For years, those within the 3D printing industry wondered when the world’s largest 2D printing company, HP, would venture into the 3D printing space. Last year we got that answer as the company unveiled their Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing platform to the world. Able to print at speeds 10 times greater than any competitive machine on the market today, investors of some of the companies already entrenched within the market, like Stratasys and 3D Systems, were immediately put on guard. It’s now been six months since this announcement and we’ve seen very little in terms of new information surfacing about their plans. So what’s been going on behind the scenes at HP since their initial Multi Jet Fusion announcement? Well, this past week at the Inside 3D Printing Conference in New York City, J Scott Schiller, Worldwide Business Director, Hewlett-Packard 3D Printing, was on hand revealing to us all a few more tidbits of what we can expect from the company in about 18 months.
Yes, I did say 18 months. According to Schiller, HP’s first Multi Jet Fusion printer will be ready by the end of 2016. The reason for such an early announcement by the company, which certainly will provide competitors plenty of time to counter HP’s attack with their own new technologies, was to give HP adequate time in forging new partnerships. In fact partnering and remaining as open sourced as they possibly can from a materials standpoint will be incredibly important for the future of this new technology moving forward.
We’ve already heard about HP’s partnership with Autodesk to integrate the Spark Platform with their Multi Jet Fusion technology, but their plans are much grander than this. Schiller revealed that they are in the process of launching a new 3D printing consortium where industry leaders will come together to develop a standard 3D interchange and printing format, while working together on an open source and open licensing framework. Already companies like Netfabb and Microsoft (Windows 10 integration) are involved, with additional details scheduled to be unveiled in a few week’s time.
Schiller also revealed numerous slides in his presentation showing just how fast their new printing platform really is. One slide compared the productivity of Multi Jet Fusion with that of material deposition and laser sintering. It showed that over a period of 38 hours, material deposition based machines are typically able to fabricate 460 of a particular gear, laser sintering machines around 1,000 gears, and Multi Jet Fusion a staggering 12,600 gears within that same time frame.
These rapid speeds are what have set Multi Jet Fusion apart from other technologies, but in my opinion speed may not be the most exciting aspect of what HP is planning to do. The machine they unveiled back in October was only one example of this technology, which utilizes special ‘agents’ or chemicals during the print process to achieve the desired effect. HP has leveraged their experience within the 2D printing space in a way which should benefit them greatly in the 3D space. Although the company has thus far revealed only their first 3D printer concept, which will fabricate items from plastic, Schiller noted that they are working with multiple other materials such as ceramics and metals for future renditions, and are also looking towards the medical space for applicable uses of this technology.
The future of HP’s Multi Jet Fusion seems bright, as the company is working tirelessly to expand on its capabilities. Schiller also revealed details on some of their work, and what will eventually be coming down the pipeline. Most interesting was the ability for their machines to eventually control a variety of variables such as color, texture, transparency, elasticity, and conductivity on a voxel-by-voxel basis. This could have staggering implications within the manufacturing industry, enabling rapid fabrication of objects which have incredibly intricate compositions.
Schiller appears to have a a clear vision of where he wants to take Multi Jet Fusion and seems confident that it will place HP among the leaders within the industrial side of the 3D printing space, and eventually perhaps even the consumer space. It will be interesting to see how much innovation will take place at companies such as Stratasys and 3D Systems prior to Multi Jet Fusion’s launch.
What are your thoughts on HP’s ambitions? Will other companies be able to compete? Let us know your thoughts in the HP Multi Jet Fusion forum thread on 3DPB.com.