At last year’s RAPID event, excitement surrounded the long-anticipated unveiling of HP Inc.‘s first 3D printing system as the company publicly introduced for the first time its Multi Jet Fusion 3D printers to the world, after having announced the intent to enter the market back in 2014. Now that it’s mid-2017 and RAPID + TCT is kicking off in Pittsburgh, HP is off and running again with more announcements at this industry-leading 3D printing event.
In a call ahead of the conference, HP 3D Printing business president Stephen Nigro outlined the company’s strategies for this year. As ever, he pointed out, in order to look ahead it is always helpful to look back first to learn from history, and so we took a quick stroll down industrial revolution memory lane, looking at what brought the world to Industry 4.0. Digitization is a big part of this future, Nigro said, and HP, of course, has stated its mission to be a leader in this next revolution.
“Industry 4.0 needs 3D printing as a solution,” Nigro said. “It’s clear this will change the footprint of the economy, as we see a democratization of manufacturing.”
As the 3D printing industry continues to grow, and increase as a percentage of the $12 trillion overall manufacturing industry, HP is looking toward a segment where they feel they can capture a significant share of the market: plastics. The company currently holds more than 400 patents, Nigro noted, and is continuing to develop technology and materials meant to compete with traditional manufacturing to truly disrupt the space. While there’s no one thing that will allow this market to really take off, he identified six key areas where HP is focusing efforts in development:
- Product capabilities
- Material price
- Material selection
- Design for additive
- New supply chain
- Standards and regulations
“Last year at RAPID, we came to the world and said, here’s our 3D printing technology,” Nigro said. “In October 2014 we announced multi jet fusion, and in May 2016 we announced our systems. We have delivered on the value propositions of speed, high quality, and low cost. We announced a year ago our open material platform, which I still contend is one of the biggest innovations we’ve brought to the industry. We were shipping to customers — shipping for us means we’re selling — products by the end of 20016, and received our first revenues in Q1 of 2017.”
Nigro pointed as well to the importance of partnerships, a common theme for HP’s 3D printing operations, working with materials partners Arkema, BASF, Evonik, and Lehmann & Voss. The Open Materials Lab in Corvallis, Oregon represents an achievement in partnerships and development, as does the Materials Development Kit. Foundation partnerships with Autodesk, Materialise, SAP, and Siemens have further underscored HP’s approach to what Nigro called “certainly…a busy 12 months” before we find ourselves back at RAPID for 2017, with HP presenting four primary announcements.
New HP 3D Printer Reseller Program: HP Partner First 3D Printing Specialization Program
HP is announcing a new reseller program for global distribution. Nigro noted that HP is very channel-centric, including for its approach to 3D printing. As an interesting note, roughly 80% of the partners HP has signed on with in this new program have never sold HP products before, as they are more centered in the 3D printing industry. This, Nigro said, is “a different engagement for us.” More than 30 partner companies have been trained and certified as the program kicks off, initially targeting North America and Europe.
Nigro painted a picture of a three-in-one business model, in which partners are able to generate revenues through sales of hardware, sales of supplies to include both materials and agents, and service and support activity. While a few of HP’s larger customers — including BMW, Johnson & Johnson, Nike, and Jabil — work directly through HP, the “vast, vast majority” will go through channels to access MJF solutions.
“In the past year, Jabil has made major progress in bringing 3D printing into mainstream manufacturing by aggressively incorporating HP’s Multi Jet Fusion technology into our business and proven processes. Our ability to scale production of 3D printed parts with mechanical integrity and consistent quality using HP’s Jet Fusion 4200 3D solution opens up new economic models and distributed manufacturing opportunities for customers around the world,” said John Dulchinos, VP of Digital Manufacturing, Jabil, who has previously shared with 3DPrint.com his thoughts on what the MJF technology can offer companies like Jabil.
For their part, newer partners involved are expressing satisfaction with the program:
“We believe that the HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D technology is a real revolution in the 3D industry. In the short term, it will lead to a productivity gain with characteristics roughly equivalent to what can be obtained in sintering. In the medium term, we should be able to see significant increases in production speed, as well as significant improvements in material performance. It is this perspective that has motivated our choice for the production of small series and prototypes,” said confirms Quentin Kiener, President and Founder of 3D PROD.
“Given that 3D printing has been defined as a strategic segment for the ALSO Group, we are excited to team up with the creator of HP Multi Jet Fusion, the most compelling 3D printing technology in existence today and to support the transformation from traditional to digital manufacturing throughout Europe,” said Gustavo Möller-Hergt, CEO of ALSO Holding AG.
