Driving 3D printing innovation forward, voxel by voxel

November 11, 20164 Minute Read

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Printing has progressed leaps and bounds since HP unveiled the LaserJet in 1984 and the DeskJet in 1988—the first mass-market inkjet printer. Back then, the DeskJet offered continuous plain-paper printing and higher print quality at an affordable price. This was revolutionary because it redefined what was possible for home printing.

Nearly 30 years later, HP is still pushing the envelope. By researching and leveraging decades of expertise in precision mechanics, microfluidics, and materials sciences, HP is driving 3D printing innovation forward. “We want to change how the world designs,” Steve Nigro, president of 3D printing at HP, told Wired.

In the mind of a 3D printer

When thinking about 3D printing innovation, images of prosthetic limbs, beautiful statues, and on-demand homes come to mind. Each of these applications is transformative in its own way. While it’s exciting to think about constructing livable houses with the touch of a few buttons, the reality is that 3D printing involves huge amounts of work. A lot (to put it mildly) goes into crafting the 3D printers, not to mention the software that supports them and the prototypes for functional parts. The technical specs are important, but what really makes the product stand out is what’s in the “mind” of the 3D printers.

The first commercial 3D printing solution based on an open platform, the HP Jet Fusion 3D Printing Solution is really an ecosystem of parts and services. Enabled by the HP Multi Jet Fusion technology, the solution will create the highest quality physical parts, produce parts up to 10 times faster, and at half the cost, of current 3D print systems. HP developed a synchronous architecture around its core Thermal Inkjet arrays, which prints more than 30 million drops per second across each inch of working area.

“While HP Multi Jet Fusion is a new technology, it stands on the shoulders of decades of HP R&D investment in thermal inkjet printheads, inks, agents, precision mechanics, and material science,” said Scott Schiller, VP, global head of market development at HP 3D Printing. “The technology is built on HP’s core competency of rapidly and accurately placing precise quantities of multiple types of fluids on a variety of materials.”

The HP Jet Fusion 3D Printing Solution is also designed to maximize productivity. Like any good assistant, the printer’s “mind” is focused on enabling you to get as much done as efficiently as possible. The Processing Station’s automated material mixing and leading systems help streamline workflow and labor time. The Build Unit can be moved for cooling once the job is done, which allows for a continuous printing process. Furthermore, accurate thermal control of every layer in the printer is smart enough to make predictive corrections, which optimizes mechanical properties.

It’s not uncommon in manufacturing for high productivity to cause dips in quality. To prevent this, HP invented a proprietary multi-agent printing process where the agents are applied by HP Thermal Inkjet arrays. This ensures that the material is properly fused and that part edges are smooth and well-defined. Fusing and detailing agents deliver fine details and dimensional accuracy. The mind of an HP printer is precise and committed to perfection. All these innovations mean that the HP Jet Fusion 3D Printing Solution can control part properties voxel by voxel, addressing more than 340 million voxels per second.

3D printing innovation

Reinventing 3D printing means delivering an integrated, end-to-end solution that overcomes pain points in existing 3D-printing processes. Ultimately, 3D printers are only as good as the information they receive and the experts who manage them, and this means that the technology has to be easy to use to reach its full potential.

HP’s 3D printer comes with complete, user-friendly, in-box software solutions that streamline the workflow from design to final parts. It removes existing 3D-file format challenges and offers print preparation and job monitoring through accurate build-time estimations, automated packing, and embedded quality checks. An enclosed, automated processing station provides a cleaner materials-loading and mixing experience. It also includes a fast-cooling module and an enclosed unpacking and material-collection system for cleaner extraction.

The HP Jet Fusion 3D Printing Solution is geared toward the future, toward progress. To this end, HP is offering the unprecendented HP Open Platform that will reduce 3D printing adoption barriers by encouraging exploration—improving materials diversity, the range of applications, performance, and again, driving costs down.

The possibilities of what 3D printers can do are vast—almost difficult to comprehend. Fusing parts together at such a small level gives them tremendous strength. With the Internet of Things, this could mean that products are not connected to each other, but also to every part of every product. A 3D-printed medical implant could even have an embedded wireless RFID chip that could provide feedback to physicians on the product and the patient.

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