HP Scales Up 3D Printing Business at RAPID 2017
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on May 08, 2017 |
HP has announced new partnerships and growth at RAPID 2017.

A year ago, HP was at RAPID making the official dive into the 3D printing industry with its Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) technology. Now that a year has passed, the company is taking the next steps toward getting MJF out into the world.

At the opening of the company’s Vancouver, Wash., offices in 2016, HP President of 3D Printing Stephen Nigro holds up a 3D-printed gear featured in the MJF machines themselves.
At the opening of the company’s Vancouver, Wash., offices in 2016, HP President of 3D Printing Stephen Nigro holds up a 3D-printed gear featured in the MJF machines themselves.

Stephen Nigro, president of HP Inc.'s 3D Printing business unit, addressed the media, including ENGINEERING.com, about what this means for the company’s technology and HP’s larger view for the world of manufacturing.

New Distributors and Resellers

The HP Jet Fusion 3D 4200 3D Printer has already begun shipping to customers, but in order to expand its footprint around the world from a handful of companies to anyone who wants to begin batch production with MJF technology, HP has to establish a distributor and reseller network.

Using the same channel-centric model that it employs with all of its products, the company has enlisted a number of resellers and distributors in Europe and North America to begin selling its 3D printers. Nigro pointed out that 85 percent of HP’s business goes through its channel partners.

The HP Jet Fusion 4200 3D Printer with powder handling station. (Image courtesy of HP.)
The HP Jet Fusion 4200 3D Printer with powder handling station. (Image courtesy of HP.)
 

“What’s interesting about these channel partners is that roughly 80 percent of these partners are new to HP,” Nigro said. “They have not sold HP before. They’re actually more centered in the 3D printing industry.”

The over 30 resellers were selected based on their ability to connect with industry buyers, such as operations and engineering managers, as well as R&D and development leaders within an organization. Additionally, the partners were selected based on their abilities to service and support those customers, selling hardware, materials and agents, and aiding customers in the use of the products.

New Service Bureaus

Last year, HP announced a number of corporate partners that included several service bureaus: Materialise, Shapeways and Proto Labs. This year, the company expanded that list to include several more 3D printing providers and product engineering firms: FORECAST 3D, SigmaDesign, Fast Radius, GoProto, ProtoCAM and 3D Prod.

“They come from the industry,” Nigro said. “So, they are another great validation of our solution because they have the choice to pick from all of the different solutions in the marketplace and they’re electing to lead in and carry the HP Jet Fusion solution.”

Nigro also singled out SigmaDesign, which is responsible for developing HP’s materials development kit (MDK), as a product development company. Similar to HP’s larger corporate partner, JABIL, SigmaDesign can both aid a customer in designing a product and then manufacture it for them using the MJF platform.

3D Printing Reference and Experience Centers

In the world of 3D printing, sometimes the technology needs to be seen in order to be understood. For this reason, some companies will host specific facilities where potential customers can come in and witness the technology for themselves to better grasp how it might fit into their businesses.

Unlike many businesses in 3D printing, HP is big enough to open up, not just one, but more than a dozen 3D Printing Reference and Experience Centers across Europe and the United States. The centers are located in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, Kentucky, Connecticut, Washington, Oregon and California in the U.S.; and France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom in Europe.

New Material Partner

Key to the MJF’s development and proliferation is HP’s open materials platform, which is aimed at enabling manufacturers to work with HP to create new materials. At this time in 2016, HP already had a number of chemical companies signed on: BASF, Evonik, Lehmann&Voss&Co and Arkema.

“One of the things we’re seeing with our open materials platform is that we now have more than 50 other materials companies actually engaging with us, expressing an interest and looking to develop materials for our platform in the future,” Nigro said.

These partners can work with HP at its 3D Open Materials and Applications Lab in Corvallis, Oreg., and use SigmaDesign’s MDK to more quickly expand the materials portfolio for MJF technology. Nigro said that the specialty inks used in the MJF process, such as coloring agents and conductive inks, will be similarly opened up as well.

Now, Henkel, an €18 billion German chemical and consumer goods maker, has signed on. Nigro pointed out that a large part of Henkel’s focus is in adhesives, with the company working with customers to come up with new ways to assemble components. In this way, Henkel may fit perfectly within the 3D printing space, as 3D printing replaces the joining of components with the ability to manufacture complete assemblies in one print.

HP’s Vision

These initial steps into the global market fit into HP’s larger vision of playing a leading role in the fourth industrial revolution and chipping away at the $12 trillion manufacturing sector. As manufacturing moves from product automation to digital manufacturing, Nigro believes that 3D printing will be key in enabling the direct production of goods from digital files.

With this trend, 3D printing will be able to augment and supplant existing manufacturing technologies. On track to grow to an $18 billion segment by 2021, more than half of which will be due to plastics, 3D printing still represents a small slice of the larger manufacturing pie.

 

However, Nigro suggested that the throughput of the MJF platform, which is capable of printing at 10 times the speed of selective laser sintering technology, will offer compelling economics of up to 50 percent lower part costs for batch manufacturing with MJF. As the technology is scaled to use larger HP print bars up to 3meters in length, as seen with the HP PageWide T1100S Press, the number of parts that can be made with MJF will further drive the appeal of the economics of printing for mass production.

Then again, it’s still early stages. MJF has been out in the wild for less than a year and, though HP has some attractive customers in tow—BMW, Nike, Johnson & Johnson and JABIL—we’ll have to see how this plays out over time.


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