After years of announcements about the potentials for additive manufacturing/3D printing in the discrete manufacturing and process industries, there has recently been a spate of news announcements from end users and technology suppliers that show the rapid progress this technology is making across industry. Now, there’s news from HP—a company more traditionally associated with enterprise and consumer technologies—surrounding what it calls “significant milestones to its open platform for 3D printing materials and production-ready applications development.”
Before detailing the two new announcements from HP, it’s worth noting that, in May 2016, HP released its HP Jet Fusion 3D Printing Solution, a production-ready commercial 3D printing system which HP said could “deliver superior quality physical parts up to 10 times faster and at half the cost of current 3D print systems.” This printing system can reportedly print functional parts at the individual voxel level (a voxel is the 3D equivalent of a 2D pixel in traditional printing).
The first of the two new announcements by HP relates to the company’s collaboration with SigmaDesign to offer what HP calls “the industry’s first MDK [materials development kit] for 3D printing materials.” HP says this MDK will ensure a “robust and expanding array of materials for end-customers and a simplified certification and testing process for partners.”
The MDK will reportedly enable companies interested in certifying their materials to test 3D powder spreadability and compatibility with HP Jet Fusion 3D printers prior to submitting the materials to HP for testing.
“Many companies, both large and small, do not have the internal capabilities to execute their 3D printing vision as quickly or as broadly as they’d like. Materials are at the center of successful manufacturing, and the combination of HP’s open platform and the ability to enable voxel-level control will help expedite the digital transformation of this multi-trillion dollar market,” said Bill Huseby, president and CEO of SigmaDesign.
The second announcement surrounding 3D printing for industry announced by HP involves the opening of its laboratory to help companies develop, test and deliver the next generation of materials and applications for 3D printing. Located in Corvallis, Ore., the new HP 3D Open Materials and Applications Lab will offer HP partners “a range of equipment and in-house expertise to accelerate materials and applications innovation, which is critical to quickening the evolution and adoption of 3D printing technologies.”
Referencing HP’s 3D printing technology and its lab, Kara Noack, head of 3D Printing North America at BASF, said, “At BASF, our goal is to enable customers to produce resilient and functional parts through the use of innovative material solutions. Using the HP Open Platform and its…testing lab in Corvallis to accelerate material development is helping to unlock the potential of 3D printing. The open platform gives BASF an opportunity to collaborate with customers and, together with HP, accelerate not only the material market, but also 3D-printing adoption within manufacturing.”
Noack added that, based on BASF’s experience and R&D capabilities, “we have been able to accelerate the development of materials with better mechanical properties by leveraging HP’s 3D Open Materials and Applications Lab. We have been able to develop multiple versions of thermoplastic elastomers including TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane), adding to an already comprehensive product portfolio. HP’s 3D Open Materials and Applications Lab is allowing us to provide a wider range of innovative materials to the industry.”