HP’s Stephen Nigro Discusses Siemens’ Support of Full-Color 3D Printing
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on June 07, 2018 |

Among the news released at Siemens PLM Connection Americas 2018 was the announcement that HP Inc. and Siemens are expanding their existing partnership to add functionality for HP’s full-color 3D printing technology. To learn more about what this means within the larger context of HP’s Multi Jet Fusion (MJF), we spoke to Stephen Nigro, president of 3D Printing at HP Inc.

Full-color parts 3D printed with MJF.
Full-color parts 3D printed with MJF.

Siemens Takes on Voxel-Level Control

The announcement largely refers to the fact that Siemens’ NX and Solid Edge software will be able to create parts intended specifically for full-color printing.

“To put it simply, Siemens’ NX and SolidEdge users will be able to assign the full spectrum of colors—at the voxel level—to the surfaces of their 3D models and export open-format 3MF files that are ready to print with HP’s new Jet Fusion 300/500 series color 3D printers, opening up a whole new world of 3D product design and manufacturing possibilities,” Nigro told engineering.com.

Nigro elaborated on what it means to be able to modify the individual voxels of a 3D model within NX or Solid Edge. “In this context, voxel-level control means being able to assign the full spectrum of colors to the surfaces of a part with a degree of control and precision smaller than the width of a human hair,” Nigro said.“Siemens is also working on additional methods to leverage voxel control starting with color, and extending to material properties like density and elastic modulus.”

Imperceptible codes can be embedded in 3D-printed objects for AR applications.
Imperceptible codes can be embedded in 3D-printed objects for AR applications.
At numerous events, HP has demonstrated that modifying the color of individual voxels alone opens up new capabilities for plastic parts. For instance, it’s possible to embed a nearly unperceivable color pattern on a part that can be scanned by an augmented reality app, possibly for manufacturing traceability or authentication. Colors can also be embedded within a part to demonstrate the effects of wear and tear over the component’s lifespan.
3D-printed smart gears that reveal a magenta color as the part is worn down.
3D-printed smart gears that reveal a magenta color as the part is worn down.
So far, those early demonstrators have been created by HP; however, with the release of the Jet Fusion 300/500 series, customers now have access to full-color MJF, and Nigro hinted that we should get a glimpse at how they are using the technology soon.

“We’ve been working with early customers of our Jet Fusion 300/500 series 3D printers across an array of industries—from healthcare to engineering to consumer goods, among many others. Our aim is to get the technology into the hands of designers, to democratize Multi Jet Fusion and drive more innovation,” Nigro said. “Full-color Multi Jet Fusion systems will be generally available later this year, and we’re excited to see the new world of uses and applications that it unlocks.”

Along with the new software capabilities, it was announced that MJF will be showcased at Siemens’ Additive Manufacturing Experience Center in Erlangen, Germany, where customers are able to learn about new 3D printing technologies.


Distributed Production

MJF is also being integrated into a growing number of distributed production networks, including SAP and UPS’ Distributed Manufacturing Program, the Jabil Additive Manufacturing Network and the Siemens Additive Manufacturing Network. Whereas Siemens’ network connects businesses and customers with one another and 3D printing services, SAP is focused on helping customers digitize inventory and Jabil is focused on digitizing its own manufacturing processes.

“With their new initiative, Jabil is really leading the industry toward greater manufacturing speed and agility, while helping customers improve how they design, make and deliver products,” Nigro explained. “By putting Multi Jet Fusion systems in both the U.S. and in Asia, they are uniting Silicon Valley-based product designers with production units in close proximity to supply chain needs. This provides more business agility in terms of rapid iterations, changes in production volumes, or inventory management, coupled with dramatic savings in terms of costs and time. We are excited to partner with them as they continue to scale out globally and in more regions.”

The shipping industry is responsible for roughly 800 million tons of CO2 emissions every year, 2.3 percent of the world’s total and comparable to all the emissions created by Germany.

When asked how distributed production will impact the way goods are shipped, Nigro said, “Distributed production heralds a future leveraging the inherent environmental and sustainability benefits of 3D printing.  Multi Jet Fusion is the industry leader in material recyclability and sustainability. Upwards of 80 percent of our powders are reused, and 3D-printed parts use less material, are lighter in weight, stronger, and cheaper to transport. In the future, we’ll see even more benefits such as reduced production time and physical warehousing, reduced vehicle emissions thanks to localized production and less shipping of parts and materials, and savings in energy and resources from more flexible and efficient supply chains, among numerous other benefits.”

Though the shipping sector necessarily has to adopt a number of measures to reduce its carbon footprint, distributed manufacturing could play a small role in having products made in closer proximity to their final destination.


More Materials

As Nigro pointed out, NX and Solid Edge will also be capable of modifying other physical properties of parts printed with MJF, when that function is ready for the market. In addition to the density and elastic modulus that Nigro mentioned, MJF has been demonstrated printing with a number of functional inks, such as quantum dots and conductive materials.

It was also announced last year that HP is developing a metal 3D printing technology. “Like we’ve done with polymers, our aim is to bring a disruptive technology combining high quality and improved economics to the metals 3D printing market, and to transform the 3D metals industry into more mainstream high-volume production,” Nigro said. “We look forward to sharing details about our expansion into 3D printing metals later this year.”

HP’s metal 3D printing plans as outlined at the HP Securities Analyst Meeting 2017. (Image courtesy of HP.)
HP’s metal 3D printing plans as outlined at the HP Securities Analyst Meeting 2017. (Image courtesy of HP.)
It’s been speculated that the process may be similar to a binder jetting technique, producing green parts that must be sintered in an oven upon printing. Nigro did not confirm this speculation, however. We will have to wait and see just how HP’s metal 3D printing takes shape.

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