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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »

Shapeways Hopes To Provide Boost For HP Jet Fusion 3D Printers

May 26th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe

Shapeways, a leading 3D printing service and marketplace for consumers, announced a collaboration with HP Inc. to help drive HP’s Jet Fusion 3D Printer.  Shapeways said it is the first company to receive an early prototype unit in its Eindhoven, Netherlands factory and is working closely with HP.  Once publicly available sometime later this year, Shapeways hopes the new commercial HP offering will provide its 3D community with a superior quality black nylon material that will 3D print in greater detail, with a faster lead time, and at a lower cost than current dyed nylons.

Shapeways produces roughly 3,000 unique products every day and over 1 million unique products annually.

“We chose to work with Shapeways because they are the leading authority in bringing creative ideas to life and are the largest consumer 3D printing portal, with 3,000 products made every day,” said Stephen Nigro, president of HP’s 3D printing business.  “The HP Jet Fusion 3D Printing Solution will enable Shapeways to bring high quality parts up to 10 times faster than before for lower cost.”

HP Shapeways Printer1

HP’s Virginia Palacio and Stefan Rink, Shapeways VP of Manufacturing, with the new HP Jet Fusion 3D Printing Solution, the world’s first production-ready commercial 3D printing system, installed in Shapeways’ Eindhoven factory.

According to Shapeways, in addition to offering superior quality, this new technology could potentially reduce standard shipping from the current seven business days to next day delivery.

While the technology is only currently available for black nylon, over time, the range of colors is expected to dramatically expand and include full-color printing.

“We’re thrilled to collaborate with HP, a company with a long history of deep innovation,” said Peter Weijmarshausen, Shapeways CEO. “Our community has told us time and again that they want better quality and more material options, faster lead times, and lower costs for the products they make. With the new HP Jet Fusion 3D printer, we can now deliver on all these [requests]. In working with HP we have learned their technology is groundbreaking and we cannot wait to give this power to our community.”

Unveiled simultaneously with the Shapeways announcement at RAPID 2016, the HP Jet Fusion 3D Printing Solution is the world’s first production-ready commercial 3D printing system.  It can address more than 340 million voxels (A voxel represents a value on a regular grid in three-dimensional space) per second, versus one point at a time. It offers a simplified workflow and reduced cost for radical prototyping, delivery of final parts manufacturing with relative low cost, open materials, and a software innovation platform that lowers barriers to adoption and enables new applications.

The Jet Fusion technology uses a thermal inkjet array and chemical agents to produce what HP says are more reliable and precise parts. Objects can be made from a variety of materials in an array of colors and, crucially, at speeds 10 times faster than what’s available from other commercial 3D printers.

The potential return is huge. The global market for 3D-printing products and services will grow from $5.5 billion in 2015 to $21.2 billion in 2020, according to the Wohlers Report.

It’s a steep climb, but Nigro, who started at HP in 1982 as part of the team that developed the first color inkjet printer, is optimistic: “We plan to be the leader in 3D printing.”

HP’s Nigro has positioned the Jet Fusion as a breakthrough, calling it part of HP’s “vision to change industries.” He said the Jet Fusion can print in different elasticities, in various colors, and with uniform part strength without compromising surface finish. It can also print electrical and thermal conductivity characteristics in the same part.

SME Fellow Terry Wohlers, a world-leading additive manufacturing (AM) expert, said that Jet Fusion is “one of the biggest developments in the history of additive manufacturing and 3D printing.”

While HP’s 3D printer is available today, it won’t be widely available until later this year. HP is currently working with a select group of customers (including Shapeways) to fine-tune it and is inviting collaborative development of the printer, materials (it currently prints thermoplastics, but is researching ceramics and metals), as well as the aging STL digital file format, which HP believes (understandably) is inherently limiting.

With the sheer volume of parts that Shapeways produces, this collaboration with HP may just be the thing that finally propels much-anticipated Jet Fusion 3D printer into the spotlight as “the machine to beat.”

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