Half the plastic in HP's new 3D printer is 3D printed – The Guardian


October 4, 2016 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ 3D Printed Articles


HP’s Jet Fusion 3200 3D printer.

HP’s Jet Fusion 3200 3D printer.
Photograph: HP

Half the custom parts in HP’s first 3D printer in over a decade were themselves 3D printed, according to the company’s head of 3D printing, Stephen Nigro.

The decision to include the 3D-printed parts in the two new devices, which will start shipping by the end of this year, helps the company highlight the quality of the printers’ output, but Nigro insists that the decision was a purely economic one.

For any given small plastic part, he told the Guardian, if you’re making fewer than 55,000 pieces you’re actually better off printing than moulding. . He said: “The reason we’re doing it is not because we can, although that certainly would be one reason. It’s because we should: it actually makes economic sense for us to print those parts; we can actually save money.”

The economics is made simpler by the comparatively limited quantities of 3D printers that HP expects to sell. It is not building desktop 3D printers, of the sort that sell to hobbyists and educational establishments: instead, it’s pushing straight to the prototyping and short-run manufacturing markets, selling hefty devices that start at $130,000 a piece, for the Jet Fusion 3D 3200.

Nigro said “approximately half the custom plastic parts in the machine are going to be 3D printed”. He said HP was surprised to discover how much it could 3D print, “because we were going through the development cycle and we had this goal of like, ‘OK, we want to have some of the parts in this printer be printed by the printer itself’, because we thought it would be cool to have the printer print itself.

“We honestly thought it would be probably five or six parts. And it wasn’t until we got pretty close to the introduction, we had handed over to our supply chain team who were looking at the economics and they came back and said ‘yeah, about half the parts, we’re going to print’.”

The idea of a 3D printer that can 3D print a 3D printer is not new. In 2005, the RepRap project began, an open-source movement with the goal of creating self-replicating machines. In practice, the group creates and shares schematics for building and using a 3D printer that can print copies of itself – but has not yet succeeded.

HP’s Jet Fusion 3200 3D printer.

HP’s Jet Fusion 3200 3D printer.
Photograph: HP

Half the custom parts in HP’s first 3D printer in over a decade were themselves 3D printed, according to the company’s head of 3D printing, Stephen Nigro.

The decision to include the 3D-printed parts in the two new devices, which will start shipping by the end of this year, helps the company highlight the quality of the printers’ output, but Nigro insists that the decision was a purely economic one.

For any given small plastic part, he told the Guardian, if you’re making fewer than 55,000 pieces you’re actually better off printing than moulding. . He said: “The reason we’re doing it is not because we can, although that certainly would be one reason. It’s because we should: it actually makes economic sense for us to print those parts; we can actually save money.”

The economics is made simpler by the comparatively limited quantities of 3D printers that HP expects to sell. It is not building desktop 3D printers, of the sort that sell to hobbyists and educational establishments: instead, it’s pushing straight to the prototyping and short-run manufacturing markets, selling hefty devices that start at $130,000 a piece, for the Jet Fusion 3D 3200.

Nigro said “approximately half the custom plastic parts in the machine are going to be 3D printed”. He said HP was surprised to discover how much it could 3D print, “because we were going through the development cycle and we had this goal of like, ‘OK, we want to have some of the parts in this printer be printed by the printer itself’, because we thought it would be cool to have the printer print itself.

“We honestly thought it would be probably five or six parts. And it wasn’t until we got pretty close to the introduction, we had handed over to our supply chain team who were looking at the economics and they came back and said ‘yeah, about half the parts, we’re going to print’.”

The idea of a 3D printer that can 3D print a 3D printer is not new. In 2005, the RepRap project began, an open-source movement with the goal of creating self-replicating machines. In practice, the group creates and shares schematics for building and using a 3D printer that can print copies of itself – but has not yet succeeded.

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