HP Inc., Palo Alto, Calif., last week announced an expansion of its 3D printing business. Steps included expanding a partnership with BASF to bring out polypropylene (PP) as a material for additive manufacturing and boosting professional services to consult with customers about 3D printing.
Jon Wayne, head of Global Commercial Business, HP 3D Printing and Digital Manufacturing, talked to SME Media by email about the state of HP's additive manufacturing business.
In the interview, Wayne discusses how HP's 3D printing business has evolved. He also talks about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has highlighted the importance of 3D printing.
SME Media: What were your major adjustments after beginning your 3D printing push?
WAYNE: HP entered the market in 2016, and those four years and counting have brought incredible progress – more than 50 million parts have been 3D printed on HP’s Multi Jet Fusion platform.
One of the biggest advancements, however, is the one we’re witnessing today. The COVID-19 pandemic has been an indisputable watershed moment for the 3D printing industry, and it highlights a vital element of change that HP began consciously investing since inception: global partnerships. The benefits of a strong partner ecosystem have only become more and more evident as of late.
As more industries adapt or expand the use of 3D printing, the HP Digital Manufacturing Network has played a key role in helping our customers around the world accelerate digital manufacturing transformation.
We’ve seen 3D printing enable customers to go from prototyping to producing fully functional end-use parts at scale, across both plastic and metal parts. HP’s Metal Jet and Multi Jet Fusion technology have lowered the barriers for 3D printing adoption by giving customers radically faster build speeds, high-quality functional parts, and breakthrough economics.
Last week’s announcements are a continuation of this digital manufacturing acceleration. As our technology, materials portfolio, and partner ecosystem evolve, so does our ability to transform industries.
SME Media: What industries have done the most to adopt 3D printing and why?
WAYNE: We have seen a variety of industries including automotive, industrial, consumer goods and health care adopt 3D printing technology and begin engraining it into their production strategies.
Much of this impact we’ve seen stems from deep partnerships. For instance, HP has partnerships with leading industrial companies such as Siemens and BASF to accelerate the design and production of 3D printed at scale.
Likewise, our latest partnership with [German engineering solution provider] Oechsler is intended to help our customers across automotive, home and commercial appliances, and medical industries expand their digital manufacturing capabilities. We are working with them to develop applications with the new polypropylene (PP) and other materials. PP allows automakers to replicate a traditional material that’s used for a wide variety of interior, exterior and under-the-hood parts. These parts, such as ducts to help direct air and gas flow and gas/liquid separators, offer significant advantages to automotive customers.
HP has also worked closely with design and engineering companies, suppliers, and leading automakers like Volkswagen, all looking to leverage the power of additive manufacturing.
Volkswagen is using HP Metal Jet in a multi-year design and production roadmap for the high-volume manufacturing of metal parts. Already, they’ve hit a production run milestone of more than 10,000 high-quality parts. In subsequent phases Volkswagen will integrate Metal Jet printed structural parts into the next generation of its vehicles.
And as new platforms such as electric vehicles enter mass production, HP Metal Jet is expected to be leveraged for the lightweighting of certified structural metal parts and more.
SME Media: What are the criteria you examine when adding a partner company?
WAYNE: Industrial alliances and new ecosystems are critical to accelerating the adoption of 3D printing and digital manufacturing broadly. When examining partner companies, we evaluate their specific differentiation within the industry and how it complements our solutions, their end-to-end 3D printing capabilities for production at scale, as well as their manufacturing and quality processes—again, to help us continue HP’s mission to expand our customer’s digital transformation journeys and to strengthen the potential of the HP Digital Manufacturing Network.
We recognize that many companies look to digital manufacturing service providers to help speed development of new products, shorten time to market, create leaner supply chains, and reduce their carbon footprint.
The value of the Digital Manufacturing Network has only multiplied over the past few months in wake of COVID-19. The entire 3D printing community has come together to help fight this pandemic. The ability to very rapidly shift existing expertise and capacity to help combat COVID-19 has proven effective as HP and its global community of partners and customers have produced more than 2.3 million 3D-printed parts to help healthcare workers on the front lines.
With the increased availability of more advanced technologies and platforms that unlock the full potential of 3D printing for production at scale, the HP Digital Manufacturing Network is a critical first step to integrate disruptive 3D printing solutions into an organized supply and demand ecosystem that factors in standards, regulations and robust quality management to help industry pioneers on their digital transformation journeys.
SME Media: How close is 3D printing to being “mainstream”?
WAYNE: Evolving value chains and innovations across the industry are pushing 3D printing to become more mainstream and we’re already seeing a shift toward production.
HP customer and partner SmileDirectClub was already revolutionizing the way millions of people can achieve a straighter smile. SmileDirectClub is powering its digital differentiation and rapid manufacturing expansion of clear aligners with HP’s Jet Fusion 3D printing solutions.
SmileDirectClub is operating one of the largest 3D printing factories in the U.S. with the capability to produce nearly 20 million, individually unique, 3D printed mouth molds annually.
Our latest announcements and expanded partnerships continue to demonstrate our efforts to drive 3D printing to become more mainstream and will enable our customers to scale their industrial 3D production.
Here, too, the benefits of 3D printing have become more evident in the wake of the pandemic. During the COVID-19 crisis, customers like SmileDIrectClub and others were able to quickly pivot their production to 3D print millions of parts for face shields, ventilators and respirators, and nasal swabs because of the flexibility of 3D printing.
The power of this agile ecosystem and technology capabilities are proving themselves in the most demanding of circumstances. Companies the world over are now re-evaluating their manufacturing and supply chain strategies, going forward we expect they will look at how best to incorporate 3D printing and digital manufacturing.
SME Media: What are your priorities for the next 3-5 years?
WAYNE: For manufacturers and consumers alike, COVID-19 has been a reminder of infrastructure fragility and an accelerant for change. The global supply chain was upended in ways never seen before, and 3D printing proved to be part of the solution.
HP plans to continue delivering on our long-term plan to deliver increasingly capable 3D printing solutions to enable our customers to create new designs, a higher mix of parts, and more deeply integrate 3D printed parts into their manufacturing strategies.
Supply chains are transforming forever; creativity and design are being viewed through new lenses; entire ecosystems are realigning; and environmental sustainability is playing a major role in future plans. Companies and industries that aren’t embracing change will be passed by as others re-write the rules. HP will continue to focus on delivering offerings across industries and verticals to push industrialization ahead.
Digital manufacturing is a rapidly growing industry with endless possibilities to reinvent the way we manufacture. Considering the recent progress of the technology, 3D printing is clearly headed for a bright future. We’re truly in the midst of the new Industrial Revolution and the disruptive properties of 3D printing technology will be at the forefront.
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