HP Inc. Details Ascent in 3D Printing, Focus on Sustainability and Behind-the-Scenes Disruption


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When HP Inc. decided to enter the 3D printing industry, it did so with one major focus: production. By internally developing Multi Jet Fusion technology for widespread use, HP sought to disrupt the overall manufacturing industry — a vision only picking up steam as the global company continues to devote significant strategic resources to its investment into additive manufacturing. This week at AMUG, HP has been driving its message of disruption not only for customers, but for HP as a larger company.

Today, Michelle Bockman, Global Head of 3D Printing Commercial Expansion & Development, presented a session, shared virtually with 3DPrint.com, entitled “Behind the Scenes: Driving Our Own Digital Disruption in HP,” and has shared additional insights in an exclusive interview.

For disruption to truly take place, adoption must be not only widespread but also, critically, sustainable. Sustainability features into the breadth of a company’s operations, encompassing a necessary examination of resources across the entirety of strategic approaches. Multinational corporations such as HP must look to supply chains, including material consumption and waste, transportation, and other factors impacting both the environment and the bottom line.

“Given this level of supply chain complexity, we are not just looking at how to drive cost and time efficiencies – we are also asking and challenging ourselves every day – how do we drive a more sustainable business?” Bockman asked in her presentation.

“This is why exploring 3D printing is a must for our organization. It enables us to reduce transportation, waste and material consumption.”

She quotes Stuart Pann, Chief Supply Chain Officer, HP Inc. in noting that:

“Sustainability is far more than just doing the right thing for our environment… it’s about using our own 3D printing technology for competitive advantage and to further the delivery of amazing HP products that make life better for everyone, everywhere.”

To dig further into this area, I asked Bockman for her insights.

SG: How does sustainability figure into HP’s overall vision for additive manufacturing / how does additive manufacturing impact sustainability across global businesses?

Bockman told me: “We believe that HP’s 3D printing technology will not only drive a 4th Industrial Revolution, it will also drive a sustainability revolution by making parts lighter and more efficient, increasing recyclability, developing environmentally-friendly materials and processes, and reinventing traditional supply chains. We’ve leveraged the inherent sustainability and environmental benefits of additive manufacturing , but we’ve taken those things many steps further than anyone else, and continue to do so. Multi Jet Fusion produces parts ten times faster and at half the cost than any other 3D printing solution, with dramatically less production waste and industry-leading powder reusability. Among the many ways Multi Jet Fusion promotes increased sustainability, one real key to our leadership is how it manages the smallest of details: microscopic voxel-level control. By enabling design and production at the individual voxel level, Multi Jet Fusion offers a previously impossible ability to transform part properties in real-time and deliver mass customization to the tiniest specifications. At a rate of 340 million voxels per second, Multi Jet Fusion allows you to manufacture highly customized, locally-produced, on-demand parts that reduce waste, carbon emissions, excess inventories, and physical warehouses unlike any other production method.”

Among the most highly-regarded and -noted benefits of additive manufacturing is the technology’s capability to reduce material consumption; while in traditional, subtractive machining, material is removed from a quantity of material, 3D printing builds up parts using only the material necessary for the part and its supports, drastically reducing the necessary amount and cost of material. Also increasingly noted, though, is the fact that adoption of additive manufacturing isn’t nearly so simple as saying “Let’s do this” and cutting a check for additional equipment. As HP highlights, a complete rethinking is required for true adoption of new technologies including 3D printing, which requires a focus on design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) with a wholly new set of parameters for designers.

Bockman approaches this adoption through the lens of a challenging, rewarding mountain ascent. She said in her presentation:

“On embarking on this journey, you have to approach the challenge in a series of achievable steps…You need to establish a series of camps to move further and further up the mountain. And this is akin to the transformation that we are experiencing. We are so confident in our own 3D printing technology that we are leaning in ourselves to change the way WE design, manufacture and deliver HP products. This is why we have created the ‘Reinventing HP With Multi Jet Fusion’ program. It’s how we get to experience and learn what it takes to fully embrace 3D printing and steer the development of our 3D printing business with quality information and realism. And also how we can learn and help our customers navigate the way during their adoption of 3D printing. AMUG is a wonderful example of this – and HP is here to help you, drawing from our own experiences and partnering with you to navigate the journey.”

Here I had a few more questions, to which she responded with further insight:

SG: How does HP envision its leadership role helping to shape production 3D printing as the technology is more broadly adopted?

MB: “Our business model is based on building a collaborative global ecosystem across companies and industries – from materials providers to manufacturers to software developers to service bureaus and beyond. It’s a huge tent that encompasses more than just factories. Industrial 3D manufacturing will transform every sector in some way, and the broad adoption of 3D technology hinges on the unified efforts of businesses, industries and governments to help enable this massive change. We’re proud that Multi Jet Fusion and its 3D partner ecosystem have established themselves as the spearhead of this global transformation.” 

