HP launches Metal Jet S100 3D printer

HP has introduced a new metal 3D printer, the Metal Jet S100, that it says can produce high quality parts in volume and at a price to help drive mass adoption of additive manufacturing for metal parts. 

HP’s S100 Metal Jet 3D printer is a modular solution that also includes a Powder Management Station, Powder Removal Station, Curing Station, plus also the Build Unit.

Ramon Pastor, Global Head and General Manager of 3D Metals for HP, commented: “3D printed metal parts are a key driving force behind digital transformation and the new Metal Jet S100 Solution provides a world class metals offering for our customers, from the first designs right through to production, but more importantly helps them to realize the unlimited potential for digital manufacturing.” 

The S100 builds on HP’s existing binder jetting approach, meaning that it takes standard metal powders and uses HP’s thermal printheads to jet a water-based binder on that metal powder in the pattern of the part to be produced, building the part up one layer at a time. 

The binding agent essentially acts like a hot-melt adhesive holding the metal particles together until they can be sintered after the printing stage. It is formulated with a polymer that binds the metal particles together wherever HP Metal Jet binding agent is printed. This binder works its way into the smallest gaps between the metal particles, thanks to capillary action, to produce a uniform binder distribution. This process is said to use a relatively small amount of binder, allowing for thicker and larger mass parts than can be achieved with metal injection molding. Interestingly, HP claims that its latex chemistry know-how has helped with the development of the binding agent.

The S100 has six printheads, arranged in two staggered rows to produce a print area 309mm wide. The printheads are HP’s standard thermal heads, which have the same resolution as HP’s inkjet presses. But in this case that amounts to a 1200 x 1200 dpi grid, since 3D printers work in voxels, or volume elements, which include depth as opposed to 2D pixels that are flat. This resolution allows the S100 to print layers 35 to 140 microns thick, which should produce fine details and precision definition of edges and surfaces.

As with those heads used on the PageWide web presses, the heads print a 108-mm print swathe with two independent rows, which in this case have 5,280 nozzles each at a nozzle density of 1200 per inch. This includes 4-times nozzle redundancy. HP says that it has adapted the internal architecture of the heads to improve robustness to metal powder particle ingestion. Nonetheless, as with all thermal heads, these are a consumable item.

The S100 has a build area of 430 x 309 x 200 mm, allowing it to produce multiple small parts or reasonably large parts. These parts can be arranged freely in multiple levels in the powder bed to optimize packing density, productivity, and cost. It’s not a single pass printer, so the heads scan the length of the build chamber. It has a build speed of 1990 cc/hr8 assuming a layer thickness of 50 microns. 

As with HP’s existing Multi-Fusion 3D printers, the S100 is broken down into several parts that all work together. Apart from the actual printer, the complete system also includes a Powder Management Station, Powder Removal Station, Curing Station, plus also the Build Unit, which fits inside the printer. This contains the powder bed and the powdered material and can be wheeled into and out of the printer. The advantage of this is that users can set up or unload one Build unit while another is in use within the printer. 

Once the printing has finished, the powder bed is cooled down and the parts removed. Unused powder can be reused and since the powder doesn’t contain any wax there’s no need for any further debinding process as is common with conventional MIM workflows. The parts are sintered in a furnace which binds the metal particles together and decomposes the polymer used in the binder. 

The finished parts are said to have a density after sintering greater than 96 percent, similar to metal injection moulding. More importantly, they also demonstrate isotropic properties – uniform strength in all dimensions – that meet ASTM and MPIF standards. This is important in metal printing since no one wants a part that might fracture along one plane.

The S100 uses standard stainless steel materials developed for metal injection molding and HP says that it will work with customers to expand the range of materials that can be used. In addition, HP claims that its powders have up to 99 percent metal powder by weight whereas MIM feedstocks are typically less than 93% metal powder by weight. 

For now, there are two stainless steel materials. Of these, SS 316L is a non-magnetic austenite stainless steel used in applications requiring extremely high corrosion resistance, excellent elongation, ductility, and strength at elevated temperatures. It has a high alloy and low carbon content and is said to work well for the automotive, aerospace, medical, jewelry, and oil/chemical industries. 

Then there’s SS 17-4PH, which offers high strength and good wear resistance. This is a martensite precipitation hardening stainless steel used in applications that require a combination of high strength and mechanical properties with good corrosion and wear resistance. Properties can be tailored through heat treatment, making this versatile material valuable for a wide use of applications in the medical, aerospace, marine, food processing, and automotive industries. 

As well as the hardware, there’s a client/server software application, modestly named the HP Metal Jet Command Centre, and a Metal Jet API for integration with other systems. There’s also a Metal Jet Process Development Suite, which offers Integrated build management, process parameter editing, sintering simulation, and process monitoring reduce time and effort in process development. 

In addition, it’s compatible with Autodesk fusion 360, the Materialise HP Connector, Simufact Additive by Hexagon/MSC and Altair InspireTM Print 3D. It works with STL and 3MF file formats.  

The S100 should be available in the first half of 2023. You can find more details at hp.com.

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