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HP is hoping its new Metal Jet 3D printers will provide inroads into manufacturing sectors such as automobiles and medical devices.

As reported by WIRED Magazine, earlier this month HP launched the Metal Jet printer, an industrial-scale 3D printer that builds items not of plastic but of steel.

HP Metal Jet 3D Printer

HP intends to get into big manufacturing sectors such as automobiles and medical devices with the Metal Jet printers and as such has partnered with Parmatech, which manufactures components for healthcare devices, and GKN, a supplier of automotive and aerospace parts. Those companies in turn will work with customers like Volkswagen to experiment with 3-D-printing metal. The partners will be able to get Metal Jets this year; others will have to wait until 2020.

Volkswagen gearshift knob created by HP Metal Jet

Tim Weber, HP’s head of 3-D metals, says 3-D printing will save manufacturing costs for certain product parts and enable companies to create new products faster. In some cases, companies will be able to use the same designs for prototyping and then for production.
“A lot of parts take months to prototype. We can now do in days what it took months or years to do,…It will increase the pace of innovation.”

HP’s process for 3D printing metal is known as binder-jet printing, which Weber says is cheaper and more efficient. The Metal Jet printer spreads layers of metal powder and then sprays it with a binding agent to solidify it in a process not unlike layer-by-layer 3-D printing. This mix of metal powder and binding agent is then placed in a furnace where extreme heat solidifies the powder, creating a light, smooth finish which can include intricate details.

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