Hewlett-Packard has been in the binder jetting game for a while now, showing off all its various iterations. However, they’ve made a new breakthrough with metal jet 3D printing, a spin-off of their binder jetting methods with similarities to their metal jet fusion technology. Metal Jetting is for high volume production of metal parts at high levels of productivity with lower costs.
HP claims that it is more efficient than other forms of metal 3D printing by about 50 times, while being cheaper than its binder jetting system counterparts. Metal Jetting can print with a horizontal resolution of 4 to 7 microns and layer thicknesses of 25 to 40 microns.
According to estimates, the Metal Jetting system will have a price of $399,000 or less. The current build volume for the HP Metal Jet 3D Printer is 430 x 320 x 200 mm. HP are also launching a Metal Jet Production Service for ordering parts online, beginning 2019.
Metal Jet vs Other Technologies
Many commentators are comparing it with Metal Jet Fusion as they do have a bunch of similarities. Both Metal Jet and Metal Jet Fusion both employ the use of binders, however the process is vastly different. While MJF deposits the binding ink onto a plastic powder, Metal Jetting a binder onto metal powders. MJF relies on heating lamps to fuse the material within the printer, whereas Metal Jet parts are green and must be sintered in an industry-standard Metal Injection Molding furnace.
The addition of the sintering furnace makes the process very reminiscent of Desktop Metal or Markforged’s metal printing tech. ExOne’s process is probably the closest to Metal Jetting, a technology which also leaves green parts pre-sintering. HP demonstrated that the new tech is cost-competitive at portions of 50,000 parts or less, hitting break-even at those numbers in comparison with Metal Injection Molding.
MIM relies on binders like polyethylene, which are about 40 percent of the green part. Metal Jet, on the other hand, only deposits a small amount of the binder. MIM parts need to be burn out all of the binder in the furnace, limiting the objects final size. However, with Metal Jet tech, HP has been able to achieve parts with wall thicknesses as large as 1in and they claim that this is only the beginning, saying that there may be no upper limit on wall thickness, so the actual maximum size of prints is still up in the air.
To bring Metal Jet to the market, HP is working with GKN and Parmatech, two major industrial providers. GKN is primarily a parts developer for customer’s in the automotive field, while Parmatech focuses on medical applications. Both companies could play a role in distributing the technology to their large stock of industrial clientele. Additionally, Volkswagen and Wilo have already put in an order for Metal Jetting devices. It appears Metal Jetting will have a bright future considering all the notoriety its getting with these big name companies.
Featured image courtesy of HP Inc.