along with Fabio Annunziata, Director of HP 3D Materials.
“We are convening the world’s leading materials companies and empowering them to disrupt and innovate. It will be exciting to watch as these companies test the limits of the HP Open Platform,” Weber said. “The ability to create new materials more quickly, and to easily iterate and improve those materials, will lower costs and accelerate the digital reinvention of manufacturing.”
Evonik and BASF represent half of HP’s initial partners in co-developing new materials and refining the materials certification project, as they also work with Arkema and Lehman & Voss.
And so it was, aware of the caliber of partners and the high levels of materials development at play here, that I received my Golden Ticket to HP Corvallis as one of the company’s dozen confirmed press/analyst attendees. At the dinner, we were each presented with limited-edition (I have ticket 4 of 25) 3D printed Golden Tickets inviting us to the site as the first visitors outside HP employees and materials partners, as Weber took his place as our guide à la Willy Wonka:
Date: March 15
Time: 9 AM (Sharp)
Place: HP Corvallis Lobby
This 3D Ticket Primed on the HP Jet Fusion 4200 Ensures Admittance
Greetings to you, the lucky recipient of this 3D printed ticket,
From Mr. Tim Weber! I shake you warmly by the hand!
For now I do invite you to come to my lab, the global hub of 3D materials innovation and be my guest for one whole day. I, Tim Weber will conduct you around the factory myself showing you everything there is to see and afterwards when it is time to leave, you will be escorted home with as many visions of 3D materials and applications in your head you could ever want! And remember one of you lucky folks will receive an extra gift beyond your wildest imagination. Now, Here are your instructions. On the Fifteenth of March, you must come to the HP Corvallis gates at 9 A.M. sharp.
And so it is that 3DPrint.com is able to bring you into the magic inside HP’s newest lab, feeling a bit like this:
(Thank you, HP, this will now be stuck in my head indefinitely.)
Over dinner, Weber laughed at the event’s date — he assured me that it was selected as a viable date to gather together between major conferences and events, and definitely not because it was the Ides of March. Reassured there was no danger of any sort of group back-stabbing activity, I listened to my ticket and proceeded this morning to HP Corvallis at the appointed time alongside my fellow Golden Ticket holders.
“We must rethink the entire lifecycle of a manufactured part, from design to delivery,” Weber said of the Lab’s opening and HP’s aspirations for it.
Among the keys to the vision (the Voxel Vision) behind the Lab are, in keeping consistent with the message of the entire MJF system, collaboration/partnerships and moving toward the factory floor. Calling this event “a grand opening for a grand idea,” HP opened the doors to the facility where powdered raw materials for use in their 3D printing system are being tested.
During the facility tour, we were shown several areas of development laid out in stations, and had the opportunity to talk with representatives from BASF and Evonik, and some of HP’s in-house lab team. These collaborators are truly key to the ongoing development of scalable 3D printing technology — or digital manufacturing, a term Weber noted he prefers to either 3D printing or additive manufacturing — as knowledgeable engineers and materials scientists are able to respond to the needs and wants demonstrated from customers, certifying new products directly through HP.
“In order for 3D printing to go mainstream, you need the materials piece to take off with the technology or the ecosystem won’t flourish. We want materials companies to work with their customers and drive innovation on our platform,” said Weber.
“There’s no way that HP itself can develop and certify the some 30,000 materials made by all the materials companies in the world. Working together in a hands-on, agile development environment enables us to test and certify materials that are compatible with our Multi Jet Fusion technology.”
We will be sharing more details in coming days about the latest from HP regarding MJF 3D printing systems and materials development, including some exciting announcements to come. Discuss in the HP forum at 3DPB.com.[Photos: Sarah Goehrke for 3DPrint.com unless otherwise credited]
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