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To date, 3D printing (or additive manufacturing as it’s also known) has had limited application in mainstream consumer manufacturing due to its slow-speed, high cost and complex processes involved. However, Hewlett Packard’s new Metal Jet technology aims to ‘accelerate the 4th Industrial Revolution’ with a new, more advanced form of 3D printing technology.
HP Metal Jet. Possibly the most advanced metals 3D printing technology yet.
(HP Metal Jet. Possibly the most advanced metals 3D printing technology yet. Image via HP).

Unveiled at the 2018 International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS), HP’s Metal Jet printer promises to be up to 50x more productive, delivering low-cost, high-quality final parts to customers including GKN Powder Metallurgy, Parmatech, Volkswagen, Wilo and many more.

So how does the new technology work? HP describe the Metal Jet as, ‘a ground-breaking, voxel-level binder jetting technology leveraging more than 30 years of HP printhead and advanced chemistries innovation. With a bed size of 430 x 320 x 200mm, 4x the nozzle redundancy and 2x the printbars, and significantly less binder by weight, HP Metal Jet delivers greater productivity and reliability at a low acquisition and operational cost compared to other metals 3D printing solutions. HP Metal Jet will start with stainless steel finished parts, delivering isotropic properties that meet or exceed ASTM and MPIF standards’.

HP are emphatic that the technology will revolutionize manufacturing- if a quote from their CEO and President, Dion Weisler, is anything to go by:

“We are in the midst of a digital industrial revolution that is transforming the $12 trillion manufacturing industry. HP has helped lead this transformation by pioneering the 3D mass production of plastic parts and we are now doubling down with HP Metal Jet, a breakthrough metals 3D printing technology”.

“The implications are huge- the auto, industrial, and medical sectors alone produce billions of metal parts each year. HP’s new Metal Jet 3D printing platform unlocks the speed, quality, and economics to enable our customers to completely rethink the way they design, manufacture, and deliver new solutions in the digital age”.

Marketing speak aside, HP’s new Metal Jet printers really do sound like they could be the additive manufacturing breakthrough that major manufacturers have been waiting for. That the new technology is being adopted by companies such as GKN Powder Metallurgy, Volkswagen and Wilko is evidence of this.
GKN Powder Metallurgy factory in production with HP Metal Jet technology.
(GKN Powder Metallurgy factory in production with HP Metal Jet technology. Image via HP).

Take GKN Power Metallurgy for example. The company is the world’s leading producer of materials and products using powder metallurgy technologies and includes the brands of GKN Sinter Metals, GKN Hoeganaes, and GKN Additive Manufacturing. The company produces more than three billion components per year and expects to print millions of production-grade HP Metal Jet parts for its customers across industries as early as next year. Here’s what GKN’s Peter Oberparleiter has to say:

“We’re at the tipping point of an exciting new era from which there will be no return: the future of mass production with 3D printing. HP’s new Metal Jet technology enables us to expand our business by taking on new opportunities that were previously cost prohibitive. Our DNA and our expertise in powder production and metal part processing using digitally networked systems will enable us to drive industrialization across the whole additive manufacturing value stream. By combining the forces of HP and GKN Powder Metallurgy, we will push the productivity and capability of our customers to unprecedented levels based on the economic and technical advantages of HP Metal Jet technology.”

Volkswagen’s adoption of the Metal Jet printing technology is perhaps the most significant, given their mass-manufacturing prowess.
A metal GKN part produced using HP Metal Jet technology.
(A metal GKN part produced using HP Metal Jet technology. Image via HP).

According to a statement from HP, Volkswagen intends to integrate Metal Jet into its long-term design and production roadmap. In collaboration with HP and GKN, Volkswagen is seeking to develop the ability to quickly assess the manufacturing of mass-customizable parts such as individual key rings and exterior-mounted name plates. Volkswagen’s multi-year plan to use HP Metal Jet also includes the production of higher performance functional parts with significant structural requirements, such as gearshift knobs and mirror mounts. As new platforms such as electric vehicles enter mass production, HP Metal Jet is expected to be leveraged for additional applications such as the lightweighting of fully safety-certified metal parts.
An innovative customized Volkswagen gearshift knob created using HP Metal Jet technology.
(An innovative customized Volkswagen gearshift knob created using HP Metal Jet technology. Image via HP).

Commenting on the plans to utilize the new technology, Dr. Martin Goede, Head of Technology Planning and Development at Volkswagen, said:

“The auto industry is being revolutionized- not only do customers expect personalization, but by 2025 the brands of Volkswagen Group will have introduced 80 new electric models. A single car consists of six thousand to eight thousand different parts. A big advantage of an additive technology like HP Metal Jet is it allows us to produce many of these parts without first having to build manufacturing tools. By reducing the cycle time for the production of parts, we can realize a higher volume of mass production very quickly. That’s why HP’s new Metal Jet platform is a huge leap forward for the industry, and we look forward to raising the bar on what is possible to deliver more value and innovation for our customers”.

With the HP Metal Jet technology set to be available from 2020, it won’t be long before consumers will be enjoying the results of 21st century additive manufacturing technology.

The question is, what other industries could be revolutionized thanks to advanced additive manufacturing technologies such as HP’s Metal Jet? Oil & Gas, Mining & Minerals, Infrastructure & Construction? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

If you want to join the world of advanced manufacturing…

...then register with Fircroft today. We regularly recruit skilled technical and engineering professionals for the world’s biggest and most advanced manufacturing companies. Join their ranks today with Fircroft.
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