HP Fancy 3-D Printer Industrial Strength

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.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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8 Responses to HP Fancy 3-D Printer Industrial Strength

  1. Larry Ledwick says:

    This technology has enormous long term possibilities but still very much a work in progress.
    Great for things like trial production of a design so real humans can evaluate how the grip feels or if it really is convenient to turn knob A while holding handle B.

    That sort of evaluation really needs physical examples to let people handle and then you can quickly tweak the design.

    Test user, — this part of grip needs deeper checkering, feels too slick.
    Developer, — ok be right back
    20 minutes later, here try these two grips, which one feels better?

    Next challenge is to move into hard materials like laser sintering using sintered powdered metal or other non-plastic materials to get high strength components made out of real metal or ceramic composites.

    In the not too distant future perhaps down at the mall there will be a small shop with one of these printers, you bring in your broken do-hicky and they do a laser scan of the pieces and squirt out a new replacement part while you are shopping at the Hobby Lobby next door.

    Great for hobbyists who need one off production, carve a model of the piece you need in paraffin wax go down to the neighborhood “instapart printer outlet” and they will squirt you one out of high strength nylon.

    I have retired lots of purchases only because some critical piece like the battery compartment door, is broken or lost. If those parts could have been easily replaced it would have continued to work just fine.

  2. E.M.Smith says:


    Metal is already being done. Those knee joints for one. Titanium IIRC. Then there is this one:


    On September 5, 2013 Elon Musk tweeted an image of SpaceX’s regeneratively-cooled SuperDraco rocket engine chamber emerging from an EOS 3D metal printer, noting that it was composed of the Inconel superalloy. In a surprise move, SpaceX announced in May 2014 that the flight-qualified version of the SuperDraco engine is fully printed, and is the first fully printed rocket engine. Using Inconel, an alloy of nickel and iron, additively-manufactured by direct metal laser sintering, the engine operates at a chamber pressure of 6,900 kilopascals (1,000 psi) at a very high temperature. The engines are contained in a printed protective nacelle, also DMLS-printed, to prevent fault propagation in the event of an engine failure. The engine completed a full qualification test in May 2014, and is slated to make its first orbital spaceflight in 2015 or 2016.

    When you are 3D printing titanium knee joints custom sized to the patient AND rocket engines, there is little you can not 3D print in metal…

    The thing about this H.P. printer is that it is NOT for “one off” but designed for gang production of many parts fast. It is specifically aimed at volume production. So take plastic gears. They are all over the place now. Fishing reels, printers, small robots, all kinds of mechanical things. This machine lets you print a few thousand of them an hour… and of mixed sizes in the batch. Someone making things like DVD or CD drives can now print their own gears, doors, cases, etc. all in house and for many models. “Spares” can be reduced to zero inventory, just a CAD drawing in the printer driver.

    That was the thing about this printer that got my attention. It is designed from the ground up for bulk production speed and quantity, with quality. It makes it a production machine, not a hobby or prototyping machine.

  3. Larry Ledwick says:

    Yes I was aware of current laser sintering technology but it still has not gotten fully adopted into typical shop environments, still a specialty application.

    One of the major hurdles of engineering and manufacturing is with traditional machine tool processes you are limited with regard to what can actually physically be produced. Often you have to compromise design to make it possible to manufacture the parts at affordable prices. In aerospace they use brute force methods to produce ultralight optimized structures like taking a wing spar and then machining away 1/2 the material to make a optimized structural design with thousands of small stiffening webs integral to the material of the spar rather than added later as a separate structural component.

    3D printing and laser sintering remove many of those limitations and open up extremely complex designs with out the constraints of how do you hold it to manufacture it and how do you fit a machine tool in there to cut that bit out.

    F1 race teams are also exploiting some of this technology but it will be a while before it filters down to your local dealer ship parts department or industrial maintenance shop.

  4. Another Ian says:


    I’ve been told that one of the firms here in Oz that does right hand drive Ford pickup conversions does the dash panels with 3D printing.

    As was the latch replacement for a NLA dash compartment catch for another Ford product.

  5. cdquarles says:

    Hey, EM, I want one of those, once the kinks are out and the price drops, for my nephew’s business. He’s been keen on them for some time now, 3d printers, that is.

  6. E.M.Smith says:


    That’s how I see the market developing. One business at a time. Initially for small lot / specialty parts, eventually, as prices drop, for ever larger and more generic production. It is a race condition between “economies of scale” in large production facilities vs “shipping and inventory costs” vs “cost decline and quality improvement in printing 3D”… As shipping an inventory costs rise, and economies of scale are exhausted, falling 3D printing costs will give it ever larger market share, leading to 3D printing getting larger economies of scale…

    Interesting side note: There are already folks who have designed 3D printers that can be 3D printed… A fairly slow and sort of clunky one, but they wanted to show the “bootstrap” nature of the change… Each “maker” is encouraged to make a couple of kits of parts for friends to assemble, who then make a couple of kits of parts, that…

    When your first printer is essentially free, it starts to come down to ‘cost of materials’… That will be a decade or two out for larger production class machines, instead of home toys.

    @Another Ian:

    Any small lot production is a primary candidate for 3D printing. Also any time critical product, like those replacement knee joints built custom for each patient and matched to them at a point in time. There will be increasing numbers of examples like those dash panels. Expect custom shops to have them first. Then you will get ‘specialty makers’ showing up doing things like replacement knobs for every antique out there (all they need is a part scan to add it to “inventory” available…). Eventually all sorts of things will start being made that way and the reasonable prices will drive a wider interest in “custom” products. A “just my size” cup, or a “my favorite color” kids toy.

    I’ve thought of getting one of the cheap slow ones for my kid. Then he could just scan each favorite cheap plastic kids toy that HIS kid likes and print them on demand (as the originals are lost, broken, etc…) “Someone” was working on a way to recycle your own thermoplastic trash into feedstock, but I’ve lost the thread on that one. The idea being that eventually you could just dump your old soda bottles and such into the hopper and print plastic toys for free…

    The other “biggie” in the news is the folks who are using them to print 3D prosthetic hands for kids (and some adults). Kids grow so fast that poor families can’t pay a few $Thousands every year for a new bit of kit. With a 3D printer, they just print up a new one. It really is startling how cheap and effective it is. I’ve seen film of a kid about 5? Tossing a ball using his plastic hand…



    So it will go. One minor revolution at a time…

  7. Steve C says:

    Ah, but, EM, that $132,000 price tag on the HP is only for the first one, of course … ;-)

    Re 3D metal printing, sculptress Bathsheba has been playing with it for awhile now, and has some elegant sculpted pieces in ‘a composite steel-bronze metal with a rich texture’ for sale if you’d like one on the mantelpiece. Her ‘Laser Crystals’ are beautifully done, too. You can even send her your favourite dataset and have it ‘transcribed’ into art.
    https://www.bathsheba.com/ … (note, I got a security warning from the browser, but only because it apparently didn’t recognise what looks like a branch of Comodo as the issuing authority.)

    I dunno. Here’s me, a practising scientific tinkerer who would kill for facilities like these. And there’s her, a practising artist, turning gloriously aesthetic stuff out to order. Grrr!

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    @Steve C:

    Notice that they did not list the price of the “ink cartridge”… 9-0

    Per “bathsheba”: Well, art does tend to be small scale custom one-off type things, and limited edition reprints… fits the market.

    And yes, I too am anxiously awaiting the day that 3D printed 3D printers get cheap enough I can get one 3D printed by my neighbor’s friend’s uncle…

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