HP 3D Printing President Announces Company's Move into Metal AM

New HP binder jetting machine aimed at production quantities of metal parts leverages technology related to document printing. HP’s introduction of the new machine begins with an online additive manufacturing parts-production service.

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On Tuesday at the Additive Manufacturing Conference at IMTS, HP 3D Printing President Stephen Nigro announced the company’s expansion into metal 3D printing with the introduction of a new platform for additive manufacturing of metal parts, the Metal Jet system. The machine follows HP’s introduction two years ago of its Multi-Jet Fusion system for additive manufacturing of plastic parts. Like the previous plastics system, the new Metal Jet machine is aimed specifically at 3D printing for scale production of end-use parts. An early user is car manufacturer Volkswagen, which intends to employ additive manufacturing to make production parts for an electric vehicle.

Part of the Metal Jet machine’s advantage in efficiency and economy is the extent to which it leverages existing HP knowhow related to printing documents and graphic media, Nigro says. The 3D printer builds parts via binder jetting, which is the metal additive process most resembling 2D printing. In binder jetting, a binding agent causes metal powder to adhere. A sintering oven then completes the part by solidifying it into its fully-dense, fully-hardened state as the binding agent is burned away. The challenge of competing to produce document and graphic media printers that are increasingly faster, more reliable and less expensive to produce has led to the development of internal expertise and intellectual property in printheads and inks that now directly apply to the Metal Jet machine and its proprietary binding agent. 2D printing expertise has been extended to create a fast and economical metal 3D printer, he says.

The machine is not yet available for sale. Instead, to enable prospective users to learn about the machine’s capabilities and to enable HP to refine those capabilities, the company is beginning with a parts production service. In partnership with contract manufacturers GKN and Parmatech, HP has launched an online manufacturing portal through which customers can order metal 3D printed parts by uploading CAD files. Orders will be fulfilled by GKN and Parmatech using Metal Jet machines.

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