HP set to unveil game-changing 3D metal printers

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BARCELONA: In a bid to take the 3D printing industry to an entirely new level, global printing and PC major HP Inc has announced that its 3D metal printing solutions are set to enter the market later this year, thus giving the $12 trillion global manufacturing opportunity a new push.

HP, which entered the Additive Manufacturing (AM) field in 2016, currently has industrial-grade Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) 3D printing solutions that produce polymer (plastic)-based products.

"We will do an announcement on metal printing later this year and unveil to the world what kind of technology we will use. There are several metal technologies out there and we will share which we have zeroed in on to move forward and invest further," Ramon Pastor, Vice President and General Manager of Multi Jet Fusion, HP, told IANS.

Pastor confirmed what HP CEO Dion Weisler has been telling the world since late last year that HP plans to sell 3D printers that produce metal objects.

Several engineers and researchers are working on the future 3D printing technology in a highly secure HP facility here which is the 'Ground Zero' of its 3D printing dreams.

Printing metal-based products will open a whole new opportunity for HP -- from automotive to defence, from aerospace to orthopedic and dental implants.

The global 3D printing metals' market is expected to reach $2.86 billion by 2025, according to US-based Grand View Research, and Asia Pacific is anticipated to witness significant growth -- driven by rapidly growing manufacturing sector and high economic development in China, India and Southeast Asian countries.

"We will soon share our go-to-market strategies and some of the key timings when it comes to 3D metal printing," Pastor said.

Metal 3D printing has been widely adopted by the aerospace and defence industry in major regions across the world.

According to Pune-based MarketsandMarkets, Titanium and its alloys are mainly used in aerospace engineering applications such as manufacturing of engine components as they offer high strength, are lightweight and provide superior resistance to corrosion.

Due to bio-compatibility, they are also used in bio-medical applications such as orthopedic and dental implants as well as artificial knee and hip replacement surgeries.

The volume of 3D-printed metals consumed by the aerospace and defence sector constitute more than one-third of the total 3D printing metals end-user market, said MarketsandMarkets in a recent report.

Several well-known firms like Desktop Metal, 3D Systems, EOS and Stratasys, among others, and a number of start-ups are focused on building and supplying metal 3D printers.

Companies like GE Additive are utilising metal 3D printing for the development of aerospace parts.

In such a scenario, the early adopters with some strategic collaboration and acquisition moves will quickly gain the bigger pie of the market.

"We are open to collaborations in the 3D printing market. We have already done some key partnerships with 3D experience leader Dassault Systems, German conglomerate company Siemens and some material manufacturers to maintain the ecosystem in place," Pastor noted.

"We are aiming to collaborate with more stakeholders to make sure that customers get end-to-end solutions on time," he added.

On the acquisition part, the HP executive said that the company will keep the options open but currently has no such plans.

"So far, it is more organic development at our end, but we will keep our options open. Currently, we are building our technology organically," Pastor told IANS.

Apart from manufacturing, the HP executive is bullish on the prototyping industry.

"We are ready with the low-cost 300/500 series MJF 3D printers especially for prototyping. We want to give designers a way to prototype on the same technology that they will use while manufacturing final parts," Pastor explained.

The HP Jet Fusion 300/500 Series -- available for $50,000 in the second half of 2018 -- will enable small-to-medium-sized product development teams and design businesses, entrepreneurs and universities and research institutions.

It will enable manufacturers to produce engineering-grade, functional parts in full colour, black or white.

"No matter your industry, no matter your design complexity, no matter what colours fit your business needs, the new HP Jet Fusion 300/500 series gives you the freedom to create brilliant new parts liberated from the constraints of traditional production methods," Stephen Nigro, President of 3D Printing, HP Inc, said recently.

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