HP Unveils Metal 3D Printer to Boost Supply Chain Resilience
Solution provides robust, final parts at scale for industrial, healthcare, consumer, and automotive markets
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HP launched its long-anticipated Metal Jet S100 3D printer at the 2022 International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS), taking place in Chicago this week. The commercially available platform is the culmination of a four-year-long journey for HP in its bid to revolutionize metal 3D printing.
|HP Metal Jet S100 (Source: HP)|
At IMTS 2018, the company introduced new metal jet technology alongside key manufacturing partners GKN Powder Metallurgy and Parmatech. Its use of metal injection molding (MIM) materials over the powders used in laser-based metal additive manufacturing (AM) systems allowed for a more cost-effective process.
Now, with the advent of its first metal jet printer HP is turning the dial up, aiming to scale metal additive manufacturing to mass production.
Speaking ahead of IMTS, Ramon Pastor, Global Head and General Manager of 3D Metals for HP, said, “3D printed metal parts are a key driving force behind digital transformation,” and that the solution was created with several intents in mind. Chief amongst them is an aim to “help our customers to accelerate their designs and their product, as well as improve their economics.”
According to Pastor, the Metal Jet S100 reduces the steps of metal production significantly by transforming raw material to the near net shape part in one continuous workflow versus traditional manufacturing’s more involved processes. Such processes are typically more dependent on labor and artisan skills, incur long lead times, and can curb the more ambitious geometry designs.
But, above all else, Pastor explained the platform is the “first introduced that is prepared to bring parts at scale economically,” adding that the system has been built with a “focus on total cost of ownership” in a way that ensures “the variable cost of a part is the point at which users can scale production.” To this end, HP identifies huge opportunities for the platform to drive scale across verticals—particularly in healthcare, industrial, consumer, and automotive markets.
A Closer Look at the HP Metal Jet S100
So, how does HP’s first Metal Jet 3D printer work? Pastor describes it as an end-to-end workflow process. It takes a modular approach, which allows build units to move between four different stations to enable continuous production. The stations are, in essence:
- Powder management: Where the industry-standard metal molding powder is prepared.
- Printing: This is the core build unit. Fitted with a 430x309x200 mm powder bed onto which droplets of material are jetted by six HP Thermal Inkjet printheads. Binder jetting processes form the green parts, layer by layer, in one pass (as opposed to point by point with laser or electronic beam 3D metal printers). While the green parts lack the final density or strength at this point, it is addressed in the next stage.
- Curing: Where temperature and pressure applied over time to debind green parts, utilizing HP’s latex polymer techniques.
- Powder removal: Green parts are extracted with the unused powder automatically switching over to the powder management station to be used again.
Finally, green parts enter a third-party sintering furnace to complete the manufacturing process (HP’s system is compatible with most industry standard sintering furnaces in use today).
Quality, Scalability, and Cost
The Metal Jet S100 promises a number of key advantages, including:
- Enabling innovative design: Provides added flexibility to handle new geometries and designs.
- Improving customer economics: Fewer steps involved in part creation; costs due to manual labor or complexity demands are reduced, drives efficiencies across the supply chain.
- Increasing productivity: Binder jetting promises a tenfold uptick in productivity due to the layer-by-layer processing versus point process used in laser metal AM; according to HP, the use of metal powders is also more cost-effective than laser-based 3D printing powder.
- Increasing part quality: Utilizes existing HP technology to improve print speed, part quality, and repeatability. For example, HP Thermal inkjet printheads (offering a total of 63,360 nozzles) provide high resolution and the binder used takes advantage of HP’s latex polymer techniques, enabling stronger green parts, paving the way for mass 3D metal part commercial production.
The HP Metal Jet S100 is commercially available in the US, Western Europe, and China currently, with wider distribution expected by the first half of 2023.
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