Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News is pleased to speak to Rob Mesaros, Vice President & Head of 3D Printing & Digital Manufacturing for Asia Pacific & Japan, HP regarding the development of 3D printing technologies for the metalworking industry and its application for mass production.
1.Could you provide an overview of the 3D metal printing technologies that HP has developed thus far?
In September 2018, we introduced the HP Metal Jet which takes metal 3D printing from specialized production to mass production. As the world’s most advanced 3D printing technology for the high-volume manufacturing of production-grade metal parts, Metal Jet provides up to 50 times more productivity at a significantly lower cost than other 3D printing methods.
We also announced the new Metal Jet Production Service, which allows customers to submit their designs for 3D-printed metal parts, accelerating their path to manufacturing’s fully digital future.
Our expanded portfolio of HP Metal Jet solutions break through the economic, design, and time constraints of traditional methods for metal part production while delivering quality, productivity and cost beyond the capabilities of existing 3D printing technologies for metals.
2. What are the most innovative industry applications that you have seen when it comes to 3D metal printing technologies?
Key metals-driven markets include the automotive, medical, and industrial sectors.
With GKN Powder Metallurgy and Volkswagen, HP Metal Jet is being integrated into a strategic product development roadmap over the next few years to make everything from higher performance functional parts with significant structural requirements, such as gearshift knobs and mirror mounts to customized key rings. With 6,000 to 8,000 parts in a single car, the ability to produce many of these parts without first having to build manufacturing tools is helping Volkswagen reduce cycle time and realise a higher volume of mass production very quickly.
We are also partnering with Parmatech to utilise the Metal Jet technology for the manufacture of complex parts, such as surgical scissors and endoscopic surgical jaws.
Additionally, HP has partnered Triple Eight Race Engineering to 3D print racecar components. We’re also seeing service bureaus making repeat orders of our Multi Jet Fusion printers – Solize in Japan, and our strategic partner, RecTech in China have announced the expansion of their printer fleets – with the latter planning to have at least 30 HP 3D Printing systems by the end of 2019.
3. What do you think are the top three barriers to the adoption of 3D printing technologies for mass production?
The first key to unlock growth of the 3D printing market is product capability. The adoption of 3D printing technologies for mass production will depend on the ability of 3D printers to produce final parts faster and with quality that is as consistent, if not more, than traditional manufacturing. The dynamic is straightforward: If the machine is slow, the cost per part is usually higher. And if it is printing inconsistently, those operating costs can multiply.
The next key is to ensure that the materials used in 3D printing are similar in cost to analog materials. Historically, 3D printing materials can cost 20 to 100 times more than a similar material when it is used in traditional manufacturing. This is because many established 3D printing systems today are “closed” — meaning manufacturers are locked into using costly materials for specific machines with limited technology.
Finally, we also need to expand the materials available for 3D printing. Today, most 3D printers use only one material, such as thermoplastics, ceramics or metals. At the same time, there are a very limited number of materials available to manufacturers — about 80 types are used in 3D printing, with over 1,000 variants, compared with around 30,000 for injection molding. Manufacturers need more 3D materials to choose from. They need systems that can use a wider choice of materials and they need to be able to churn out products composed of multiple materials.
4. How do you think the above-mentioned barriers can be solved?
Improved speed, performance, up-time and quality will enable world-class 3D printing technology to perform at a higher level. As it is, the Metal Jet technology we’ve just launched in September 2018 already provides 50 times more productivity at a significantly lower cost than other 3D printing methods – and at a consistently high quality which meets or exceeds industry standards.
Lowering the cost of advanced 3D printing materials and applications is also critical. While Metal Jet technology is already a cost-effective solution with its low acquisition and operational costs; an open 3D printing ecosystem can spur both materials innovation as well as drive down costs. For example, HP’s Open Materials Platform lets the biggest materials companies in the world develop innovative 3D materials that in turn unlock a new wave of parts and applications. Open systems also help lower the cost of materials by enabling more materials suppliers to get into the market, increasing competition and driving innovation.
On HP’s part, we launched the HP-NTU Digital Manufacturing Corporate Lab in October 2018, in partnership with Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. One of the areas the lab – our largest university collaboration globally – will research is new materials and applications for 3D Printing.
5. What will be the trends in the development of 3D metal printing technologies in the next five years?
Currently, 3D printing is mostly used in industries and applications with low volumes and high unit costs, items that also require customisation. However, technology improvement has been unlocking its use in mass production applications.
3D printing in manufacturing will continue to expand in different industries, driven by technology, maturity, and cost reduction. We expect to see more and better materials being introduced. Manufacturers will also have a greater level of control. Recent technologies, such as HP’s Multi Jet Fusion, can control material and print properties down to the voxel level (3D equivalent of a pixel).
Moving forward, HP and its partners are driving the next digital industrial revolution and accelerating the end-to end reinvention of the $12 trillion manufacturing industry – $6 trillion of which is in the Asia Pacific and Japan. In the long-term, 3D printing will be powering the digital factories of the future, changing the way the world designs and manufactures.
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