Oct 13, 2017 | By Benedict

HP is planning to release a metal 3D printing platform in 2018, as well as a full-color 3D printing solution. The company says it has developed a “novel” approach to metal 3D printing, adding that its full-color 3D printing will offer “mechanically robust” parts.

Well here’s a big juicy 3D printing story to end the week on. After entering the 3D printing market last year with its Jet Fusion 3D printer, printing giant HP has jumped right into the center of the additive manufacturing world.

Although the pricy Jet Fusion has mostly been used by big companies like Deloitte and Nike, even casual 3D printing enthusiasts will be interested to see where the inkjet extraordinaire goes next.

HP CEO Dion Weisler this week gave a big clue about his company’s next moves, suggesting that 2018 could see HP releasing both metal 3D printing and full-color 3D printing solutions. Given that the Jet Fusion only appeared in 2016, that’s quite an exciting jump for the mega-brand, even taking into account its financial clout.

Although full details will only be released next year, Weisler suggested that HP’s forthcoming color printing solution would be an extension of the Jet Fusion model. The CEO has even demonstrated several colorful 3D printed parts to customers, showing that the technology is well on the way to completion.

In one instance, HP used this color 3D printing technology to highlight different stress areas on a multi-colored bracket. “The designer can zoom in on high-stress areas and see where they might modify the design,” Weisler said. “Interesting shapes like this in full color are only able to be produced with 3D printing.”

Although there isn’t much information to go on, HP’s claim that it will be able to 3D print full-color parts that are “mechanically robust and fully functional” is something to get pretty excited about. At present, accurate full-color 3D printing is generally only available on machines like those made by Stratasys.

Rarely, however, does Stratasys boast about the functional potential of its color 3D printed parts. In fact, most instances of full-color 3D prints tend to be 3D portraits, artistic models, and generally non-functional items.

By adding mechanical functionality to full-color 3D printing, HP could be carving out a potentially lucrative niche.

Regarding HP’s metal 3D printing plans, Weisler was more reserved, only promising that the printing company was developing a “unique” and “disruptive” metal 3D printing technology.

“Our 3D printing metals technology is unique and includes extensive HP intellectual property,” Weisler said.

Excitingly for companies with a lower profile than Deloitte and Nike, HP also plans to introduce its next generation of 3D printing solutions at a lower price point, allowing medium-size businesses to take advantage of multi-color Jet Fusion 3D printing as well as this mysterious new metal fabrication technology.

To prove that things are coming along nicely with both technologies, Weisler also had some 3D printed metal parts to demonstrate to customers. “These are parts that are produced in the millions because of course where we are taking our technology is not just for small prototyping,” he said. “This is for mass manufacturing to disrupt a very large traditional industry.”

Ultimately, HP sees 3D printing as a long-term investment, and not does expect its additive manufacturing operations to be profitable in the near future.

That’s no concern for HP, because the company’s financial outlook for the fiscal year 2018 was largely positive. In a press release put out yesterday, the company stated an estimated fiscal 2018 free cash flow of at least $3 billion, 50 to 75 per cent of which will be returned to shareholders.

“We are well positioned to lead in the core, accelerate growth opportunities, like A3 and Graphics in Printing and commercial transformation in Personal Systems, and capture the future with 3D Printing in plastics and now metals,” Weisler said of HP’s 2018 outlook.

Cathie Lesjak, Chief Financial Officer, added that “HP has been building strong business momentum, demonstrating our strategy is working.”

So rather than use additive manufacturing as a way to generate immediate cash, HP is eyeing up a foothold in the so-called “fourth industrial revolution.” The company even plans to complement its new 3D printing technology with AI, in order to develop a whole new generation of additive manufacturing systems. Embedded sensors and other additional features could also improve the company’s stock in the 3D printing world.

Weisler summed up HP’s long-term 3D printing plan by stating that, although the Jet Fusion isn’t responsible for generating much revenue at present, 3D printing remains “materially important to the strategic direction” of the company.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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