On October 29[SUP]th[/SUP] HP announced their long-anticipated entry into the 3D printing market with the HP Multi Jet Fusion. The HP Multi Jet Fusion is an industrial 3D printer that is anticipated to be 10 times faster and 50% less than current systems. The system will be beta tested by customers in 2015 and in production in 2016.
The 3D printer market is anticipated to grow at 45+% annually. While there were rumors that HP would acquire an existing 3D printer company, such as 3D Systems (DDD), Stratasys (SSYS), ExOne (XONE), Arcam AB (AMAVF) or Voxeljet AG (VJET) — HP developed a unique system on its own. Gartner estimates 3D printer spending of $669M in 2014 with enterprise representing $536M and consumer spending of $133M. Wholers Associates estimates the sale of 3D products and services, which includes printers, ink and products is expected to grow to near $11B by 2021.
HP Multi Jet Fusion relies on the company’s 30 years of experience in 2D printing and sizable R&D budget. Terry Wohlders, president of Wohlers Associates, a leading market research firm in additive manufacturing believes the speed, quality, feature details (down to 5 micron) and colors is leading edge. Wohlders said: “Its, not only a game changer, it’s going to rewrite the rules in the 3D printing industry.”
HP Multi Jet Fusion – How it Works and Why Now?
The printer works by using a print bar that looks like a scanning bar on a typical 2D printer. The 3D print bar has 30,000 nozzles spraying 350 million drops a second of thermoplastic or other powdered material as it moves back and forth across the print platform. The printer combines attributes of a binder jet printing (like 2d inkjet printing) and selective laser sintering (SLS) (where layer upon layer of powder material is fused by heat). Please see HP Multi Jet Fusion technical white paper.
Why now? Well many of the core patents like selective sintering have expired or will expire in a year or so. Thus HP can leverage existing 2D printing technology and avoid spending money on developing processes for 3D printing.
Time is Money
PricewaterhouseCoopers in a survey of 100 top manufacturers that two-thirds are using 3D printing for either prototyping, custom parts or production. However, today, 3D industrial printers are used primarily for rapid prototyping – to slash development time and costs to test parts before mass production. Why? 3D printing today is too slow for volume manufacturing like injection molding. However, the HP Multi Jet Fusion with its speed, detail and color capabilities can move from rapid prototyping to low-volume mass production.
What this means:
- Legitimize 3D Printing: HP’s entry with its considerable size, resources ($112B sales and $16B cash), brand and industrial customers using its 2D systems should be able help legitimize and expand the 3D printer market.
- Small, Manufacturing Lots: Envision moving the 3D printer from the engineering prototype shop to the manufacturing floor. Multiple HP Multi Jet Fusion printers making replacement parts for automobiles, appliances, Kickstarter companies.
- Rethinking Manufacturing and the Experience Curve: Now you don’t have to run factories to create inventory in advance of demand. Nor will you have to stock replacement parts, but only print when necessary. Also, you can modify a part design in real time. See my previous article: “What does the Ford Mustang and Intel’s Gordon Moore Have in Common with Local Motors? Experience Curve and the Divergent Future of Manufacturing.”