Technology continues to evolve at an incredible speed and that theme continues with Hewlett Packard (HP) and their 3D printer (Jet Fusion 3D 3200) that was released at the end of 2016, and has the ability to print itself. 3D printing allows for a variety of three dimensional objects to be ‘printed’ from a 3D digital file by layering thin layers of material on top of each other. The materials used by 3D printers include plastics, metal and ceramics, amongst other things.
Plastic is the material that is most commonly used in 3D printing as it is low cost and easy to work with. A technology called Fused Filament Fabrications (FFF) is used during 3D printing and there are three plastic materials that are the most likely to be used for this:
PLA Filament (Polylactic Acid)
PLA Filament is both easy to work with and environmentally friendly, and is used in plastic packaging and water bottles, amongst other things. It is a biodegradable thermoplastic that is made from resources such as corn or potato starch and sugar canes. These resources are renewable which makes PLA a popular choice for many.
ABS Filament (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)
This material is safe and very strong, as well as being the most cost-effective. It is used for objects that require more durability such as car bumpers, drainpipes, electricals, kitchen appliances, and even Lego.
PVA Filament (Polyvinyl Alcohol Plastic)
This material is very strong and flexible with great adhesive properties. It is water-soluble which means that it is often used as support when printing something that has an overhang. PVA will offer support to the printed model whilst it cools so that it does not collapse down upon itself. Once hardened, it can be soaked in water to remove the PVA and reveal the desired intricate model.
HP’s 3D printer, as mentioned briefly at the start of this post, could interestingly print 50% of its own parts. It is very likely that these parts are printed using the ABS Filament as they will need the durability and strength. HP decided to include 3D printed parts as they are more cost-effective than moulding when producing a smaller number of parts.
The HP 3D printer will retail at $130,000 and does not expect to sell many but it is great to see an advancement in the 3D printing technology and availability.