HP has disclosed details of its promised 3D printer products, aiming to deliver higher quality and more finely detailed objects at a lower production cost than rival technologies.

But the final product may not come to market until 2016 while HP perfects the technology.

Announced at an event in Palo Alto, HP's Multi Jet Fusion technology differs from the majority of 3D printers currently on the market by rendering an entire area versus a single point at a time for faster build speeds.

It also uses "multiple liquid agents" instead of the commonly used thermoplastic to provide new levels of accuracy with uniform part strength in all three dimensions, and multiple colours, the firm said.

HP first disclosed that it was developing its own 3D print technology at the HP Discover event last year.

However, while the core 3D printing technology is here today, the end-to-end 3D printing system is not due to ship until 2016, according to HP's current estimates.

The firm is working through a product testing and feedback process with selected customers via an Open Customer Engagement Programme.

Stephen Nigro, HP senior vice president for inkjet and graphic solutions, said that the firm sees a great deal of potential in the 3D print market, but also major gaps in the combination of speed, quality and cost of current products.

"HP Multi Jet Fusion is designed to transform manufacturing across industries by delivering on the full potential of 3D printing with better quality, increased productivity and break-through economics," he said.

HP said its technology can offer new levels of part quality, 10 times faster and at "breakthrough economics" relative to comparable systems on the market today.

The company believes that this will drive the widespread adoption of 3D design and innovation, and transform manufacturing in the same way that inkjet technology changed traditional printing.

In particular, it is set to offer small businesses a new way to produce goods and parts for customers, according to HP.

HP's technology appears to be based in part on inkjet printing processes, but the proprietary synchronous architecture is capable of delivering over 30 million drops per second across each inch of the working area, the firm said.

It also uses multiple agents, first laying down a fine layer of the material, followed by a fusing agent applied where the particles are to be melded together to create a solid mass, and a detailing agent where the fusing needs to be reduced, in order to create sharp and smooth edges at the boundary of the object.

HP also said that its Multi Jet Fusion process could allow a printer to selectively lay down a different colour material at each volumetric pixel or voxel - the 3D equivalent of an individual dot in 2D printing - to produce multi-colour objects. In contrast, current 3D printers can typically produce objects of a single colour.

By inviting open collaboration, HP said that it will be able to achieve greater flexibility and versatility in 3D print materials beyond the current use of thermoplastics.

This is expected to enable new solutions in segments such as additive manufacturing, and to expand applications for engineering, architecture and consumer goods.

HP will also bring its colour science expertise and the full-colour capabilities of traditional HP printing to the 3D world in future-generation 3D Print systems, the firm said.




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