HP announces new 3D printing initiative

HP has unveiled its latest take on 3D printing with its new Blended Reality ecosystem. HP has been developing 3D printers for some years now but the Blended Reality concept signals a concerted effort to be a much bigger player in this market than it has been up to now.

There are two key elements of this that have so far been announced. The first is a new Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer that jets several different liquid materials which together form a single material that is stronger than just laying down one type of plastic. Thus HP’s multi-chemistry process includes a fusing agent that is selectively applied where the particles will fuse together, as well as a detailing agent that is selectively applied where the fusing action needs to be reduced or amplified. This could mean, for example, that the detailing agent reduces fusing at the boundary to produce parts with sharp and smooth edges. HP also claims that it will be able to manipulate part and material properties, including form, texture, friction, strength, elasticity, electrical and thermal properties.

The printer uses a new thermal inkjet array to apply these different liquid agents at the same time. This array covers an entire area – the objects are still built up a layer at a time but the array can print a complete layer in a single pass. HP claims that it can image an entire area versus one point at a time for up to ten times faster speeds.

Better still, HP also claims that it can produce 3D objects at a similar quality to selective laser sintering (SLS) and fused deposition modelling but with lower costs. HP plans eventually to print in different colours, reducing the need to print patterns onto finished objects.

For now, HP is working with beta customers to finalise the design and it should be available sometime in 2016.

The second aspect is Sprout, which HP describes as an immersive computing platform, and which is made up of several parts. Thus there is an integrated vertical 23-inch touch screen and horizontal capacitive touch mat, designed with creative expression and human movement in mind that should offer a fairly freewheeling approach to designing 3D objects.

There is also a capture and projection system that combines multiple devices – a scanner, depth sensor, hi res camera and projector – into a single system to capture and project dimensional images. This allows users to digitise objects and incorporate them in their own designs.

The whole thing is driven by a HP PC using Windows 8.1 and running on an Intel i7 Processor with 8GB of RAM and 1TB of storage.

There’s an online element, called HP MyRoom, that allows for remote collaboration in real-time and a Sprout Marketplace for selling related applications. This can already be pre-ordered in the US and should be available there by 9th November, and is due to be rolled-out to other regions over the next few months. The price is $1899 or roughly £1190.


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