Hewlett Packard, which is the largest brand in desktop printers, will collaborate with Stratasys to bring 3D printers to the desktop.
Stratasys is a Minneapolis-based manufacturer of rapid prototyping machines. HP and Stratasys are developing 3D printers that will cost below US $15,000 and will be small and quiet enough to operate in the average office.
Stratasys’ most popular 3D printing devices are about the size of a fridge and cost about US $30,000. 3D printing is a model making technique wherein a printer is fed with polymer (as opposed to ink), it is given an object to observe, and then it creates a 3D model of that object without any further inputs from the person operating the machine.
3D printers can be of three types: CNC mills take a block of polymer and carve it into any shape. Laser cutters or water jet cutters work similarly using a laser beam or high pressure water and sand jets to cut out shapes out of a block of polymer. The third type of 3D printer applies an additive process such that they layer resin and glue to build a 3D model.
The software used to create the STL or stereolithography files used in HP’s 3D printers is similar to 3D imaging software such as AutoCAD, Blender and Maya. This software has been released commercially by the Blender 3D open source project.
The new HP-Stratasys 3D printers will be based on the additive process of Stratasys’s Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology which turns CAD drawings into 3D models by layering ABS plastic in any given form.
HP’s Designjet 3D printers use ABS plastic material, which stands for acrylonitrile, butadiene and styrene – carbon compounds that compose the ABS polymer. It is strong and hard and is fairly resistant to most acids, water, heat and oils.
The first HP branded 3D fabrication printers are already available in Europe for GBP 11,050 plus VAT.
HP’s Designjet 3D printers model only in ivory colored plastic, while the HP Designjet Color 3D produces single color parts in up to 18 different colors. This means that each component of a model must be of one color, but together the model can have 18 different colors.
Even at its current steep price, the Designjet 3D could be a useful device and provide value for money for architects, engineers, sculptors and designers who create 3D models in AutoCAD and other 3D imaging software and then have to resort to a 2D print to show to their clients, or commission the construction of 3D models. A quick 3D mini model of what they intend to create in larger dimensions would probably be very useful to them. Related: HP color 3D printers Designjet 3D CQ656A and Designjet Color 3D CQ655A
Quick and easy 3D printing tech could lead to a lot of new developments such as rapid prototyping of new objects or machines.
3D printers are growing popular every year. Other than Stratasys, companies such as Z Corp, Objet, Solido and Desktop Factory develop 3D printers. Dimension was the first make to create a 3D printer uPrint costing below US $15,000 which fits on a desktop. Some open source 3D printers are also available. The most popular among these are MakerBot Cupcake and RepRap, both of which are 3D printer making kits, which have to be assembled by the user and cost around US $1,000. The most unusual is RepRap which can replicate itself, or if you have one RepRap, you can use it to make another.