HP to “Double Down” on Commitment to 3D Printing in 2018, Introducing Full Color and Metal Capabilities

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Today during the company’s annual Securities Analyst Meeting, HP Inc. President and CEO Dion Weisler touched on business updates from 2017 as well as a preview for what to expect from the ambitious global company in 2018. So far as 3D printing is concerned, the previews provided are huge as HP “doubles down” on its commitment to 3D printing, as Weisler explained.

As a quick historical overview, HP first announced its intention to enter the 3D printing industry as a direct participant in 2013, introducing the concept of Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing technology in 2014. In 2015, HP Inc. split from HPE, with the former maintaining operations in 3D printing through a newly created dedicated business unit. In May 2016, HP officially introduced their Jet Fusion 3D printers at RAPID, following an exclusive press/analyst preview at their Barcelona labs. Since the machines have been on the market, we have been keeping in close contact with the team at HP, visiting their materials lab and corporate headquarters, and following the company’s structure and strategies. While HP has been busy expanding the global presence of Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing, it has been consistently working toward the next generations of additive manufacturing technology, as the company is convinced that this will disrupt the global manufacturing industry.

The company’s bold strategies to take on the $12 trillion manufacturing industry become bolder today as HP announces moves forward in some high-profile 3D printing technologies. As Weisler announced and HP 3D Printing business President Stephen Nigro expanded upon, HP’s 3D printing priorities in 2018 include a few major moves:

  • Lower-cost, full color 3D printing
  • Metal 3D printing

Either of these announcements on its own would have been attention-getting enough; together, they show the absolute ambition and aggressiveness with which HP Inc. is approaching the market. And, of course, with some splashy style in the announcing:

Splash aside, the announcement means that some of HP’s long-awaited advances will be making their way to market.

“We’re introducing a new lower-cost, more accessible 3D printing platform that prints in full color,” Weisler said.

Color capabilities seen at HP Corvallis [Photo: Sarah Goehrke]

HP has long been working on advances toward color technologies, a highly anticipated area in 3D printing, including sample parts to show since the first press/analyst previews of MJF 3D printing. 2018 will be the year these capabilities finally make it beyond their labs, though — and the announcement that this will be at a lower price point should pique even more interest. The new price point, Weisler noted, is intended to make it “easier for designers and creators to access the technology.”

Nigro built on these announcements, explaining of the expanded portfolio offerings, “For the first time ever, we’ll be able to produce mechanically robust, full color parts. If that’s not enough, we intend to go beyond plastics, and into metals — with a brand new, HP-invented 3D metal technology.”

As 3D printing becomes a tool for scale production, it becomes critical that these designers and creators have the ability to prototype using the same technologies and materials as will be used in full-scale production, and this is exactly what HP is aiming to accomplish with its moves forward. As always, each move HP makes is part of a larger puzzle of progress, a step toward a long-term, big-picture vision.

As HP seeks to disrupt manufacturing, it is focusing squarely on the oft-heralded next Industrial Revolution.

“Now the Fourth Industrial Revolution will change every aspect of our society and the global economy; that’s been one of the most discussed subjects amongst leaders at the last two World Economic Forums. In fact, the World Economic Forum itself has stated that the total value of digital transformation across all industries could reach $100 trillion over the next ten years. Looking back at history, what we see is each major disruption is based on some key enabling technologies… The Fourth Industrial Revolution is no different. Key enabling technologies include artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, big data and analytics, robotics, and of course, 3D printing. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is all about the digitization of manufacturing,” Nigro said.

In discussing the ways in which disruption to the overall manufacturing industry will occur, Nigro highlighted six main points:

  • Unlock:
    • Product capabilities
    • Material price
    • Material selection
  • Accelerate:
    • Design for additive
    • New supply chain
    • Standards and policy

Working with its strong network of partners across a variety of verticals, HP is keeping these goals at the forefront of its strategies moving forward in bringing 3D printing from a purely prototyping to a production technology.

“In 2018, as Dion mentioned, we intend to bring full color to the 3D printing lineup. Color is a great example of building at the voxel level… We plan to combine this color capability with a new lower-price position,” Nigro reiterated of plans for the coming year, touching again on the mechanical robustness of their color 3D printing.

“Also…is our entry into metal. As we said before, our aspiration is to disrupt the $12 trillion manufacturing market. With Multi Jet Fusion, we have a fundamental advantage in plastics. Now, we are expanding beyond plastic to metals. But why now? Pretty much the same reason we got into 3D plastics with Multi Jet Fusion. We have developed a novel 3D metal approach that leverages key HP assets. We have developed a novel 3D metal approach that is built around a combination of high quality and improving the economics of 3D printed metals. Today’s 3D metal industry is focused primarily on specialized, high-value, and expensive applications. Our invention will transform the 3D metal industry into a more mainstream, high-volume production. Or to say it differently, we are entering the 3D metal business because we can have a major impact on the market and we can make a unique contribution. As a next step, we will be announcing the HP metal 3D printing technology platform and our business plan to the industry in 2018.”

While HP has been displaying color 3D printing for some time, we have not yet seen what they can do with metal; today’s announcement is in line with the company’s initial announcement of entering the 3D printing industry a few years ago, without a great deal of specifics, but enough talking points to show that they mean business and are actively in development. No specific timeline came with today’s introduction of the plan to 3D print with metals, nor any information on price point, metal material capabilities, fusing techniques, or name for the metal process.

Even without much in the way of detail quite yet, Nigro is enthusiastic in pointing to their work with metal as being “another defining point for the industry” and notes that listeners should “stay tuned for more details in 2018.”

Bigger picture, the company’s executives pointed to strategies in place for a very long-term vision. Sea changes in manufacturing don’t happen overnight, and HP is working to position itself at the helm of a ship determined to stay the course as a leader in industry. Touching on the long-term nature of the company’s strategic approach to 3D printing, Chief Financial Officer Cathie Lesjak noted during the Q&A portion that, “No one said 3D is operating at a profit; it is still very much in investment mode” and that HP is “focusing on 3D for the long term,” where patience is a definite virtue.

Patience will have to remain a virtue for all of us as we await further detail on the new machines’ timelines; it sounds as though color will be available in 2018, while metal capabilities are at a more nascent stage of development. These two moves are indicators of HP’s picking up steam in the industry as its initial plastics (‘it can be any color you want as long as it’s black’ à la Henry Ford) Multi Jet Fusion offering entrenches itself into production centers like the dozen-system-strong setup established at Forecast 3D this year. We’ll continue to keep in touch with HP to share updates on their technologies as they become available.

Discuss this story and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com, or share your comments below.

[Slides/Securities Analyst Meeting images via HP Inc.]


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