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HP says 3D printing is moving from niche to production

By Roger Renstrom | PLASTICS NEWS

Corvallis, Ore. -- Computer and printer maker HP Inc. is getting into the additive manufacturing industry and believes the new technology could disrupt traditional plastics processes like injection molding.

Additive manufacturing -- now more commonly called 3D printing -- has existed for decades, but technology advancements mean it now has the potential to disrupt the $12 trillion global manufacturing sector, said Timothy Weber, HP vice president and general manager of 3D materials and advanced applications.

HP has the "opportunity, strategy and tactics" to "leverage its deep capabilities" to make gains in the market, he said.

Weber guided a six-hour March 15 technology briefing and tour of HP's 3,500-square-foot 3D Open Materials and Applications Laboratory at the 11-building HP complex in Corvallis.

"We are entering into the fourth industrial revolution with our innovative technology in 3D printing," he said.

"It's all about plastics now," but, in time, will evolve in different technologies and other materials including metals and potentially ceramics, Weber said, adding that about 100 engineers, technicians and contractors are on the company's team for 3D printing.

Quoting industry data, HP said the 3D printing market is expected to reach $18.1 billion in 2021 from $2.2 billion in 2013. It's projected to be a $5.9 billion market in 2017.

For the 2021 outlook, plastics account for $10.4 billion or 57 percent vs. $7.7 billion or 43 percent for metals and other materials.

Fabio Annunziata, HP's director of business development for 3D printing, said HP aims to build a wide portfolio of materials, with an open platform, under its Multi Jet Fusion branded 3D printers.

The company said it wants to drive reductions in powder and printing costs. In November, HP began shipping its model 4200 Multi Jet Fusion model for about $250,000.

HP is currently collaborating with plastics material makers Evonik Industries AG, BASF SE, Lehmann & Voss & Co. KG and Arkema plc.

Evonik's nylon 12 is the first material authorized for use on the model 4200 machine.
Eventually, HP might collaborate with as many as 50 material partners.

In addition to the model 4200, HP is prototyping a model 3200 with lower capabilities and a projected price of $130,000 to $135,000.

Two material companies discussed the technology's direction.

"Additive manufacturing cannot be grown with one material company or one equipment manufacturer," said Sylvia Monsheimer, global business director of Evonik's additive manufacturing work with HP. She is based in Marl, Germany.

"BASF was not interested in prototypes" of the early 3D world but "wants to get to production parts" in commercial volumes, said Kara Noack, lead business development innovations globally for BASF's additive manufacturing. She is based in Brighton, Mich.

Attendees at the lab tour observed a BASF technician working with HP personnel in trialing a thermoplastic urethane.

TPU as a foundation material could be of interest to numerous markets including consumer products, sporting goods, automotive, aerospace and packaging, Noack said.

Other work underway in the HP lab is testing formulations of thermoplastic elastomers.

Initially, HP's open platform materials roadmap focuses on nylon 12 and then nylon 11. Next might come work on higher-rigidity nylon 12 glass beads, elastomers and flame retardant nylon.

At the event, HP partner SigmaDesign of Vancouver, Wash., said it plans in May to launch a $25,000 material development kit enabling potential suppliers to advance new powder materials for certification on the HP 3D printers.

"The constraints on designers have dropped significantly," said Bill Huseby, SigmaDesign president and CEO.

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