Today, HP has announced the launch of its metal 3D printing technology at IMTS in Chicago. The technology, HP Metal Jet, aims to deliver the mass production of functional end-use metal parts with up to 50 x more productivity compared to current binder jetting and selective laser melting technologies.
Building on the company’s polymer Multi Jet Fusion architecture, Metal Jet is a voxel-level binder jetting technology which uses low-cost off-the-shelf metal injection moulding (MIM) powders, starting with stainless steel, and a binding agent to build parts within a bed size of 430 x 320 x 200mm. Once unpacked, these “green parts” are then sintered in a standard furnace to produce high-quality isotropic components which meet ASTM standards.
“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,” said Dion Weisler, CEO and President, HP Inc. “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.”
It’s the news the industry has been anticipating ever since the printing giant teased the addition of metal to its 3D printing business last year. However, HP has decided to take a gradual approach, first offering its metal technology through a new Metal Jet Production Service starting with select manufacturing partners GKN Powder Metallurgy and Parmatech adopting the technology into their factories before rolling out the service in 2019. Through these initial partners, HP says big customers including Volkswagen, Wilo, Primo Medical Group and OKAY Industries have already placed orders via the service, and from early next year, customers will be able to try it for themselves by uploading their designs and ordering large part quantities.
Partner GKN produces more than three billion components annually for industrial and automotive applications and expects to print millions of production-grade HP Metal Jet parts for its customers as early as next year. No stranger to 3D printing, Volkswagen is assessing the manufacture of mass-customisable parts such as key rings and is looking towards leveraging the technology for the mass production of certified lightweight metal components for new product lines as part of a multi-year plan. For Parmatech, a leader in metal injection moulding for medical and industrial sectors, the company believes Metal Jet “represents the first truly viable 3D technology for the industrial-scale production of metal parts.”
Speaking during a briefing last week, Tim Weber, Global Head of 3D Metals, 3D Printing Business, said HP is going to “disrupt the industry again” by adopting the same approach it had for plastics, for metals. Around 3.5 million plastic parts have already been manufactured with the MJF process, 50% of them for end-use application.The company believes the sweet spot for its metal technology will be in runs of 50,000 parts or less, focusing on stainless steel first rather than high-value materials such as titanium, in order to truly address the needs of mass production for industries such as industrial equipment manufacturing and automotive.
From today, HP is inviting customers to pre-order Metal Jet systems which will start shipping in 2020 and be made broadly available by 2021 at around 399,000 USD. So far, it is unclear what that package will contain but HP proposes an end-to-end solution, similar to MJF, which includes the production unit and processing station. The user will need to have their own sintering unit installed.
HP Metal Jet is on display at IMTS this week where our Head of Content, Dan O’Connor is reporting on the ground to bring more updates from the launch.