In Interview with Smart Manufacturing, HP Gives More 3D Printing Details
By Kristen Golembiewski
Assistant Editor, Smart Manufacturing
HP’s unveiling last week of two new 3D printers, a post-processing station and a slew of solutions aimed at changing the industrial 3D printing marketplace left some questions hanging in the air. Smart Manufacturing sat down with Stephen Nigro at SME’s RAPID conference in Orlando, FL, to ask how its new partnerships will work, when people can expect to see a functional Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) system on the shop floor, and what HP is bringing to the marketplace.
HP has joined forces with firms in and outside of the 3D printing industry. Nigro, president for 3D printing at HP, puts the partners in three categories: companies that want to use 3D printing to transform their business (Nike, BMW); solutions providers (Autodesk, Materialise, Proto Labs, Siemens), and material providers (Arkema, BASF, Evonik and Lehmann & Voss).
The 2D printing expert trumpeted its MJF plans back in October 2014 to “have a better shot at having people come to us” to form partnerships, he said. At the time, his title was senior vice president of inkjet and graphics solutions.
Material providers are the key players, he said.
Through those partnerships, HP currently offers two thermoplastics, PA11 and PA12. In 2017, the company plans to introduce elastomers, with the first wave of fillers coming 3-4 months later. However, details on what materials will be made available and who will produce them are scarce.
“In 2017, some of those material partners will begin putting out thermoplastics under their brand into the marketplace, as well,” Nigro said. “In a lot of ways, they determine what those materials are. We have some input, but it’s mainly on them.”
HP also plans to release a material development kit, allowing anyone with an idea for a material to develop it on their own.
“The future, end-state ideal is that I give you a material development kit, and you go do your own thing,” he said. “We give you everything necessary to develop the base formulation of your material, and when you feel like you have something, you can come to us, and we’ll certify it for safety and reliability.”
Any material developed would remain under the originating company’s brand, allowing firms to price their materials at “whatever they think the market will bear,” he added.
As for ordering, HP is borrowing Tesla’s method of taking reservations instead of direct orders, to gauge interest before committing to a release date.
“We don’t know when we’ll be delivering,” Nigro said. “And the reason we don’t know is that we don’t know what the demand will be. The reservation sign-up allows us to get an idea of what kind of demand’s out there.”
HP has at least committed to shipping products before the end of this year, with a release of a second printer in 2017.
HP is also translating its consumer customer service experience into what it believes is a higher level of service for manufacturers.
Drawing largely on its experience in inkjet printers, the just-unveiled HP 4200 looks a lot like an industrial-grade inkjet printer. Maintenance is also akin to that of a printer many people have for personal use. For example, if the print head on the 4200 breaks, the user can easily replace it–“just as easy as replacing the inkjet cartridge on your printer at home,” Nigro said.
For larger repairs, HP is making some big promises, like next-day onsite support and next-day spare parts availability.
“I like to think we’ll bring a sophistication in terms of our ability to not only have a quick response time but also have a very high success rate when we send a technician to fix it,” he said. “I won’t give you our exact goal, but our goal for a first-time fix is, by the industry standard today, unheard of.”
Published Date : 5/20/2016