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HP Rolls Out Metal 3D Printers

You normally think of HP as producing inkjet and laser printers. But they’ve been quietly building 3D printers aimed at commercial customers. Now they are moving out with metal printers┬ácalled — predictably — the HP Metal Jet. The video (see below) is a little glitzy, but the basic idea is that print bars lay down powder on a 21-micron grid. A binding agent prints on the powder, presumably in a similar way to a conventional inkjet printer. A heat source then evaporates the liquid from the binder.

The process repeats for each layer until you remove the part and then sinter it using a third-party oven-like device. According to HP, their technique has more uniform material properties than fusing the powder on the bed with a laser. They also claim to be much faster than metal injection molding.

The website claims the resolution is 1200 DPI which is actually just a hair over 21 microns. Well, technically less than a hair, we suppose. The build volume is 430 x 320 x 200 mm.

With Christmas coming, you might want to let your significant other know you want one. Just make sure they realize the price tag is going to be “less than $399,000.” We hope you’ve been good this year, especially since you’ll have to buy the sintering machine separately. Of course, they won’t be available until 2020 — that’s a long lead time, but a $4,999 deposit will hold your place in line.

If that price tag is too steep for you, HP will arrange for a partner to print the part for you sometime in 2019 — at least if you are in the US or Western Europe. We couldn’t get an idea of the price, but from reading their information, it looks like they are targeting users with high volumes, so we expect the price for a few parts will be prohibitive.

Honestly? If we needed a metal production printer, we’d be leery. Sure, the deposit is refundable, but you are really betting that these will be good, that there won’t be something better, and that they will deliver them on time or at all. Sure, HP has a good track record and we suppose if the deposit is refundable, it isn’t a great risk as long as you don’t mind loaning HP five grand for a couple of years. But a lot can happen in two years.

We don’t know if it truly covers everything, but we found an article that claims to be a comprehensive list of 3D metal printers as of the start of the year. If you want metal parts at home, your best bet is still probably casting. You can either 3D print an original for the mold or just print the mold itself.

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