Q&A: HP’s George Brasher on “creating a new industrial age” with 3D printing

Since the launch of its Jet Fusion 3D printing technology in 2016, imaging giant HP has had its sights set on the $12 trillion manufacturing market, amassing over 65 channel partners across the globe and shifting from single to full colour printing in its most recent HP Jet Fusion 300 / 500 series

The company has reportedly shipped more plastic production 3D printers than any other company in the world and customers like 3D printing service provider, Forecast 3D are placing repeat orders and upgrading their printers to the HP Jet Fusion 4210 production system. 

With new lower cost machines ready to ship by the end of this year, talk of a new metal 3D printing process on the horizon, and an innovative Reinventing HP With Multi Jet Fusion program designed to leverage its own 3D printing technology for its own products, HP is showing no signs of slowing down.

I asked HP’s Managing Director for UK and Ireland, George Brasher, a few questions about the latest Jet Fusion systems, 3D printing for production and how he envisions the industry growing. 

LG: Hi George. You’ve been with HP for 27-years, in a variety of divisions. Were you excited by HP’s intention to move into the industry from the get go?

GB: Absolutely – HP’s move into 3D printing marks one of the most exciting chapters in my time with the company. The technology is turning traditional production models and workflows on their head – replacing just-in-time supply chains with on-the-spot, on-demand production. It will change how the world designs and manufactures, creating a new industrial age. For me, it’s incredibly exciting that HP is a leader in this emerging market – it’s an important strategic move for our business and will I believe play a crucial role in HP’s future success.

LG: You’ve said in the past that “3D printing’ is a misnomer”, steering more towards additive manufacturing – would it be fair to say that the term and the public interest around it is part responsible for opening up the conversation about AM at boardroom level?

GB: Really it’s short-run manufacturing. Mass production will be replaced by efficient, short-run manufacturing to order. That removes the need for big factories, complex supply chains or global distribution networks. It’s poised to democratise manufacturing, with the global $12 trillion sector set to be disrupted. If that’s not a boardroom issue, then I don’t know what is!

LG: HP recently added colour 3D printing to its portfolio – can you talk about the opportunity there and the types of customers/applications HP is targeting?

GB: Yes, in February we introduced the new HP Jet Fusion 300/500 printers, which really are groundbreaking – low-cost, full-colour 3D printers capable of creating production-quality prototypes quickly, accurately and importantly affordably. That makes advanced 3D technology accessible to a far wider pool of digital innovators, from small and medium-sized product development teams and design businesses to entrepreneurs and research institutions. The possibilities are endless. A heart surgeon, for example, can custom-build a full colour replica of a patient’s heart, with its complex network of veins and valves, in three dimensions instead of relying on a flat X-ray, and print it within steps of the operating room. In fact, the Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Arizona, USA is currently exploring new ways to create personalised experiences for its patients using HP’s colour 3D printing technology.

LG: A move to metals was also hinted at towards the end of last year – where does that fit into HP’s future roadmap?

GB: That’s right, our CEO Dion Weisler has been open about our ambition to add metals to our portfolio, and we’ll be announcing more on this in 2018, so watch this space!

LG: Materials are often cited as a major factor in holding back progression in AM, how does HP’s Open Materials approach aim to combat that?

GB: Our unique Open Platform approach is all about fostering greater adoption of 3D printing by expanding the availability of new materials. Every industry has specific needs, by taking an Open Platform approach we can address a broader set of applications for our customers, help lower materials costs and open up many new possibilities for part properties. We’re working with a wide range of industry-leading materials companies to do just that, including BASF, Henkel, Dressler Group and Evonik.

LG: AM was severely lacking in the UK’s recent Industrial Strategy. As a UK MD, do you think the UK needs to step up so we don’t lose out in the $12T manufacturing market? Do you think enough is being done to help SMEs turning to additive for the first time?

GB: This is where we need to come together as an industry – designers, manufacturers, researchers, device OEMs, educators and government all have an important role to play in developing the 3D printing industry in the UK and widening access for businesses. HP recently published a global study with A.T. Kearney into just this topic, reporting on the conditions necessary for manufacturing leadership in the 21st century, which highlights the importance of public/private partnerships. For our part, we believe that the HP Jet Fusion 300 / 500 Series is an important industry breakthrough. With more affordable pricing than other systems, it democratises access to advanced 3D printing technology for smaller businesses, entrepreneurs and academic teams.

LG: Several 3D printer manufacturers are chasing the ideal of prototyping to production on the same platform (such as 3D Systems and Carbon). What makes this such an interesting prospect and how is HP achieving that?

GB: HP’s new HP Jet Fusion 300/500 series, when coupled with our industrial-grade HP Jet Fusion 3200/4200/4210 solutions enables just that – customers can go from prototyping to full production on the same Multi Jet Fusion technology platform. That’s an important breakthrough – liberated from the constraints of traditional production methods, companies can turbocharge their R&D process, moving from design and prototypes to product in less than a week. And they can iterate improvements to the design and production simultaneously, perfecting the product in response to live customer feedback.

LG: HP has been steadily growing its 3D printing business with partners across the globe and the biggest sales in the industry for a plastic-based production 3D printer during its first commercial year. How do you envision that growing in the coming years?

GB: HP is not entering a market – we’re creating it! We’re very focussed on building up our routes-to-market, partnering with designers and manufacturers. We’re working with more than 50 companies to build an open materials ecosystem, and we’re working exclusively with highly experienced channel partners and 3D printing service bureaus to ensure high quality service for companies joining the 3D printing revolution.

HP will be exhibiting at RAPID + TCT on 24-26th April at the Fort Worth Convention Centre, Fort Worth, TX. Register here and visit them on booth 1330.

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