"So for some parts, companies will choose to use the HP machine for tens of thousands of parts annually, rather than using plastic injection molding. Determining whether it is viable will depend on the size of the parts and the requirements of the material," Wohlers said. "The company also said that the material properties are consistently better than laser sintering and I have no reason to doubt this claim. It is going to shake up 3D printing in ways that we have not seen in the past."
Chainmail printed by the HP Jet Fusion 3D printer.
While revolutionary in some ways, HP's Fusion Jet printing technology does have its drawbacks, Wohlers said. For example, like laser sintering, parts must cool before being removed from the printer's powder binch So if a part's build takes 10 hours, it could take another 10 hours before parts can be extracted for post processing.
Additionally, HP has not released pricing for materials -- the powder for the Jet Fusion printers. If reasonably priced, it will be much more likely to attract manufacturers seeking to create large product runs with 3D printing.
"The automotive industry will likely begin to manufacture some plastic parts using HP's machine, whereas it was too expensive by 3D printing previously due to their high quantities," Wohlers said.
Ford Motor Co. has been using binder jetting and a half dozen other 3D printing methods -- such as fused deposition modeling (FDM) and stereo lithography (SLA) -- to create both prototypes and injection molds that can be used to make production parts.
With traditional automotive manufacturing methods, an engineer would create a computer model of an intake manifold, for example, and wait about four months for one prototype at a cost of $500,000, according to Harold Sears, Ford's head of additive manufacturing. With 3D printing, Ford can print the same part in four days, including multiple iterations and with no tooling limits, for just $3,000.
HP has been working with nearly a dozen companies, allowing them to test the Jet Fusion printing technology in its labs.
HP has been allowing nearly a dozen companies to test the Jet Fusion printing technology in its labs. The companies include Nike, BMW, Johnson & Johnson, Jabil, Siemens, Materialise, Shapeways, Autodesk, and Protolabs.
"For our future roadmap toward serial part production and personal customization, we see major potential in our partnership with HP to investigate this new kind of 3D printing technology at an early stage," Jens Ertel, head of BMW Group Additive Manufacturing Center, said in a statement.
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