Full-color 3D printing represents something of a holy grail: many have been working on developing solutions that will be viable and meet expectations, but we haven’t seen a full answer make it to market. There are color systems available now, but each has a sticking point. Colors aren’t crisp, definition isn’t precise, materials are limited, price points are astronomical — the list of limitations goes on and on. We’ve been waiting for a full solution to offer high-definition full-color 3D printing that can perform to professional expectations. Developing a true solution for full-color additive manufacturing isn’t an easy proposition, and the process is involved — and expensive. These considerations have long pointed to the best likelihood for success belonging to a well-funded global enterprise in addressing this aspect. And in October, HP Inc. officially announced its intention to introduce a low-cost full-color industrial 3D printing solution in 2018.

Building up its expansive and expanding Multi Jet Fusion portfolio of solutions, HP is today announcing the details and availability of its entrance to full-color 3D printing with four new 3D printers. Along with this announcement, released today at SOLIDWORKS World 2018, comes a deepening of HP’s collaborative efforts with a SOLIDWORKS integration and an expansion of its channel program.

Stephen Nigro at SWW18 [Photo: Sarah Goehrke]

Last week, Stephen Nigro, President, 3D Printing Business, HP Inc. and Ramon Pastor, General Manager of Multi Jet Fusion, 3D Printing Business, HP Inc., shared a preview of the company’s approach to accelerating the democratization of 3D printing in a prebriefing. I am on-site as well in LA to learn more directly from the HP team as they officially unveil their latest advances in additive manufacturing, and spoke with Nigro for a further look into the announcements.

Full-Color 3D Printing

HP’s new Jet Fusion 300 / 500 3D printing solution for functional prototyping and short run production

“When we talk about 3D printing inside of HP, we have a vision,” Nigro explained in the virtual prebriefing sesison.

“It’s simple and bold: we want to change how the world designs and manufactures. Or another way we talk about it is that we want to be a leader in that next Industrial Revolution.”

HP, through high-profile moves and partnerships, has made major steps toward its bold goal of disrupting the $12 trillion manufacturing industry. Having introduced the latest addition to its industrial 3D printer line in November, the company continues to focus on “what’s going to make innovation happen,” as Nigro noted last week, as the new technologies in focus with Industry 4.0 “fundamentally will allow you to redesign your supply chains.” The company will continue to focus on its current 3D printer offerings, which have been shipping since the end of 2016 and making their way to customers around the world since, while expanding its line now.

“We are also moving down market to lower price points,” Nigro explained of the new 3D printers. “We want to democratize.”

The new lower-cost 3D printers are designed to “enable functional prototyping and provide voxel-level capabilities including full color,” HP explains. The company is also evolving its partner program “to deliver customers broader capabilities and target new resellers as business and product portfolio continues to grow.” During the prebriefing, Pastor addressed the company’s vision to “expand the addressable market.”

“We recognize that not all 3D printing customers fit this profile,” he said, as HP had noted that the greatest value proposition for the Jet Fusion 3200, 4200, and 4210 had so far proven to be OEMs printing more than 130 production parts per week.

“For these customers, we think the new printer series could be a great solution. We are targeting SMBs.”

The portfolio expansion, Pastor explained, is designed with a few goals in mind, including:

  • Democratizing 3D printing
  • Prototype and produce with the same technology
  • Functional parts in full color, black or white

The new 300/500 series of HP Jet Fusion 3D printers offer four models for the new platform, with variations for entry-level (the 300 series, with smaller build volumes) and higher-volume prototyping (the 500 series, featuring a larger build size) needs. These new 3D printers are available today for order and will be shipping in the second half of the year, and have a price range beginning in the $50,000s and going up to “the low hundred thousand dollars” mark, noted Pastor.

“We are using this iteration of our technology to produce color, but this is not the only thing we can do,” Pastor explained. “This platform is future-ready for future developments.”

Offering four-agent configurability are the HP Jet Fusion 340 and 540; the 380 and 580 offer eight-agent configuratbility. With four-agent configurability, the former two units are able to create white or black parts; eight-agent configurability allows for full-color 3D printing.

