Published on September 29th, 2015 | by Louella Fernandes0
HP Multi Jet Fusion: A Game Changer for the 3D Printing Market?
By Louella Fernandes • on September 29th, 2015 • in Articles • 3,533 views • No Comments
Following its split into separate businesses, HP is pinning its hopes on 3D printing. By exploiting its PageWide array technology with the impending 2016 release of its first commercial, full colour, multi-jet fusion 3D printer, is HP poised to reshape this nascent market?
On 1st November, HP will officially split into two separate businesses – Hewlett-Packard Enterprises will focus entirely on server, data centre and business technology while HP Inc will be focused on PCs and printing. 3D printing looks set to be the bright spot for HP following the split – Dion Weisler, who will be CEO of HP Inc, has already created a new 3D printing division, to be headed up by Steve Nigro as it looks to capitalise on 30 years of 2D printer R&D experience and dedicate resources and investment to carve out a presence in a relatively immature market.
HP executives have estimated that worldwide sales of 3D printers and related software and services will grow to almost $11 billion by 2021 from $2.2 billion in 2012. HP unveiled its plan to enter the 3D printing market in 2014 – aiming at industrial applications such as prototyping rather than the consumer market.
HP’s Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer device uses a form of its page-wide array technology, already used in its 2D printers, across the office, graphics arts and production markets, to achieve faster speeds and lower costs. Unlike conventional ink-based devices, HP PageWide Technology uses a fixed print head across the entire page in a single pass. This results in thousands more print nozzles, and new ink formulations to deliver a whole new level of printing price/performance capabilities, while consuming less energy.
The application of PageWide technology in the Multi Fusion device differs from its 2D use in that rather than using a single nozzle, a page-wide array print head with 30,000 nozzles sprays 350 million drops a second of thermoplastic or other materials onto a print platform.
The printer uses a proprietary multi-agent printing process that HP calls “Thermal Inkjet Arrays” that simultaneously apply multiple liquid agents to produce greater accuracy, resiliency and uniform part strength in all three axis dimensions.
The printer works by first laying down a layer of powder across a build area. Then a fusing agent is selectively applied with the page-wide print bar. Then the same print head applies a detailing agent at the parts edge to give high definition. The material is then exposed to an energy source that fuses it.
According to HP, the printing process, speed (350 million drops per second), 20 micron drop size and materials will enable producing products and components with lower costs, more precise shapes, excellent strength, good elasticity, variable textures and a wide range of colours. Speed is certainly the key improvement that HP brings to the market with HP claiming that Multi Jet Fusion is 10x faster than like products from competitors. Beyond the current use of thermoplastics, HP plans to develop new 3D printing materials, using colour, ceramic and metal. It’s likely that over the course of 2017 HP will begin introducing new printer models that utilise the HP Multi Jet Fusion technology, addressing the needs of both small and large businesses.
HP’s entry to a market dominated by several small players such as 3D Systems and Stratasys, is set to have repercussions. Given that its existing IT distribution channel might not address this speciality market, such competitors with an established channel network could potentially be acquisition targets for HP as it strives to expand its presence. HP Inc. has already stated that it is open to acquisitions and partnership in the 3D market indicating that it will eventually need about four different 3D printing technologies. Other technologies on the market include SLS (selective laser sintering), material jetting, monomer polymerisation and high-end material extrusion solutions. Indeed, HP has built its dominance in the 2D printing market through both partnering – using technology from Canon for instance for its laser printers – and organic innovation – such as its inkjet and PageWide array technology.
With a huge, global manufacturing, maintenance and distribution network that is unrivalled in the 3D industry, HP is poised to disrupt the market. HP’s Multi Fusion Jet devices could be a game changer – its global presence and technology innovation uniquely positions HP to raise the profile of 3D printing and drive industry standards. While this will be good for the market overall, its competitors will need to step up as HP clearly is serious about its intentions to revolutionise the 3D printing market.