While doing one of my periodic checks on that latest episode of “As The E-Cat Turns”,
(Digression: For non-US readers, for a very very long time on US Television there was a Soap Opera named “As The World Turns”… it drug on forever and was known to many, especially men, for the profound tedium involved…leading to lines like, “As the Stomach Turns”… and endless variations. Oh, and sidebar on S.W.A.G.: I first ran into it as “Scientific Wild Ass Guess”, i.e. all of Climate “Science” as example… but it has also come to mean “Stuff We All Get”, i.e. the junk handed out at trade shows and conferences.)
I ran into this article:
HP Jet Fusion 3D Printer Could Signal New Stage in Manufacturing
Posted on May 28, 2016 by Frank Acland •
HP announced in 2014 that they were going to move into the 3D printing arena, and just this month have revealed their Jet Fusion 3D Printers for which they are now taking orders. This is by no means a consumer product (the price tag for one model is $132,000), but it could mark a new phase in the evolution of 3D Printing.
Two main problems in 3D Printing that HP has set out to solve are those of speed of printing, and quality of the produced problems, and they claim to have made progress in both areas. They claim these printers can produce “functional parts” at up to 10 times the speed of current printers.
I’ll link in the videos below. My evaluation of the product shown? It is the moment that 3D printing moves from “interesting toy” and “small lot special purpose” (like making custom knee joints matched to each patient) into the realm of “mass production”.
The key bits, IMHO:
1) They use a bed spanning “print head” so the whole bed is printed in one pass. This dramatically improves speed.
2) The have various additives that can be sprayed into interfaces between the fused materials and the raw bead bed. This, IMHO, means they can now properly control edges and surface finish. This is a very big deal, since “finish work” can be as costly as the basic assembly or manufacture.
3) Quality improving enhancements like IR imaging of the workbed to adjust fusing energy applied.
The rest is just smart design. Having the material bin under the bed, so as the bed is built up, the bin empties, allowing the bed to drop into that same space. Like their poster printers with both supply and take-up rollers accessible from the front and large ink supply that can be changed from the front, while the printer runs.
Between the 3D printer and their poster printers, marketing departments can manufacture all the SWAG (Stuff We All Get… at trade shows) they want, customized as desired, fast and relatively cheap. That’s a huge market. (My cupboard is full of ‘vendor mugs’…) This video shows-off some important technical improvements. (Do note this is a marketing hype video with a lot of “could” and not so much “can”…)
The Engineer Product Manager of the product showing it at a trade show and ‘splaining bits of it:
HP also has a great printer for big posters.
Put it All Together
Yes, price for product likely to be higher than for very large lot traditional manufacture. Injection molding a few million plastic cups has nothing to fear from 3D printing… But for modest lot sizes, this is a big deal. Say I want 1000 parts of plastic mugs, or even “hockey sticks” to hand out at a conference. Now, with the color embedded in the product, I can get those made rapidly and locally. Just not needing to wait a few months for turn-around from China is a game changer for marketing events.
Similarly those posters. Big, bold, rapid.
Then there are all the “rapid prototyping” needs of places like Silicon Valley. Need a few dozen custom cases for your demo and early sales units? No problem… (A big injection molding die for plastic cases runs out about $1/4 Million and may not be right the first time… which is why traditionally the first demo units are made in bent sheet metal and look horrid.)
So right off the bat, I can see two major segments of industry shifted by these products. Marketing collateral (that SWAG stuff) and the whole small lot / rapid prototype market. I also suspect we will see a growth of cottage suppliers for things like knobs for antique cars and replacement plastics for out of manufacture products. All you need is one scan of a good one and you can make “spares” forever and on demand. You will also see (probably a smaller lighter version) 3D printers become required equipment on all space stations and long duration ships “going forward”. Where “small lot” and “spares” becomes critical… Though they need to be designs that do not use gravity as this HP model does.
This is the way real robots work and look. Like industrial boxes and tooling. The human form factor robot is not what takes jobs from people, it is only to make people feel familiar with the robot. Real industrial robots are mechanical assembly devices and mechanical movers. In many ways, a factory is nothing but a giant robot with some people inhabiting the insides doing things it can’t do for itself. We have been in the “robotic revolution” since the first fly-ball governor on a steam engine. That is why I’m not worried about robots putting people out of work. We have a several hundred year history of job change as folks just move on to different work and we all get ever increasing products to consume. Robots just mean more production for everyone, and some folks transitioning to robot maintenance and sales.
IMHO, HP will be changing the way many companies do business with these products, and will gradually transition into something of a “manufacturing tooling” company in the 3D printing space.