From great design to usability—revolutionizing 3D printing

January 4, 20173 Minute Read

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3D printing is pretty slick. The ability to add an entirely new dimension to your weekly TPS reports could be revolutionary. Sarcasm aside, the technology is actually far more useful than you might think. Sure you can use it to complete the missing pieces of your Star Wars action figure collection, but many industries will benefit from its propensity for rapid prototyping, usability testing and ultimately full-scale manufacturing.

If you’ve ever had the distinct pleasure of using a 3D printer, you might scoff at the idea of “rapid” anything when it comes to the technology. Let’s be real: in the past, it would take a couple hours to print a new blaster for Boba Fett, but things have changed. HP took tech limitations to heart as it developed its new line of Jet Fusion 3D printers.

Leveraging new 3D printing techniques, HP’s new line of 3D printers churns out designs at the voxel level, which allows multiple points to be printed at the same time. Additionally, this technology lets you customize each individual voxel—essentially a 3D pixel—leading to near-limitless configurations. The result is a technology that prints far faster and with more control, overcoming the previous limitations.

Still not convinced of 3D printing’s place in modern industry? Here are some projects that HP’s Jet Fusion 3D printers are crushing:

1. Heavy lifting

HP recently showed off the impressive strength of its 3D prints by hoisting the car of an unsuspecting young man high in the air. By dispensing millions of drops per second of a chemical agent onto a powdery layer of thin material, HP’s 3D printers were able to print a simple chain link that can support the weight of a vehicle. Oh, and it was printed in a mere 30 minutes. The manufacturing applications alone—prototyping or not—are buzzworthy.

2. Embedded intelligence

The inherent level of detail in voxel-level 3D printing has led to some intriguing concepts. The idea that you could embed information in your 3D prints opens a new range of possibilities. All About 3D Printing discusses the exciting potential of this idea as they re-visit HP’s chainlink demonstration.

Since the Multi Jet Fusion technology prints individual voxels, products printed by it can be “etched” or otherwise embedded with something as simple as a watermark or possibly as complex as electronic sensors, depending on the material. That chain link could be printed with color-changing material or tiny sensors that report its current load and stress levels. The ability to embed 3D printed products in this way could help protect intellectual property and improve overall product safety.

3. Curing your blistery soles

We’ve all had them: shoes that just don’t fit right or were simply poorly designed, leading to super unhappy feet. The rift between design and usability is often to blame. Designers do their job crafting unique designs to appeal to the senses, but usability testing often lags behind due to associated costs and time commitments. This is where Multi Jet Fusion comes into play.

HP’s 3D printing technology deals the death blow to the design/usability paradox by dramatically reducing the time and cost of prototyping. In the case of your feet, shoes of the future could go from design to usable prototype in minutes with the click of a few buttons. This will help speed the time-consuming process of incorporating usability testing feedback into the final product. Industry leaders like Nike are already turning to 3D printing to revolutionize this process.

And there you have it. I won’t try to discourage you from fulfilling your dreams of printing an exact replica of Luke’s original lightsaber, but you should know that 3D printing is capable of far more. From intelligent manufacturing of components to closing cost and speed gaps between design and implementation, HP’s Multi Jet Fusion technology is one to keep your eye on.

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