“Revolutionary” is one of the most overused terms used for slogans by technology and advertising companies. It usually takes some time before we realize something is truly groundbreaking or not. This was also the case with Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) – a technology from HP, which in 2017 caused a lot of buzz in the industry, and the following years showed that it was not just a temporary trend.
Just three years after its debut, MJF has become a popular alternative to the leading method of powder printing, i.e., Selective Laser Sintering (SLS). The opportunities it offers encourage many branches of the industrial world to focus their attention on 3D printing. Right now, it’s certain that MJF technology really deserves to be called revolutionary.
What’s the secret to the remarkable success of a new solution from HP?
The perfect foundation for 3D printing development
There is no denying that many years of experience in the industry (2D printing), combined with substantial financial resources, is an excellent base for exploring new areas. So it was only a matter of time until the electronic giant started to conquer an additional dimension in the printing space.
The solutions that HP implemented in 2D printers have successfully proven themselves in 3D machines. This is a massive advantage over the competition, which often builds the entire infrastructure from scratch.
As a result, Multi Jet Fusion has low-defect equipment with an excellent management and service system. It has a direct impact on both quality and efficiency. Intuitive software helps create compact nestings, casings, plans and optimizes the process of replacing the chambers. In addition to that, it monitors failure rates (e.g., by sending notifications and alerts in a dedicated program to the computer).
Efficiency and precision without the laser
The technical aspects of MJF printers are another strong point. First of all, let’s pay attention to the sintering process, which does not use the lasers like SLS printers. Thanks to an alternative method of welding the powder, the machine achieves significantly higher printing speeds than classic SLS machines. The use of additional lasers could potentially make the process faster, but lasers are costly, and so is servicing them. So it is not difficult to understand why users choose a less risky investment like MJF.
Precisely printing grain by grain
Another upside to MJF is the unrivaled performance. Particularly the proportions of the printing powder used in the process. The HP machines mix 20% of the new and 80% of the old printing powder to produce components, while SLS needs twice as much fresh substrate. Twice as much material is double the cost – the math here is simple and speaks in favor of MJF.
The devil is in the details
We have listed a few thoughtful functions and clever solutions that make HP printers a highly appreciated solution on a strategic level. But how do the machines work in practice? Let’s talk about the end result.
The elements created by MJF printers are highly durable in all axes, and every detail is highly accurate within as little as 0,05 mm margin of error. Compared to other 3D printing technologies, this is a very impressive result and a decisive advantage, given the market expectations. Naturally, customers appreciate such a high level of precision and repeatability, so MJF fits perfectly in many companies’ processes. We are talking about, for example, manufacturers of components for machines with high requirements of fit tolerances or medical companies that design personalized prostheses.
It is also worth adding that while applying the material, the successive layers of printing powder are filled with ink, which gives the elements a very low porosity. It means we’re able to create waterproof elements, which would not be possible in SLS technology. That gives all the more possibilities and use cases for multiple industries that couldn’t benefit from 3D printing before.
An excellent real-life example is a casing for the surfboard tester, which we’ve made for one of our clients. It was entirely printed with our Multi Jet Fusion printer, and it successfully went through all the crash tests in sea conditions with high salinity.
If that wasn’t enough, there’s another ace up in MJF’s sleeve. The proprietary HP solution allows the addition of black ink to white polyamide, which gives the finished product a dark gray color. It may sound like it’s not a big deal, but let’s take into account that most of the manufactured elements are machine parts that are often exposed to harsh environmental conditions. Therefore, white plastic parts become plain ugly over time. According to our clients, aesthetics turn out to matter even in the industrial environment, so the gray color is pretty significant in the end.
What about FDM technology?
Despite its prevalence, FDM is merely a tool for low-scale, experimental projects. It is not suitable for precise work and tasks requiring perfect shape geometry. Unlike SLS and MJF, printing requires an auxiliary platform and additional support. This solution severely limits the design possibilities, has a negative impact on the accuracy and quality of the surface, and is simply uneconomical due to material waste. Overall, FDM played a role in the evolution of 3D printing, but now it is suited to prototyping and amateur use rather than commercial printing or short-run production.
MJF is not slowing down
There is no doubt that the pace of MJF development will only continue to grow. HP was ideally positioned to deliver next-generation 3D printers, and that’s exactly what they’re done. The proprietary technology turned out to be a bull’s eye because it is based on ingenious solutions that the company constantly develops and improves. As a result, we can print faster, cheaper, and more.
Recently, the new MJF 5200 model was released, which makes even better use of the strengths of MJF and is twice as fast as its predecessor – MJF 4200. In addition, HP is experimenting with color printing and new materials (more durable polyamides and even steel – the so-called Metal Jet). So there is a lot to show off, and the race for the title of the industry leader in 3D printing is still ongoing.
What’s essential, industrial companies are more and more aware of the use of polyamide elements and how they can introduce them into their processes. But, on the other hand, printer manufacturers want to meet the expectations as soon as possible, filling each created niche. We observe this phenomenon ourselves and see that customers come to us with brilliant ideas for the use of 3D printing, such as the previously mentioned cases for surfboard testing gear.
It is a golden time for this technology, so we are carefully observing the further development of the situation in the 3D printer market.