In this Q&A article Wayne Davey, global head of sales and go-to-market at HP 3D Printing discusses the progress of additive manufacturing (AM) and the development of HP’s technology in this market.
Q) Firstly, can you give an overview of HP’s involvement in additive manufacturing: the process, history, and development of its machines?
Additive manufacturing is a growing market, with huge potential in many different industries, including industrial, healthcare, consumer goods, automotive, and even sustainable packaging. HP’s activity in the 3D industry in recent years has proven how impactful the industry truly is. In automotive, HP is working with automakers, suppliers, and production partners around the world to design and develop sustainable parts from prototyping to serial production. For example, General Motors has produced a variety of final parts using Multi Jet Fusion. In healthcare, HP is 3D printing medical devices for optimal patient outcomes, including medical instruments, equipment, and personalised medical devices to help improve patient comfort.
In the industrial sector, the Italian robotics company, Campetella, has used HP’s technology to produce robotic machines with custom gripping hands that can handle products of all shapes and sizes. For the consumer market Spanish start-up ATHOS, is changing the sports footwear industry with a first-of-its-kind 3D printed climbing shoe, made to fit the feet, and needs of each climber using HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing.
Q) How is additive manufacturing progressing as a serious industrial production tool? Is it making the transition from a rapid prototyping, low-volume process to larger scale?
A growing number of industrial manufacturers are embedding additive manufacturing into their production processes to create customisable parts at scale. In fact, according to HP’s Additive Manufacturing Trends in EMEA Report, 91% of respondents across Europe said that they use additive manufacturing to make industrial tools such as jigs, fixtures, and moulds. Looking more closely at the UK findings, British industrial parts manufacturers stated that on-demand production (33%), the ability to make parts that can’t be produced with traditional manufacturing processes (34%) and production flexibility (50%) were the main benefits of additive manufacturing.
Given 3D printed parts are increasingly being adopted in high-specification industries as diverse as aerospace, rail and marine, there are emerging opportunities to service these sectors, no matter where in the UK a business may be. The industrial industry has adopted HP’s Multi Jet Fusion technology, which can produce quality 3D printed parts, from moulds to spare parts, with optimal mechanical properties without the long lead times.
Q) What role can AM have when it comes to R&D in technologies such as vehicle electrification and sustainability?
Additive manufacturing is a huge enabler. There is growing acknowledgement among brands and manufacturers alike that traditional approaches of externalising the environmental impacts of manufacturing processes will not be accepted in a more climate-conscious world. Additive manufacturing and its intrinsically flexible nature have the opportunity to power a more circular economy by creating new opportunities for sustainable disruption across industries.
According to the UK findings from the HP 2020 Digital Manufacturing Report, 89% of respondents in the UK said that the recyclability of additive manufacturing/3D printed powders and parts is important. 3D printing can help produce personalised, more localised, on-demand 3D printed parts that use less material, thus reducing the inventory of raw materials and finished goods. Using on-demand manufacturing strategies to match production and demand means inventories and reliance on warehouses around the world can be reduced. With this, we can decrease the impact of shipping – especially air freight.
Additive Manufacturing is also helping the packaging industry make advancements towards more sustainable solutions by democratising access to solutions like moulded fibre, a widely recognised eco-friendly and biodegradable alternative to plastic packaging. Our Molded Fiber Tooling Solution is highly customisable so that even the most intricate shapes can be created with crisp details and edges, including different textures, logos or branding.
Q) What impact do you think AM could have on supply chains? Could it lead to an era of more localised manufacturing?
Additive manufacturing has huge potential to transform the supply chain. It allows you to create multiple parts locally and efficiently and on a relatively small budget. This localisation in turn reduces the reliance on international imports and therefore makes the process more streamlined.
Companies are starting to develop new supply chain strategies to guard against future disruption, including volatile global economic trade cycles. Advanced 3D printing solutions can help them accelerate this transformation. We are seeing more and more industries turning to 3D printing to disrupt their traditional supply chains and make them more efficient and flexible.
Q) How can other technical developments such as generative design and AI be combined with 3D Printing to progress product development?
3D printing when combined with automation is a powerful tool. We are seeing significant progress, in which AI and machine learning are simplifying the preparation process so that it is uniform and repeatable. This not only improves scalability but also enables the creation of complex, high-quality parts that are also sustainable, geometrically concise, and customisable. The optimisation and automation of workflows are alleviating software challenges in the additive industry so that new compelling applications can be brought to market and more companies can benefit from everything that 3D print technology has to offer.
Q) All areas of manufacturing are demanding more automation. How is HP addressing this issue with its additive technology?
At HP, we are constantly innovating to advance digital manufacturing and breakthroughs in automation, software, and data are just the tip of the iceberg for how far we can push the technology. As we look towards the future, the next version of 3D printing solutions will be much more capable of applying machine learning. The entire end-to-end lifecycle, from the supply chain to the useful life of a part, will be streamlined with the ability to analyse and leverage insights in a manageable, automated way.
When it comes to services, HP offers its 3D customers xRServices, providing 24-hour access to engineering support or virtual content. Once they put on the headset users can connect with HP engineers and experience being physically present with a remote support coach who can advise them on any issue of their print production.
Q) What needs to be done in terms of developing skills and expertise in this relatively new manufacturing process?
Given the increased adoption of digital manufacturing in the UK, there is huge potential for an increase in new jobs. However, there’s no point in creating new jobs if there is a lack of skilled workers to fill them and it will be important for businesses and the government to offer opportunities for training services about additive manufacturing skills.
However, we shouldn’t just look to governments to address the skills gap, private organisations also have a part to play. It’s important that we take a broad approach and not just focus on on-the-ground training, but also on remote training for skills in CAD, for example. Some UK universities are starting to lead this charge and are offering courses and qualifications on the topic of additive manufacturing.
HP offers professionals and businesses tailored training modules to provide the right knowledge and skills for additive manufacturing and HP Multi Jet Fusion Designs. Students can also use the training programme to build their skills and confidence as they work towards becoming qualified designers.
Q) How is HP’s move into the metal additive market progressing?
In September 2022, HP announced the commercial availability of its Metal Jet S100 solution, which presents the first fully viable 3D technology in the production of metal parts on an industrial scale.
Since introducing our breakthrough Metal Jet platform in 2018, we have been working closely with partners and customers across medical, industrial, consumer goods, and automotive industries to scale 3D metals, without sacrificing quality, complexity, or a competitive cost per part.
These include GKN, Parmatech, Cobra Golf, Legor Group, and Volkswagen, and more. HP is also collaborating on mass metals production opportunities with new partners and customers around the world, including Schneider Electric, the global leader in the digital transformation of energy management and automation. Their product portfolio includes products, controls, software and services across residential, commercial, industrial and critical applications.
We look forward to seeing what new applications can be unlocked with 3D metals and how our lives and societies will change as a result.
The HP 2020 Digital Manufacturing Trends Report can be seen here: https://press.hp.com/us/en/blogs/2020/hp-digital-manufacturing-report.html