Pastor pointed to the “customer-valued features” inherent in the new line, including:

  • Engineering-grade thermoplastics
  • Mechanical properties and surface quality of Multi Jet Fusion
  • Open Materials platform
  • Full color capabilities
  • 0.08mm layer thickness
  • Build size up to 7.5″ x 13.1″ x 9.8″
  • Full bucket with 52 parts in 15 hours / partial bucket with five parts in four hours
  • Multiple product variations

“You can cover a lot with these build sizes,” he said, also underscoring the speed associated with Multi Jet Fusion technology. The color capabilities available on the 380 and 580 allow for “communicating emotion, communicating function,” Pastor noted, which carry especially great value in applications including artwork, collectibles, jewelry, and labels.

“We see color as a change in productivity in 3D printing, much as we did decades ago in 2D printing,” Pastor said, tracing back to the long HP journey in printing technologies. “Much as you could not now conceive of a 2D printer without color capabilities, we see this as the future of 3D printing.”

HP Multi Jet Fusion technology features voxel-level control and is changing the way the world designs and manufactures [Data courtesy of Invent Medical and NACAR]

“We are leveraging 30 years of inkjet expertise. We have a deep expertise in color science, in how to do color robustly,” Nigro told me in LA.

“We are able to leverage this knowledge, along with our ease of use and customer experience. There has been a realization of understanding. This solution was developed from the ground up for smaller businesses and enterprises.”

Target customers who might especially benefit from the new offerings include those working with functional prototyping, such as OEM R&D teams, design firms, customized part manufacturers, small service bureaus, manufacturing support teams, and universities.

Education is a very important target market for us, as engineering schools are looking to expose students to different functional equipment, and also to help them to think differently. The next generation of engineers will design and manufacture differently in the future,” Pastor noted in the prebriefing.

The ability to think and design differently is key for industrial 3D printing to advance; design for additive manufacture (DfAM) requires a new way of thinking, as HP has continued to emphasize, as the newer geometries possible necessitate newer approaches. By making these systems available at a more realistic price point for SMBs, access can open up to a wider variety of creators.

“As we look at democratizing 3D printing, it’s important for us to get Multi Jet Fusion technology into the hands of designers,” Nigro told me at SOLIDWORKS World. “Keys to this are the price point, convenience, and ease of use. The 300/500 series doesn’t require a dedicated operator like the industrial machines do, and that opens a lot of opportunities…. There’s a lot in that machine, and we’ve put it all into one package that fits through the door.”

The entire design of the new machines, he told me, was based on the target users’ needs to make for an accessible design experience. While initial versions of these 3D printers, for example, didn’t fit through doorways, they were redesigned with this consideration in mind to truly make them more convenient to use — and to bring into more environments. The 300/500 series additionally have in-printer bulk processing; that is, as Nigro explained to me, after a build is complete, it cools inside the printer, which then does auto-extraction and automatically recycles powder back into the system, mixing in for the next build. While parts will need a final cleaning, the in-unit post-processing lessens the extent to which an operator needs to intervene.

Coupled with the industrial-grade 3200/4200/4210 solutions, an enterprise could go from prototyping to full production using the Multi Jet Fusion platform. The Jet Fusion 300/500 series 3D printers suport OBJ, VRML, and 3MF file formats. HP has been working with the 3MF Consortium since its 2015 beginnings to help advance this file format to what Pastor noted as a “new standard that’s open, much richer, basically preparing the industry for this whole digitization in manufacturing.”

Among early users of the new systems have been Youngstown State University, Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and Yazaki. Pastor said that the reaction so far “has been fantastic; fantastic in how they will accelerate and communicate the value of products.”

“Youngstown State University is proud to offer our students and community access to world-class capabilities in additive manufacturing. We are committed to working with innovative leaders like HP as we continue to drive the premiere learning experience and ensure our graduates serve a productive role in this exciting transformation of manufacturing. HP’s ability to offer cutting edge technology like its new full color 3D printers will enable industry, government and academia to imagine endless new applications that will have an impact on people all over the world,” said Dr. Brett Connor, Director, Advanced Manufacturing Research Center at YSU.

