HP enters 3D printing market

Jo Francis
Thursday, October 30, 2014

HP has ported its thermal inkjet know-how into a new 3D printing system that will be able to produce objects more than a metre wide.

Its new Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing systems uses the same modular thermal inkjet heads that are used in everything from HP desktop printers to the T-series high-speed Color Inkjet Web presses.

A conceptual design of the 3D systems was unveiled yesterday, alongside a new “blended reality” desktop product, Sprout, that is potentially of interest to packaging and pre-media businesses in the graphic arts space.

HP claimed its Multi Jet Fusion system would achieve “break-through economics” and was 10-times faster than the leading 3D printing systems using laser sintering and fused deposition modeling systems that are currently available on the market.

Stephen Nigro, senior vice president for HP inkjet and graphic solutions, said: “As we examined the existing 3D print market, we saw a great deal of potential but also saw major gaps in the combination of speed, quality and cost.”

HP is specifically targeting the device at parts manufacturing and the distribution supply chain for parts, in a move the firm said would “introduce a new era of digital manufacturing”.

Multi Jet Fusion printers won’t be generally available until 2016. It's not yet known whether it will be shown at Drupa.

In the intervening period, HP is working with a selection of unnamed customers on the technology, as part of its Open Customer Engagement Program.

The scalable Multi Jet Fusion devices will have working areas from 10.8cm to in excess of 101cm. The printer has a dual carriage design, which involves layering materials and special chemical agents in what is described as a “multi-agent printing process”.

It can selectively apply fusing agent and detailing agent in specific areas to create different levels of detailing in the shape being produced, depending on the requirement, for example smooth or sharp edges.

This means the system can modify the material properties within a part, producing “controlled variability in mechanical and physical characteristics”, which HP highlighted as a key benefit.

HP stated: “HP Multi Jet Fusion technology is built on HP’s technical core competency of rapidly and accurately placing precise (and minute) quantities of multiple types of fluids... this gives [it] a versatility and potential not found in other 3D printing technologies.”

Meanwhile, Sprout is described as the first of series of products in HP’s new “blended reality ecosystem”.

Ron Coughlin, senior vice president of HP consumer PC and solutions, said it merged the 3D and 2D creative worlds, and allowed users to “move seamlessly from thought to expression”.

“Sprout by HP is a big step forward in reimagining the boundaries of how we create and engage with technology,” he said.

The $1,899 (£1,190) device goes on sale in the US on 9 November. It combines a scanner, high-resolution camera, projector, capacitive touch mat, high-definition touch screen and depth sensor.

European availability had not been specified at the time of writing.

It allows 3D items to be scanned into a digital environment for manipulation. Sprout also offers a collaborative workspace.

A number of applications for Sprout’s dual-screen environment already exist, including Crayola’s Draw and Sing, and Martha Stewart CraftStudio.

HP anticipates that new applications will be created using its Sprout Software Development Kit.

HP has posted videos on YouTube showing the two new products:  Multi Jet Fusion and Sprout.

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