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HP's industrial 3D printer on track to ship this year

Lucas Mearian | March 11, 2016
HP's not interested in the US$6 billion 3D printer market; it's targeting manufacturing.

The first version of the printer uses thermoplastics and multiple colors, but HP plans on expanding materials to suit a variety of production manufacturing. The machine is capable of producing high-precision parts, HP said.

Most importantly, though, the 3D printer will be able to build production parts, albeit in smaller runs, Nigro said.

HP has also created an "open" collaboration program for developers who want to work with HP to create specialty applications for the printer.

Like all industrial 3D printers, HP's Multi Jet Fusion will be especially well suited for creating high-quality, customizable parts for industries such as aerospace, healthcare and automotive.

For example, in the healthcare industry, surgical guides or implants can be shaped to a patient's specific anatomy; a patient's hip ball and joint can be scanned and then rescreated to exacting specifications.

The automotive industry could use the industrial printer to create custom cars, so buyers could specify changes to the body or interior and an automaker could then create those requirements during the manufacturing process.

In aerospace, 3D printers can make parts lighter but adding enough scaffolding to ensure stability without unecessary added wieght.

And 3D printing allows parts to be created on the fly, instead of the need for traditional manufacturing processes where bulk runs are stored in warehouses until the parts are needed.

There are, however, barriers to the wider adoption of 3D printing, Nigro admitted. Mostly, he said, manufacturers need to be educated on how 3D printing can change the design process and traditional production and supply chain methods.

"There's a tremendous amount of education needed around how you can build your products differently [and] the raw economics," he said. "You need parts to be built faster, with higher quality and lower cost."


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