YSU has a strong dedication to additive manufacturing; last summer, the Ohio-based university became the second in the US to obtain all seven major types of additive manufacturing technologies. Phoenix Children’s Hospital has seen great use for 3D printing, and through working with the new offerings from HP can continue to bring the latest technologies to its patient care. For its part, Yazaki is seeing “huge potential for new applications, cost savings and competitive advantages,” as Technical Specialist Mark Wynn commented.

Customers aren’t the only ones excited; industry experts are also looking forward to what’s to come on the heels of this latest announcement. Terry Wohlers, President of Wohlers Associates Inc., commented:

“I’m excited about the range of applications for functional multi-color 3D printing. It’s good to see that HP is targeting this interesting and largely untapped opportunity. The possibilities are infinite.”

A new material, HP 3D High Reusability CB PA 12, is launching with the 300/500 series 3D printers. With mechanical properties similar to HP 3D High Reusability PA 12, the new material represents the first of what could be many materials offerings developed through the company’s Open Material platform. HP notes that these new machines will “ultimately support similar materials as the Jet Fusion 3200/4200/4210, and will also support unique materials that enable color or other voxel-level capabilities.”

Dassault Systèmes Collaboration

HP is also announcing the evolution of its global 3D printing reseller program. Its HP Partner First 3D Printing Specialization program is growing with the company’s worldwide reach into 3D printing markets, and now enables “solutions providers with specific manufacturing industry expertise, global digital transformation, and IT solutions expertise to deliver Multi Jet Fusion technology for customers around the world.”

Today, HP and Dassault Systèmes are bringing SOLIDWORKS 3D design and engineering applications to bear in Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing solutions. The collaboration fits neatly into HP’s desire for users to think differently about design, as 3D printing and advanced design software make possible new geometries and possibilities for manufacturing. SOLIDWORKS, which, powered by Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform, allows for support from design through manufacturing, offers a well-understood and leading experience to adopters of HP’s additive manufacturing platform.

“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,” HP explains in today’s announcement. “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. 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 accuracy of information exchange across the  manufacturing workflow.”

The technology leaders are bringing their offerings together in a shared vision of the future. Nigro noted that his team at HP is honored to bring Multi Jet Fusion together with SOLIDWORKS. While we talked at SWW, he noted that today, there isn’t a robust solution available to take advantage of voxel-level capabilities, and that the right design tool is needed.

“We’re sharing our design tools with SOLIDWORKS so we can leverage capabilities with them,” Nigro told me.

The CEO of SOLIDWORKS, Gian Paolo Bassi, looks forward to the collaboration to drive the future of manufacturing.

“Innovators are driving tomorrow’s industry renaissance, and additive manufacturing, new materials and 3DEXPERIENCE twins are opening up a world of possibilities where they can test and create their concepts. Our investments in materials science combined with HP’s open approach to materials development are the foundation of a successful partnership between Dassault Systèmes and HP. Together we can expand on the technologies of both companies and collaboratively research new tools around materials science and the development of new materials. Innovators can stretch the limits of imagination, invent and reinvent, further the art of manufacturing and ultimately pursue sustainable innovation for products, nature and life,” said Bassi.

SOLIDWORKS World 2018

Stephen Nigro at #SWW18 [Photo: Sarah Goehrke]

HP is showcasing its solutions at booth #301 at SWW18 this week, including the new Jet Fusion 300 and 500 series 3D printers as well as a new workstation, VR, and 3D scanning products and services.

“For this industry to grow, it needs not just users, but people to sell the technologies,” Nigro told me of HP’s expanding and adapting channel program.

“We need more partners to go sell, and have a new channel program for the 300/500 series, where there is less of an investment to get in. HP is doing more back-end support here, to encourage expansion to get to customers. HP has long expertise in channel management, and scaling with partners. 3D printing need more service and support after a sale, and we are leveraging our resources to provide this.”

I’m on-site in LA to keep up with the teams from HP and SOLIDWORKS, and look forward to the opportunity to check out the latest offerings and speak further to executives from both companies.

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

[Images provided by HP Inc. unless otherwise noted]

 

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