Printing Steel: The HP Metal Jet Printer

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HP is revolutionizing the world of 3D printing with their new Metal Jet Printer.  It is an industrial 3D printer that prints items out of steel instead of plastic.

Currently 3D plastic printing is mainly used to print prosthetics, hearing aids and design prototypes.  However, it is still not widely used because it is often slower, more expensive, and more restrictive than traditional manufacturing.  

The HP Metal Jet Printer’s goal is to first work its way into the automobile and medical device manufacturing industries.  HP has already partnered with Parmatech which supplies healthcare device components and GKN, an automotive and aerospace parts supplier.  These companies are already working with customers like Volkswagen to experiment with the 3D steel printer.

HP is using binder-jet printing which is said to be a faster and less expensive 3D printing method.  The process spreads layers of metal power, then sprays it with a binding agent. This solidifies the object, but the parts then have to be put into a furnace where the extreme heat makes the object sturdy.

The HP Metal Jet Printer will likely be used for mainly cosmetic items such as key fobs and engravings initially.  Experts say that it is possible that we will see 3D printed steel parts under the hood at some point, but it will be quite a while before the technology advances that far.

Story via Wired