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The Producers: HP’s President of 3D Printing Savi Baveja Explains How the Company is Addressing Scalability

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HP (NSYE: HPQ) and the additive manufacturing (AM) industry in the US need each other. In the long run, I believe that what’s good for one will be good for the other. Based on an interview with 3DPrint.com at RAPID + TCT 2024, President of 3D Printing at HP Savi Baveja seems to believe that too.

“There are lots of innovators and lots of deep thinkers in this industry, so I wouldn’t claim exclusivity on that,” Baveja began. “But I think one unique perspective we have is production-centricity: the industry needs to stop mucking around so much with prototyping and fancy parts, because eventually you’re going to run out of gas. The unfolding of events in the industry is validating our stance there. So, let’s tip things to production! And I think we understand, probably better than many other companies, how hard it is to get things to the production scale — but also, how rewarding it is.”

At RAPID + TCT 2024, HP gave many updates signaling continued improvements on scalability, with the two most significant ones, from my perspective, related to the Metal Jet (MJ) S100 metal binder jetting (MBJ) ecosystem. Along with a Metal Jet Adoption Center in Corvallis, Oregon, HP also announced a Metal Jet Production Service to complement the service network the company has been cultivating for years with Multi Jet Fusion (MJF):

“Now, the growth is happening off of a very small base, but we’ll grow our metal business in the extremely high double-digits this year,” said Baveja. “We’re seeing so much adoption, which has led us to be constantly thinking of ways to make that process even easier for customers. That’s the explanation for both the center in Oregon, as well as the production network. More broadly, I think that one of the things that really limits user adoption is when OEMs aren’t flexible with their business models. The way we look at it is, if the customer wants to lease the machine, great, let’s lease it to them. If they want to print with a service bureau instead of operating the machine themselves, great, let’s do that. When you’re trying to drive adoption, it’s important to not be so rigid in your business model.”

HP’s internalization of that lesson comes naturally from its role as a division within a major industrial conglomerate, as well as the 3D printing division’s own experience building up the aforementioned HP Digital Manufacturing Network. The company is in a unique and ideal position in which it can leverage the assets and reach of HP Inc., while simultaneously tapping into a global ecosystem of contract manufacturers and service bureaus:

“In the polymers business, I think we got the idea of building a network pretty early on in the game,” Baveja told me. “We were probably ahead of the curve on partnering with and enabling service bureaus. What we’re telling customers with the Metal Jet Production Service is that metals aren’t that different.

“All of the advantages of a service bureau on the polymers side, in fact, are arguably even more important when it comes to metals. It’s harder than the polymers side, and there are fewer people who have the expertise to work with it, so that expertise becomes all the more crucial. This means that a major component of this push, from a strategic point-of-view, is determining who we want to build a relationship with in each region to be the customer’s go-to partner early in their adoption cycle. Then, once we’ve done that, what do we need to do to best enable the effectiveness and further growth of that ecosystem? It’s going to be a village — what does that village look like? This is what we’re trying to do in metals right now.”

In addition to a strategy built around regional partnerships, HP’s history in polymers also indicates that meticulous attention to developing use-cases will drive Metal Jet’s continued growth:

“What I hope everyone in the AM industry is focused on, and what I’m certainly focused on, is trying to unlock the key to adoption,” Baveja said. “I know now that the way you do that is one application at a time. Also, the key is different for every industry. You have to look at every potential application area and say, what’s the key here?

“For orthotics and prosthetics, for instance, the key is digital transformation. As a company, that means our task is figuring out how we turn that potential for digital transformation into one cohesive package for the user. Automotive, on the other hand, isn’t like that, so you have to take a different approach.

“Again, though, in more general terms, no matter what the industry is, or whether it’s polymers or metals, we’ve built our whole business around production needs. The more that AM is genuinely being used for production, we will disproportionately benefit, so we’re disproportionately focused on feeding that wave.”

For metals, according to Bajeva, feeding that wave means a “laser focus on three main areas”:

“With MBJ, we’re focused hydraulics, filters, and tools. The strategic aspect to our relationship with INDO-MIM was tools, since they make a lot of their own tooling for metal injection molding [MIM]. They want to use Metal Jet for that, which is fantastic, because the tooling supply chain is very difficult right now.

“When you see stamp tools, or MIM tools, they care these huge inventories, and they have to replace them every year. It’s a nightmare! And every time you have to recast and remold a given part, that creates another interesting use-case for additive. As for hydraulics and filters, the geometries involved make metal AM a better fit. We started with stainless steel just because that’s easier — 25 percent of all metal printing currently is done in stainless steel. But we’re quickly moving into a much broader range of materials. New materials are certainly one of the big keys to growing the metals market.”

There aren’t too many lessons from the polymers market that would help a company that’s looking to grow its metal business, but all the most critical lessons that can be learned seem to involve how you grow a manufacturing network partner by partner and customer by customer. The grasp that HP has on precisely that process should make give Metal Jet some serious legs, which would be a win for the entire US AM industry.

Images courtesy of HP via LinkedIn

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