HP Multijet Fusion 3D Printing

The HP-led digitization of printing revolutionized the industry, turning printing upside down, reducing waste and inefficiency (Hewlett Packard 2014b). It created the ability to print completely unique material with variable data, instead of being constrained by one master with many copies, transforming supply chains and industries as a result. Allowing printing to become personalized, localized, customized, targeted and unique, the results are valued and not 'thrown away', reducing waste. One example is grocery store circulars. By enabling one client to customize their magazines by local customer base, their circulars went from being 32 pages to just four, while conversion rates rose dramatically. Digitization has also led the print-ondemand revolution. In publishing, 30–40 % books are unsold. With digital printing, copies can mirror demand, whilst the digital print process prints pristine pages first time round, instead of creating large volumes of waste whilst presses are set up.

3D printing presents HP with another tremendous opportunity to transform supply chains and industries. Identified as one of '12 disruptive technologies that will transform life, business and the global economy' (McKinsey Global Institute 2013b), 3D printing offers the ability to produce – both rapidly and inexpensively – short runs or one-of-a-kind parts. In contrast to traditional manufacturing which typically cuts, grinds or molds raw materials into shape, 3D printing builds to shape.

In addition, 3D printing will revolutionize part manufacturing and the part distribution supply chain by offering local, on-demand production. It is easy to envisage the local car repair garage printing the replacement part for your car, rather than waiting for it to be delivered from inventory held elsewhere. The connection to the circular economy is clear, 3D print technology removes the need to hold large, potentially redundant inventories of spare parts. Maintenance and repair business models become more financially attractive; products are designed to be repaired, upgraded and maintained thus prolonging their lives and eco-effectiveness.

The following paragraphs explain how HP's version of 3D printing addresses some of the current restrictions and technical difficulties of the existing technology.

In additive manufacturing technology – commonly called “3D printing” – objects are built from selective addition of material rather than by molding or by traditional methods of subtractive machining, where material is removed by cutting and grinding. Candidates for 3D printing include the functional and aesthetic components of machines, consumer and industrial products that are produced in short runs – typically less than 1000 units, and, in particular, highly customized and highvalue products that may be one-of-a-kind. Because 3D printing builds objects from cross-sections, complex parts – previously requiring multiple elements that were welded or assembled together – can now be built either as a monolithic structure or from fewer subcomponents. For example, some types of 3D printing can produce parts with hollow internal structures and complex 3D internal passages (for air or other fluids) that once required several sections to be fitted together with sealing surfaces between them.

HP's vision for 3D printing is the revolution of part manufacturing (how parts are made) and the part distribution supply chain (where and when parts are made). In the near term, affecting the creative process by making far more useful parts available to a much broader audience. And in the longer term, disrupting supply chains with 3D printing technology. In order for that disruption to occur, there must be significant changes in the economics of 3D printing and in the standards for maintaining quality.

Current 3D printing machines could be categorized in two groups, machines that produce smooth parts with good detail, and machines that produce parts with good strength. Because of the materials that are currently used to produce smooth parts with good detail, this group of machines does not make parts with good strength. In contrast, because of point energy needed to produce parts with good strength, this group of machines does not produce smooth parts with detail. Further, many existing processes fuse or cure the materials together at a focused point, for example using a focused laser beam to fuse, or using a single nozzle to extrude. This pointprocessing limits the build speed of these technologies. In the end, adoption of current technologies may be limited by imperfect parts, and slow productivity.

As with many 3D printing processes, HP Multi Jet FusionTM technology starts by laying down a thin layer of material in the working area. Next, the carriage containing an HP Thermal Inkjet array passes from left-to-right, printing chemical agents across the full working area. The layering and energy processes are combined in a continuous pass of the second carriage from top-to-bottom. The process continues, layer-by-layer, until a complete part is formed. At each layer, the carriages change direction for optimum productivity.

High productivity can lead to challenges in making quality parts. For parts to work, it's important to ensure that the material has been properly fused and that part edges are smooth and well-defined. To achieve quality at speed, HP invented a proprietary multi-material printing process where the materials are applied by HP Thermal Inkjet arrays. In addition to fusing and detailing agents, HP's technology can employ additional materials to transform properties at each volumetric pixel (or voxel). Color and even different materials can be used in the same print run to produce complex, multi-dimensional parts.

To realize this full potential of 3D printing, HP's vision is to develop a 3D printing platform designed to become an industry standard, and HP is inviting creative collaboration in materials for 3D printing. These breakthroughs in materials and agent-material interactions can power the widespread adoption of 3D design and hardware innovation resulting in a digital transformation of manufacturing as widespread and profound as the way HP's Thermal Inkjet solutions changed traditional printing. Software to manage the design process is equally important, the current shortcomings of the CAD-based format in terms of processing time and object dimensional precision are a barrier for the production of complex, high-precision parts by new technologies such as HP Multi Jet Fusion technology. Furthermore, this format only allows geometric representation, so it does not allow voxel-byvoxel (volumetric pixel) information to be carried from the CAD software to the printer. To realize the full potential of 3D printing, the roadmaps of 3D printers and 3D CAD software must be aligned, and the roadmaps must be accompanied by a change to a more information-rich file format.

Comparison to commercially available 3D printing technologies has demonstrated clear advantages to HP's technology and its material set to define new levels of part quality, high part functionality, at 10 times the build speed and at much improved economics. A key feature of the technology is the potential to modify material properties to produce controlled variations of the mechanical and physical characteristics within a part, i.e. parts can have different materials built-in during the manufacturing process, instead of being welded or connected later. This can enable many new possibilities in the design and performance of parts built by 3D printing.

 
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