HP Introduces Full-Color MJF 3D Printing
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on February 05, 2018 |

In conjunction with SOLIDWORKS 2018, HP has made a series of announcements with regards to its Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) 3D printing technology. Perhaps most importantly to readers, the company has developed a series of new 3D printers that both drop the price of the technology as well as introduce full-color 3D printing to it.

HP’s new Jet Fusion 300/500 3D printing solution for functional prototyping and short-run production. (Image courtesy of HP.)
HP’s new Jet Fusion 300/500 3D printing solution for functional prototyping and short-run production. (Image courtesy of HP.)

HP Jet Fusion 300 and 500 Series

When HP first unveiled its MJF 3D printing technology in October 2014, the press was awed by the full-color capabilities on display. Unfortunately, when MJF was launched and shipped in 2016, the only color available was black. It wasn’t until now, in 2018, that HP has announced the official introduction of full-color 3D printing and “voxel-level” control, which is the ability to modify the physical properties of a part at each point of its structure.

The company has developed four new machines that represent different configurations of MJF technology with regards to size and color, or detailing agent, capabilities. The Jet Fusion 340 and 540 printers have the ability to 3D print with four agents, making it possible to print in black or white.

A slide from the virtual press briefing outlining the differences between the four HP Jet Fusion machines. (Image courtesy of HP.)
A slide from the virtual press briefing outlining the differences between the four HP Jet Fusion machines. (Image courtesy of HP.)

In contrast, the Jet Fusion 380 and 580 machines can print with eight agents, opening up full CMYK colors, as well as black and white. The eight-agent machines are also futureready, meaning that they will be able to use agents that HP is currently developing. We’ve seen some of these agents before, including ultraviolet-sensitive and conductive materials, as well as agents that modify the stiffness and flexibility of parts.

HP Multi Jet Fusion technology features voxel-level control and is changing the way the world designs and manufactures. (Data courtesy of Invent Medical and NACAR.)
HP Multi Jet Fusion technology features voxel-level control and is changing the way the world designs and manufactures. (Data courtesy of Invent Medical and NACAR.) 

Whereas the 340 and 380 printers have build volumes measuring 7.5 x 10 x 9.8 in, the 540 and 580 machines measure 7.5 x 13.1 x 9.8 in. All four of the machines are more compact than the original 4000 series released by HP. Designed for a production environment, the 4200 and 4210 include the build unit (build volume 15 x 11.2 x 15 in) and accompanying processing stations. The 300 and 500 series, however, are all-in-one machines that are designed to be stand-alone units.

The new HP Jet Fusion 300/500 3D printers produce engineering-grade, functional parts in full color, black or white. (Image courtesy of HP.)
The new HP Jet Fusion 300/500 3D printers produce engineering-grade, functional parts in full color, black or white. (Image courtesy of HP.)

This plays into another important aspect of this announcement: these printers are less expensive than the original production series, with projected price tags into the $50,000 and low $100,000 range. The reason behind this cost reduction is that the smaller 300 and 500 series machines are designed more for prototyping than production.

Prototyping with MJF

During a virtual press briefing ahead of SOLIDWORKS World 2018, the HP team echoed a new message being communicated in the 3D printing industry: the ability to prototype using the same technology that customers will ultimately use to manufacture their products. Customers who buy the Jet Fusion 340, for example, can prototype black parts that can ultimately be batch manufactured using the Jet Fusion 4200.

This concept, prototyping with the same technology one will be using for manufacturing, was first introduced by Carbon, I believe. The startup suggests that customers can use Carbon’s original M1 3D printer prototype before manufacturing using a series of M2 3D printers.

Ramon Pastor, general manager of MJF for HP, explained during the virtual press briefing that the 4000 series is meant for customers who 3D print more than 130 parts per week—the economic break-even point when comparing MJF 3D printing with injection molding. These printers can operate for many hours on end, while providing a certain amount of flexibility.

A slide from the HP virtual press briefing showing the break-even point for production with the new Jet Fusion machines versus the 4000 series. (Image courtesy of HP.)
A slide from the HP virtual press briefing showing the break-even point for production with the new Jet Fusion machines versus the 4000 series. (Image courtesy of HP.)

“The new printer series could be great for the early phases of development, for early prototypes and final prototypes,” Pastor said. “Really, our target on the new platform is this SMB OEMs, smaller design firms, that have lower printing [needs].”

Crucially, the smaller machines produce parts with the same mechanical properties as the larger systems. Full-color parts made on the 380 and 580 printers will have strength that rivals injection molding, unlike those made with material jetting or binder jetting 3D printers. It should also be noted that even technologies that make mechanically comparable parts to MJF, like fused deposition modeling and selective laser sintering, are not yet capable of producing full-color parts.

A slide detailing various applications for full-color 3D printing. (Image courtesy of HP.)
A slide detailing various applications for full-color 3D printing. (Image courtesy of HP.)

Pastor pointed out that 90 percent of injection molded parts could fit within the build volume of the 500 series systems. Both the 300 and 500 series machines can print these parts quickly, as well. A total of 52 parts measuring 30-cubic centimeters can be made in 15 hours. Five such parts can be made in four hours. These times include heating and cooling. Pastor also mentioned that the amount of powder used in the print bed can be varied, depending on the print volume.

A full-color model of the heart of a young girl named Jemma, who has a complex heart defect; the heart was printed using the new HP Jet Fusion 300/500 3D printer to help surgeons at Phoenix Children’s Hospital prepare and select the best surgical path, as well as explain the surgical procedure to Jemma’s family. (Data courtesy of Phoenix Children’s Hospital; Heart of Jemma.)
A full-color model of the heart of a young girl named Jemma, who has a complex heart defect; the heart was printed using the new HP Jet Fusion 300/500 3D printer to help surgeons at Phoenix Children’s Hospital prepare and select the best surgical path, as well as explain the surgical procedure to Jemma’s family. (Data courtesy of Phoenix Children’s Hospital; Heart of Jemma.) 

Applications for the new full-color machines include 3D printing visual aids, artwork, jewelry, labels and guides. HP anticipates uses falling into sectors such as healthcare, education and manufacturing.

A slide detailing industry applications for the new machines. (Image courtesy of HP.)
A slide detailing industry applications for the new machines. (Image courtesy of HP.)

New Partners and Partnership Program

HP’s initial reseller and distributor program had a “three-in-one” focus, meaning that partners selling the MJF machines should also be able to perform aftermarket support in the areas of supplies and service. As a result, only resellers with experience in 3D printing were qualified to perform such service without extensive training. With the new machines, other partners can be involved, as HP will be handling the back-end support.

HP has also added a software partnership to the mix. To enable users to design for full-color MJF, HP has teamed with Dassault Systèmes. The two companies will “align future technology roadmaps” to ensure that future SOLIDWORKS releases will include the ability to design for voxel-level 3D printing and the new materials that HP plans to introduce.

The software will rely on the 3MF standard, which is said to have the ability to communicate a great deal more information than previous file formats.

Release Dates

HP did not provide information about when the new SOLIDWORKS integration would be available, but we do know that the new printers will be available in the second half of 2018. We can also infer from this news that this is only the beginning for voxel-level control. In addition to the much-hyped functional inks, we can likely assume that there will be production machines that will be able to print with these functional inks and full color.

To learn more about the news, visit HP’s site.


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