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HP Sees Additive Manufacturing as a Shining Light

Kip Hanson
By Kip Hanson Contributing Editor, SME Media

Guayente Sanmartin of HP talks with Contributing Editor Kip Hanson

Kip Hanson, ME: Given the constant change in the 3D printing technology, at least some of which has been driven by HP, when will it become a “mature” industry, thereby coaxing many AM-hesitant manufacturers to invest in equipment?

Guayente Sanmartin, Global Head and General Manager, HP 3D Multi Jet Fusion Business

Guayente Sanmartin: The 3D printing industry has proved itself in front of our very eyes during the pandemic as a solution to disrupted supply chains. It was like a shining light in the darkness, helping manufacturers develop, iterate and manufacture goods efficiently and sustainably at a very difficult time. The need to adapt and survive, I believe, is the reason for the energy and sense of excitedness we are seeing from large and small companies looking to accelerate their adoption of 3D printing and get the most out of what this technology has to offer.

It is true that many are only just now waking up to the power and unique capabilities of 3D printing, but I have always been a strong believer that this technology will help us do the impossible because it challenges our old ways of thinking.

Hanson: Recent press releases describe the use of HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printers for innovative applications such as high-performance golf clubs, high-fidelity speaker components and mass customized cosmetics. What led HP to this market sector?

Sanmartin: Our customers have. We have built an incredibly strong 3D printing technology platform aimed at accelerating innovation and growth, and our customers around the world have delivered. By unlocking a new era of mass-personalization, performance and sustainability, we see a lot of opportunity for consumer goods and many other large industries focused on delivering exceptional customer experiences. Everywhere you look, there is an opportunity for 3D printing to meet the demand for highly customized products including cosmetics, health and wellness such as dental and orthotics, industrial, athletic footwear and sports equipment, sustainable packaging, and many other applications. Not to mention the pressure to break from the one-size-fits-all mold while at the same time enabling more sustainable business practices.

Across the consumer goods market, for example, there was already a steady pre-pandemic trend towards more sustainable and customized packaging and products. Now, companies are taking the spirit of innovation and finding new ways to offer a customer experience while meeting the industry’s regulatory standards. 3D printing can unlock many manufacturing applications at an unmatched level of quality, cost and reliability.

Hanson: HP has engaged in sustainability initiatives with numerous industry partners, including work with Ford Motor Co. and the repurposing of spent 3D printing powders for use in plastic injection molding. Why is this important, and how else can 3D printing make manufacturing overall more environmentally friendly?

Sanmartin: It’s interesting that 90 percent of global digital manufacturing and 3D printing decision makers surveyed in HP’s Digital Manufacturing Trends report said they were investigating new and more sustainable supply chain models, and 50 percent believe 3D printing can reduce waste and promote a circular economy by minimizing the amount of materials used. Transforming the way we make, deliver and use products with 3D printing is one highly impactful way we can protect nature and our communities from climate crises. If we extend this mindset to include our broader ecosystem, our impact is multiplied. I continue to be impressed by the mobilization of our digital manufacturing community and how we can work together in the worldwide battle against climate change. Our partnership with Ford—where we recycled the leftover customized, 3D-printed molds created for SmileDirectClub and turned them into pellets for automotive parts—is a great example of the interconnectedness of our community as well as the level of creative thinking digital manufacturing pushes us to reach in the race for more sustainable practices. In enabling mass-personalization for one customer, we also generated a new sustainable resource as part of a circular economy for another by keeping the materials in use for as long as possible instead of being disposed in a landfill.

Hanson: Polymers are excellent materials for a wide range of applications, but for some 3D printed parts, metal is the only option. Does HP anticipate moving into this direction? And what about hybrid components that perhaps include electrical pathways or integrated electronics? Will this become a reality soon?

This limited edition commercial putter for Cobra Golf was 3D printed using HP’s Metal Jet technology. (Provided by HP)

Sanmartin: We are disruptors at heart, so when we saw the value we could unlock for customers with polymers, we knew we could recreate the same experience for customers in metals that needed similar design freedoms, speed and quality. Based on HP’s core Thermal Inkjet capabilities, our Metal Jet platform enables the production of truly unique high-value parts. We have been working closely with industry leading partners and customers as they advance mass production of 3D metals based on our modular system and integrated end-to-end workflow, which delivers better productivity, lower part cost and superior quality. We have more than 20 Metal Jet printers already producing parts for several early customers, and we plan to launch broadly later this year. Our work with Cobra Golf putters proves what can be done when the boundaries are pushed—our 3D printing technology enabled a complex design structure that not only increased the end-product’s stability and forgiveness, but also its consistency and material superiority. Volkswagen is also using HP Metal Jet for production parts. The parts have now passed crash-test certification, and we are meeting milestones to move into production for the T-Roc Cabriolet. Auto manufacturers are among the most demanding in the world. This is the first time an automaker is using metal binder jetting for structural components production.

Hanson: Many in the design community struggle with DfAM (Design for Additive Manufacturing) principles. Is this a roadblock to AM’s adoption, and if so, what is HP doing to help remedy the situation?

Sanmartin: Additive manufacturing reframes the design process and removes entire stages of traditional workflows, which can be a challenge if we do not evolve our perspective. For AM to reach widescale adoption, we must continue to showcase the innovative applications enabled by our own 3D printing technology but also take the time to train engineers and introduce the technology early in the development cycle. This is why we work directly with our customers to create a roadmap of applications and identify areas where AM can improve performance specifically. Often this means rethinking the entire product structure so that we can take full advantage of AM’s capabilities and ensure the printed parts translate into useful products while at the same time minimizing costs. When we embrace entirely different manufacturing approaches to adapt to the AM process, the industry becomes better positioned to develop new methods, tools and features that standardize design optimization. Collaboration across borders and industries is key; we could not have made accessible the more than 6 million 3D printed medical parts (face masks and shields, mask adjusters, nasal swabs, hands-free door openers, respirator parts, etc.) to meet the urgent needs of the pandemic without sharing design files around the world and enabling extraordinary speed and progress.

Hanson: In March 2014, HP’s CEO Meg Whitman announced the company’s entry into the 3D printing market. Has it gone as planned? What would you do differently if you had the chance? Where does HP expect to be a decade from now?

Sanmartin: One of the reasons I was excited to take on this role leading HP’s Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing business is because of the strong foundation built by my predecessors. HP developed Multi Jet Fusion leveraging our expansive IP and innovative printing heritage, bringing forward unique advantages to the market. Today Multi Jet Fusion is a leading production-grade system with more than 100 million parts cumulatively produced and growing in collaboration with hundreds of global customers and partners. We are innovating across hardware and automation, new application-specific materials, software-enabled digital workflows and higher-value services. Our dedication as an organization to advancing digital manufacturing technology is evident, and it is why I have such high hopes for the future. In my mind, the opportunities with 3D printing are truly limitless.

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