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HP Announces Metal Jet 3D Printer

CNET was on hand when printing giant HP announced a revolutionary device in metal manufacturing: the Metal Jet 3D Printer.

The Metal Jet 3D Printer, which will cost $400,000, “is faster and therefore more economical than using a laser to create parts out of powdered metal.”  As HP’s Head of 3D Metal Printing explains: “we’re really going to enable mass production for mainstream metals, in particular steels.”

In fact, HP has also signed a number of “deals with experienced metal manufacturing partners and with customers including Volkswagen and Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices.”  This means it will be possible, in the not so distant future, many automotive parts may be “built partly from this new method of digital fabrication.”

The Metal Jet 3D Printer’s process begins with “a thin layer of powdered metal laid down on a bed.  Then a line of print heads traverses the layer, squirting tiny drops of a binding agent — glue, essentially — where solid metal is needed.  When one layer is done, a new layer of powder is laid down followed by another pass for the binding agent. It takes about four or five hours to create a product or group of products using the printer’s full volume of 430x320x200 millimeters, which is about 17x13x8 inches.  The printer works at very high resolution. Its smallest metal element — a voxel — measures just 20x20x50 microns, or millionths of a meter.”

Following printing, these parts are taken out and then undergo a sintering process.  On top of all this, according to Weber, the HP system is boosted by PageWide technology, which “moves a band of print heads across the entire bed in one swipe per layer instead of sending one print head traversing back and forth time after time.”  HP also develops and manufactures its own parts, so this lowers the costs even more.

Image and Quotes Courtesy of HP and CNET

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