Those interesting in the Partner First 3D Printing Specialization program can find more information by connecting with a local HP team member here.
Jet Fusion Installations at Service Bureaus and Product Engineering Companies
Jet Fusion 3200 and 4200 3D printers are finding new homes with service bureaus and product design firms, which HP refers to as “a hallmark of manufacturing innovation.” Service bureaus employing MJF 3D printers can now offer their customers use of the technology, while product design firms can get involved early on in the design process to design, iterate, and produce parts.
Companies involved at this level, said Nigro, “are another great validation of our technology in the marketplace,” as “they come from the industry.” Leading companies involved at this level include the likes of Fast Radius, Forecast 3D, Materialise, Go Proto, ProtoCAM, Proto Labs, Shapeways, Sigma Design and 3D Prod.
“The speed of the machines and the future availability of other materials help 3D printing to become a viable manufacturing process with a quick turn-around time,” Forecast 3D General Manager Larry Tinker told 3DPrint.com about the company’s excitement ahead of installation.
HP is set to expand deployments through North America and Europe to leading manufacturing service bureaus and design engineering firms; more information about these bureaus can be found here.
“We have completed our initial testing phase of HP’s Jet Fusion 3D printing technology and are now ready to move into the preliminary market introduction. During this phase we plan to start offering part production services to a select group of our customers, which will provide us with invaluable end-user feedback on part quality and production costs. We are very excited about the potential that Jet Fusion has to further advance industrial 3D printing as a digital manufacturing method for final part production,” said Vicki Holt, CEO, Proto Labs.
3D Printing Reference & Experience Centers Opening in US & Europe
Alongside collaborators, HP will be opening more than a dozen 3D Printing Reference and Experience Centers in seven US states and five European countries. These centers will allow potential customers curious about what MJF technology has to offer the opportunity to “kick the tires, if you will,” as Nigro put it. The centers will provide testing and qualification in controlled environments for 3D printing use cases, allowing for engagement in production-level scenarios; customers can see a clear roadmap to taking 3D printing from prototyping to full-scale production.
Nigro pointed out Germany as a particular nation at the forefront of manufacturing and Industry 4.0, and embracing industrial 3D printing, though otherwise he noted an overall comparable market environment between the US and Europe. HP will initially be opening its new centers in Allentown, PA; Atlanta, GA; Carlsbad, CA; Corvallis, OR; Livonia, MI; Louisville, KY; Manchester, CT; Milpitas, CA; Palo Alto, CA; San Diego, CA; and Vancouver, WA in the United States; and Raon-l’Etape, France; Leonberg, Germany; Eindoven, Netherlands; Barcelona, Spain; and Birmingham, United Kingdom.
Henkel Joining HP Open Material Ecosystem
As HP continues to work with partners on its open materials platform, global adhesives supplier Henkel is the latest to join as an official partner and will be working with HP in its Corvallis-based Open Materials and Applications Lab.
“Henkel is a super-interesting company,” Nigro said. “They’re an adhesives company… it’s a natural fit with 3D printing, it’s another way to bring products together. Instead of joining them, you just produce it.”
He used the moment as well as a reminder that Multi Jet Fusing is a fusing technology, not a binding or sintering one, and that were you to take a part produced via MJF and slice it in half, it would be solid all the way through due to its production via fusing. Henkel will be working to further HP’s goals for materials as it works to develop novel powder materials, including an expanded product portfolio, lower costs for materials and development, improvements to speed and performance, and otherwise establishing new part property possibilities that address unique needs.
“The partnership between HP and Henkel is backed by strong market leadership, a legacy of innovation, and an aligned commitment to additive manufacturing. With our broad material portfolio and customer base across diverse industries, Henkel is able to champion custom 3D solutions through various functional applications. This, combined with HP’s vision for open materials innovation, enables us to develop materials and applications once thought impossible,” said Michael Todd, Corporate Vice President and Global Head of Innovation and New Business Development, Henkel Adhesive Technologies.
HP’s open material approach does not, as of now, extend to the agents used in the fusing process, though this will eventually be on the company’s materials roadmap.
The company will be at RAPID + TCT this week at booth #2517, which Nigro noted will look different from last year’s setup to reflect this year’s new focus. What do you think of HP’s plans? Share your thoughts in the HP forum at 3DPB.com.[All images/slides: HP]