Under the hood of HP´s 3D Printer

So the HP 3D printer is finally here which promises to be faster and cheaper than competitors.   This time I take a look ¨under the hood¨ of the printer at some of the key aspects.

The current printer currently supports printing with material PA12, also known as Nylon 12.  The next material that can be used is expected to be PA11 or Nylon 11.  Although both materials are Nylon there are some differences.  More information can be found here.

Unlike in the marketing videos where the printer puts down a layer of material in areas where the part has to be built, the printer will deposit material across the entire print bed.  The temperature is controlled by multiple sensors below the lid to ensure that the part is printed evenly.

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Temperature Sensors

Once the printer has finished if a customer has bought the cooling and recycling station they can disconnect the printer bed from the main printer and wheel it over to the cooling station.  The functions of the cooling station are to cool the printed part by circulating air.  This reduces the amount of time for the part to cool down sufficiently from a print to cooling ratio of 1:5 (i.e. if the part takes 1 hour to print you wait 5 hours for the part to cool down) to 1:1 (i.e. 1 hour printing = 1 hour cooling).  The cooling station also acts like a vacuum cleaner in taking out the unused material from the print bed and recycling it with fresh material so that it can be re-used.  It´s estimated that up to 80% of the residual powder can be re-used which is higher than average.  The part can then be finished according to customer requirements.

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Cooling Station

Another interesting idea is to have a detachable printer bed.  This means that you can print the part and then detach the printer bed containing the 3D printed part from the printer.  If a customer were to have a second detachable printer bed they could then immediately start printing additional parts with no downtime caused by waiting for the original parts to cool.  Coupled with the cooling and recycling station these are practical ideas to enable a customer to print the maximum number of parts per day.  At an estimated price of $12,000 for a second printer bed it can be an affordable solution for customers as waiting time can reduce the number of orders that can be printed in one day.

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Detachable Printer Bed

The current fusing source will not be powerful enough to make 3D printed metal parts so other types of printers may follow.

Other materials and applications were also showcased although still experimental.  These include 3d printed parts containing the electronic circuitry printed into the part and elastic materials.

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