3D Printing Achieves ‘Break-Even’ Point Versus Injection Molding at 110,000 Parts

HP’s new high-productivity 3D printing machine, and its expanding range of powder materials sources and types, help drive down part costs.

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A new milestone on the path to volume manufacturing with 3D printing: HP Inc., Palo Alto, Calif., claims to have raised the limit at which its Multi Jet Fusion process is cost competitive with injection molding now to 110,000 parts. HP claims to have “unlocked economies of scale” with its new Jet Fusion 3D 4210 machine for its modified inkjet-style process (see Sept. ’17 Close-Up). It raises the economic break-even point from 50,000 parts for the previous model 4200. The model 4210 employs various hardware and software upgrades (retrofittable to 4200 models) to improve productivity and reduce piece cost—notably the ability to feed materials from bulk packaging (e.g., 1000 liters). HP claims “the industry’s lowest cost per
part—up to 65% less than other 3D printing methods.” HP also claims its Jet Fusion system is up to 10 times faster than other methods.

By continuing to drive down piece costs, HP aims for a break-even point of 1 million parts. Essential to that goal is driving down the cost of thermoplastic powder raw materials, which HP is pursuing through an expanding range of partnerships with materials companies. HP’s Open Materials Platform already includes Arkema, BASF, Evonik, Henkel, Lehmann & Voss, and Sinopec Yanshan Petrochemical Co. of China. HP recently added two new partners: One is Lubrizol, which will bring TPU elastomers as the next major addition to HP’s Jet Fusion materials line. The second is Dressler Group, a specialist in grinding and refining chemical products. It will offer HP’s materials partners preferred access to its toll grinding capabilities, helping to reduce one of the main barriers to materials development, HP says.

HP also announced three additions to its “high-reusability” materials range, referring to the ability to reuse up to 80% of leftover powder. Added to the original nylon 12 powder, there’s now also a nylon 11 for parts requiring ductility and flexibility; nylon 12 with 40% glass beads for parts requiring high stiffness; and PP (available by midyear), for parts requiring low cost, light weight, and good chemical resistance. In future, HP is aiming to add more nylon materials, more varieties of filled grades, and additional high-performance materials. HP says it is working with more than 50 materials companies, including Dow and DSM, which are still at the development stage.

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