According to a report from McKinsey, “3D printing’s economic impact could reach $500 billion annually by 2025…” There have been reports like this for years now, and that’s probably why in the last few years it seemed like everyone was coming out with their own printer. However, they all seemed like similar fused-filament fabrication machines—a process of extruding melted plastic into a part in layers. There was a lot of hype, but the tolerances, repeatability, and materials—with a few exceptions—seem similar. So when Hewlett-Packard first said it was entering the market, I wasn’t too excited.
However, after seeing what they came up with I changed my mind. The process looked sound, but I don’t get the opportunity to work with the machines day to day. It can be hard to tell the difference between marketing and application. Fortunately, I was recently able to speak with one of the early adopters about this new printer, and apparently I should have been more excited about it.
HP’s technology offers different materials properties and can even print springs.
“Before introducing any manufacturing process at Proto Labs, we execute thorough testing to develop a repeatable process and ensure we can meet our quality standards,” says Greg Thompson, global product manager of 3D printing at Proto Labs. “We are extremely confident with the feature resolution and quality surface finishes we have seen with HP’s Multi Jet Fusion and are excited to offer our customers another tool to accelerate product development and reduce manufacturing costs.”
With the ability to automate the process, offer a high-end printer at a competitive price, and increase printing speed by as much as 10 times, HP’s 3D printing process is starting to be accepted by other large manufacturing companies. I feel these comments from Proto Labs tell us that HP’s Multi Jet Fusion technology is not just another printer, and will be a strong contender looking to grow and capture more market share either through developing its own technology or through acquisitions and strategic partnerships.