Behind the Scenes with Multi Jet Fusion: An Interview with HP’s Ramon Pastor
The HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D Printer is a significant breakthrough in an industry that is used to breakthroughs. With dramatic print speed, enhancements to support lower overall printing costs, the Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer family represents a meaningful step in 3D Printing’s transition from a prototyping technology to true production option. To get a deeper perspective on this machine – parts from which are offered through 3Diligent network – CEO Cullen Hilkene conducted the following email interview with Ramon Pastor, vice president & general manager, HP 3D Multi Jet Fusion Business.
Multi Jet Fusion can achieve faster production speeds for certain print builds than traditional selective laser sintering (SLS). Tell us a bit about how this is possible (i.e., binding agent, detailing agent, chemical reaction, heat)?
HP’s Jet Fusion 3D Printers deposit fusing and detailing agents onto a layer of powder in one pass thanks to our Pagewide technology, before a set of infrared lamps to fuse the designated areas. This process not only allows the printer to produce more geometrically complex parts than with SLS, but it also allows for continuous printing and increasing the speed of production. Also, new HP cooling technologies cut the cool-down time to a fraction of what is needed in SLS.
Based on our understanding of the Multi Jet Fusion process, it would seem bulkier parts with some challenging details – the same parts that historically have been time-consuming and expensive to produce with 3D Printing – are really where this technology shines, because a jetting pass and a heat lamp pass can go much faster while still providing accuracy on the small details. Is that true?
That’s correct. Speed is achieved thanks to our Pagewide technology (all agents are laid down in a single movement), while our drop accuracy is maintained at 20 microns, making it possible to consistently get the most exceptional detail. The use of detailing agents is key to preventing thermal bleed, and ensuring that even the smallest details are preserved.
We’ve supported a number of projects with the HP system, but at a corporate level, in which industries have you seen the greatest resonance so (e.g., industrial products, consumer products)?
We're seeing exciting uses of Multi Jet Fusion in both consumer products as well as industrial production. We are not releasing details at this time, but we've been working with leading global brands including Nike, BMW, Johnson & Johnson, and Jabil to leverage 3D printing for both consumer and industrial use. We see incredible use potential across all major industries: automotive, aerospace, medical technology, consumer goods, electronics, heavy industry, engineering, the list goes on.
What sorts of applications have you seen customers note the greatest impact of the new technology?
Among the greatest benefits of Multi Jet Fusion for customers across industries is the ability to iterate design and production with unprecedented flexibility, which accelerates innovation and creates shorter go-to-market timelines. And one of the most compelling things about HP’s ecosystem model is the Open Platform and Materials Development Kit, which enables customers and partners to work directly with HP at its innovative 3D Open Materials and Applications Lab on custom-designed materials to meet their specific needs.
What are the standard tolerances off the machine? Do these vary with part size? Do tolerances vary much in the x, y, and/or z? Do you experience some degree of shrinkage, as with SLS printers?
Linear dimensions: ±0.2mm for dimensions smaller than 100mm // ±0.2% for dimensions larger than 100mm. This applies for all directions and geometries.
What is the standard Ra finish level off of the build tray? Some say it is better than SLS, especially on downward facing surfaces. Could you speak to that?
On PA12 we are measuring following roughness between 8-10 um. This can be greatly improved with postprocessing methods.
What about isotropy…do you see weakness in the Z axis or is it consistent?
Parts built with Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing are also significantly more isotropic and boast a significantly higher Z-direction strength than SLS technologies, thanks to the bonding between fused layers. The time that a fused voxel is exposed to heat is 1000 times longer than in SLS, being a major contributor to isotropy.
We know that Nylon 12 is the first material for HP, and Nylon 6 and 11 are in the pipeline. What’s the timeline on those?
We're committed to introducing and certifying new materials for HP 3D printers, but we are not releasing details at this time.
How about color printing? Timeline on that?
We are not releasing details at this time.
Can you tell us more about the finishing station? It appears to perform a number of functions. Can you speak to those and whether there are any other features planned for the future (e.g., inspection)?
The finishing station comprises a few different functions for the start and completion of the printing process. It connects 3D Materials Cartridges to the HP 3D Build Unit to load material before a print job. At the end of a print job, you can reconnect the Build Unit into the finishing station to engage the enclosed unpacking and material collection system to collect and reuse unused materials. These unused materials are collected in the HP Jet Fusion 3D External Tank, which filters this material back into the cartridges. It also enables fast cooling and continuous printing for increased productivity.
Great! Thanks for all of those insights Ramon. We look forwarding to introducing the benefits of these innovations to our customers as you continue to roll them out.