SG: Can you talk a bit about the mountain climbing analogy from this presentation? How does ascending camp to camp help to reach the summit of adoption?

MB: “Like scaling a big mountain, reaching broad adoption of 3D manufacturing is a journey that can seem daunting at first, but through cross-discipline teamwork, shared ambition, industry collaboration, and smart decisions from applied learnings, the peak of manufacturing’s digital transformation will be within reach, and the true value of the journey will start to be realized. The view is always better from the top.”

The three camps she splits the transformation into for the purposes of the presentation are:

  • Camp One: Technology replacement, fitting 3D printing into procurement and analyzing pros and cons of 3D printing as compared to traditional manufacturing
  • Camp Two: Performance improvement, leveraging the benefits of 3D printing to simplify designs and lower costs through part consolidation
  • Camp Three / The Summit: Addiitve design, where 3D printing is an equal participant in the development process enabling the creation of products optimized for business results

To highlight this ascent, she pointed to exmaples such as with partner Jabil, which also 3D prints parts for HP 3D printers as the companies continue to work together to change the economics of 3D printing. Bockman noted that Jabil’s breakeven points have climbed from 5,000 up to 40,000 parts and has seen significant acceleration in design cycles, as MJF allowed for 19 design iterations of one part in the same time that a single iteration would have taken via traditional methods. Jabil currently manufactures more than 50 production-quality parts for HP’s Jet Fusion 3D printers and other printers, in addition to qualifying additional parts for volume manufacturing.

Also illustrative of the realities of HP’s 3D printing is the recent — April 2 — liftoff of a new 2D printer with 3D printed components to the International Space Station. The HP Z 3D Camera that the company introduced at CES 2018 also features 3D printed parts that led to a noticeably faster time to market. Further, the recently released HP Jet Fusion 300/500 series 3D printers feature a significant amount of 3D printed parts themselves; Bockman notes that these have “probably…the largest number of 3D printed parts in any finished product in the world — more than 140 parts, I believe with the latest count we were at 154 parts.”

The ways in which HP leverages MJF technology shine through, and I asked as well for Bockman’s thoughts a bit deeper in here:

SG: HP’s internal usage of its own 3D printing technology is impacting other sectors of the business; how do these uses serve as examples for the company’s partners and customers?

MB: “By integrating Multi Jet Fusion into HP’s own operations, we’re creating a microcosm for the way we see the digital transformation of the entire $12 trillion global manufacturing industry progressing. Our Reinventing HP With Multi Jet Fusion program leverages our 3D technology to lower costs, speed time to market, increase customer satisfaction and increase sustainability. When we produced our first 3D printer, we immediately saw the advantages for our own business and used Multi Jet Fusion to produce nearly half its components, around 60 parts. Since then, the economics and design capabilities of Multi Jet Fusion have become more and more compelling. Our second-generation printer now has 140 3D-printed parts and we expect that number to keep growing. It’s essentially the printer that prints itself. HP is now using Multi Jet Fusion across its Print, Personal Systems, and 3D Printing businesses in growing proportion.” 

140 3D printed 3D printer parts

Bockman concluded her presentation today with a look at the challenges HP has encountered on the trail of MJF to date, as well as learnings gleaned. She noted among the learnings that a first challenge was to support the leap of faith into additive as a pioneer, deploying early initiatives within the organization. Close collaboration and partnership with vendors was an important early focus, and one that has come through from our earliest conversations with the executives in HP’s 3D printing business. Building confidence throughout the organization allowed for the building up of cross-functional alignment throughout HP’s wider operations.

On the learnings side, Bockman pointed to important lessons the team has taken to heart, beginning with an interesting one: “Maybe we could have been bolder to accelerate the benefits of 3D printing.” Regularly pointing to the power of 3D printing to disrupt a $12 trillion industry, no one can accuse HP of being a delicate flower in its approach to the market; but perhaps starting more strongly on this dedicated path could have encouraged an earlier acceleration of targeted strategy. In any case, the company is moving with definite boldness these days, and continues to learn along its path to the summit.

A key lesson HP has seen is that “a clear vision and dedicated effort is needed to encourage all these teams across the organization to think differently and question how they are doing business.” Engaging the team, starting with absolute support from the top and carrying a transparent messaging and clear objective throughout the entirety of the organization, allows for a smoother adoption of new technology and better access to resrouces throughout the organization.

“Reinvent HP With MJF” showcases HP’s drive to accelerate the adoption of 3D printing — and, as with any big sea change in behavior, understands that the first changes must be internal. Were HP a heroine in a tech-centric rom com, this program would be the makeover scene in which our brave protagonist realizes she needs to love herself first, then go out there ready for her true love; just in this case, that true love is overall industry adoption.

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

[All images/slides provided by HP Inc.]


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